Wilderness…“Therefore, I am going to persuade her, lead her to the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her.” Hosea 2:14 HSB
This is not my first image when I think of wilderness. I think of deserted and abandoned, more of a desert, but the Bible says God leads us to the wilderness or desert places to love us, comfort us, and win our hearts back. I have been in what has been called, “the back side of the desert,” and it felt lonely and hard when my focus was off.
I am reminded of the Israelites in the desert for 40 years because they were missing the point. God had rescued them and was creating a people for Himself. All they saw was the food from Egypt missing in their meal plan. Israel eventually looks back and sees shoes and clothes that never wore out, meals that were provided daily, water, and protection provided through no account of their own, yet they missed all these gifts because this rescue was harder and longer than they expected and led through the wilderness. Going back to the old way life seemed more convenient. They also forgot the slavery and poor treatment that caused them to cry out to God in the first place.
God had lead them out into the wilderness ‘When Pharaoh let the people go, God led them not by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was nearer, for God said, “Lest the people change their purpose when they see war and return to Egypt.” But God led the people around by way of the wilderness towards the Red Sea’ (Exodus 13:17-18). He knew their hearts and what they needed.
When I find myself in a wilderness, or at the backside of the desert it is hard not to set my eyes and heart on the circumstances that are challenging, or what I feel I have lost, or what I really think I need. But God says, He leads us there to win our hearts to teach us His ways and His heart. It is a place to trust Him and practice looking for Him. It is a place to see His faithfulness and provision even in the wilderness. It is a place where we can grow stronger in our understanding of who God is and who He says we are, or a place of discontent that gives root to bitterness. The choice is ours.