There is much in nature for which we have all given praise and glory to God. In sunny South Florida, we praise God for the beauty of the palm trees that sway in the breeze and the azure blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean that tirelessly wash up on the sandy shores, wave after wave after wave. But when was the last time you gave praise for thornbushes?
Their mother has been unfaithful and has conceived them in disgrace. She said, “I will go after my lovers, who give me my food and my water, my wool and my linen, my oil and my drink.” Therefore I will block her path with thornbushes; I will wall her in so that she cannot find her way. She will chase after her lovers but not catch them; she will look for them but not find them. Then she will say, “I will go back to my husband as at first, for then I was better off than now.” (Hosea 2:5-7)
The unfaithful mother in this passage represents the people of Israel, who went after the Canaanite fertility religion to meet their needs and forgot the Lord. Sadly, this is the picture of most of us—perhaps all of us! The beauty of this passage is found in the fact that God pursues every rebel who pursues lesser lovers. And God is pleased to use painful providences (thornbushes) to rescue us from ourselves. For every idol we fervently chase after God has a blessed thornbush that will block our path, wall us in, and cause us to lose our way. What love the Lord has for His wayward children! He prevents them from getting what they want when what they want is something they do not need and should not have.
Experience has taught me that the grace of God’s thornbushes keeps us from reaching for more than Jesus (as if there were something “more” than Jesus!) or settling for less than Jesus. Remember, many of the things we chase after come under the heading of “good things,” but, as I have often said, good things become bad things when they become ultimate things. Family is a “good thing” until it becomes an ultimate thing . . . then it becomes a bad thing. Work is a “good thing” until it becomes an ultimate thing . . . then it becomes a bad thing. Church service is a “good thing” until it becomes an ultimate thing . . . then it becomes a bad thing. Recreation is a “good thing” until it becomes an ultimate thing . . . then it becomes a bad thing. You get the picture.
The grace of God’s thornbushes is intended to keep us from chasing and catching lesser lovers, which in the end turn out to be poor, blind, pitiful, and naked. As we are providentially pricked by God’s thornbushes, we are jarred awake from our slumber so that we can return to our first and far better love, the Lord Jesus Christ. So jealous is our God for our affection, He will stop at nothing—even thornbushes—to reorient our hearts back toward Him.
And the day will come when we will no longer need the grace of God’s thornbushes. No longer will the words, “I will go back to my husband as at first” pass through our lips. What God began in us He will one day complete (Philippians 1:6), and when that work is done we will no longer need the grace of thornbushes. We will be satisfied, fully and completely, with the love of our Bridegroom, and never again will we seek after anything smaller than Jesus.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!