I will now allure her

Therefore, I will now allure her,
and bring her into the wilderness,
and speak tenderly to her.
From there I will give her her vineyards,
and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
There she shall respond as in the days of her youth
as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt
— Hosea 2:14-15

It may not strike you as at all troubling; or, as so deeply troubling, that you’re wondering why I don’t just let it fly under the radar. I’m talking about Hosea’s metaphor.

Hosea likens the relationship between God and God’s people to the relationship that he has with his wife. Gomer cheats. Hosea cannot help but love and forgive her. Similarly, we have been less than faithful. God cannot give us up.

So, Hosea draws from the well of his own experience—experience with infidelity and with love that has lost its way—to voice God’s feelings.

The sound of it is a little much. Alluring her “into the wilderness and speaking tenderly to her?” Um. This kind of encounter would seem to lack mutuality. Besides, we don’t tend to combine God-talk and intimacy-talk.

Here’s what the metaphor has going for it: Hosea insists that we experience God as brokenhearted—as one minute, in good riddance mode, and the next, determined to repair the bond. We’ve been there. The fact that a relationship is on the line really comes through in this book.

Still, there’s more to Hosea than the comparison of God’s people to a wayward wife. This bit in the second chapter about the wilderness as a meeting spot: It’s worth a slow-down.

For us, wilderness is after Egypt and before promised land. It’s the place we had to be to get out of one place and into another. Not so, for God. God remembers the wilderness as the place of connection. The people were responsive there. God envisions a return that quality of space.

Let that sink in. Because however many hundreds of years later, John the Baptist is going to emerge and he’s going to post up on the far side of the Jordan; that is, the wilderness.

He’s going to woo people to the outer limits and either because of or in spite of his harsh preaching, he will bring the people to the place where God can speak tenderly. In which case, his head on a platter isn’t “gross”. It’s a blow. It stings.

 

Rachel May