Hosea 2:6 is a favorite verse of mine because it demonstrates a principle of how God works: He will hinder our way to keep us from going the wrong way.
Therefore I will hedge up her way with thorns, and I will build a wall against her, so that she cannot find her paths.
I love this because there’s safety in knowing He’s set up boundaries for us. This means we can’t “accidentally” get out of line and simply wander off the wrong direction. If we get out of line, we’ll know it because there are consequences (i.e. Thorns).
I saw this principle clearly laid out in Leviticus 26 today. He starts by giving us an “if/then” statement in verses 3 and 4.
IF we’ll “walk in [His] statutes and observe [His] commandments and do them” THEN He blesses us (He goes on to give specifics in verses 4-13).
Then in verses 14-15, He contrasts this to what will happen if we choose not to do the original “if” statement. He says, “BUT IF you will not listen to me and will not do all these commandments, if you spurn my statutes, and if your soul abhors my rules, so that you will not do all my commandments, but break my covenant, THEN…” Verse 16-17 go into the first tier of bad stuff (i.e. Thorns) that will happen. I refer to these as thorns because the Lord’s intention is clearly laid out in verse 18:
And if in spite of this you will not listen to Me, then I will discipline you again sevenfold for your sins
So the point of the thorns (i.e. The bad stuff) is to get our attention so we will follow the original “if/then” statement and reap the blessings He promises. In Leviticus 26 we see Him give 4 opportunities to turn, each set of thorns more grievous than the last (I think of this as tiers of consequence), and in the final tier He’s kicked the people out of their land and they’re hostage to someone else (in other words a VERY severe consequence!).
Side note: I won’t get into this one here, but I find it interesting the emphasis He gives on the fact that at least once they’re gone the LAND will get it’s Shabbat (Sabbath rest). More on that later 🙂
But even in this severe situation the Lord’s heart is clear, He’s just trying to get them to still align with the original “if/then” statement and rest in His blessings. Let’s see what He says in 41-42:
…IF then their uncircumcised heart is humbled and they make amends for their iniquity, THEN I will remember My covenant…
His heart truly is mercy. As Hosea 6:1 shows us: He wounds us that He might heal us – like setting a broken limb, it may hurt but it’s needed for wholeness.
Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces; now he will heal us. He has injured us; now he will bandage our wounds.
What is also interesting is that the Lord doesn’t just hedge our way with thorns, in the body of Christ He requires we do that (in love) for each other as well. We see this in 1 Corinthians 5. In verse 11 it talks about that if anyone who calls himself a brother (this is VERY important to understand, believers are held to a different standard than the world because we KNOW better!) is walking in habitual sin, we must break fellowship with them (verse 11 and 13). I believe this assumes Matthew 18:15-20 has been completed (approaching them with correction first alone, then with someone else if they won’t list, and finally taking them to the elders if they still won’t listen, and if they STILL won’t listen, executing 1 Corinthians 5).
Why does He ask us to do this? Because if we allow someone to remain in fellowship who is actively walking in sin, we create a false sense of safety for them which decreases the likelihood of them aligning themselves with truth and also it can draw others into sin because it appears to be acceptable behavior. The boundaries are set for everyone’s benefit.
At some point I want to come back and revisit the original “if/then” statement because I know we ALL want to be blessed! So I want to spend more time considering what the Lord means when He’s talking about His statutes and commandments… in the mean time, I encourage you to consider what He means and also to consider if their areas in your own life or in the lives of those around you where you can see the thorns He’s put in someone’s path. When I see thorns, I’m reminded He loves me, because He chastens those He loves (Hebrews 12:6).
I pray we would see Your thorns as love and turn our steps back to You – thank You for the grace to walk this out and Your loving direction as we do. Your mercy is overwhelming and Your love is incomprehensible!