"I will punish her for the days of the Baals
When she used to offer sacrifices to them
and adorn herself with her earrings and jewelry,
And follow her lovers, so that she forgot Me," declares the Lord.
Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
Bring her into the wilderness
And speak to her heart.
Then I will give her her vineyards from there,
the valley of Achor [trouble] as a door of hope.
And she will sing there as in the days of her youth,
As in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt.
It will come about in that day," declares the Lord,
that you will call me Ishi
And will no longer call me Baali.
For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth,
So that they will be mentioned by their names no more.
In that day I will also make a covenant for them
With the beasts of the field,
The birds of the sky
And the creeping things of the ground.
And I will abolish the bow, the sword and war from the land,
And will make them lie down in safety.
I will betroth you to Me forever;
Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice,
In lovingkindness and in compassion,
And I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness.
Then you will know the Lord.
Years ago I attended a Shane Bernard concert in which he introduced his song "I Miss You" with the story of a time he moved to Lubbock because it seemed to match the spiritual desert he found himself in. He quoted verse 14 of this passage and explained how miserable it is to be in a spiritual desert, and yet there one discovers the tenderness of God.
This whole passage speaks to me now, of how desolate it is indeed to have all one's preconceptions about worship and who God is stripped away. I experienced it in a small way the first time I was in Africa, worshiping with my brothers and sisters there and being confronted with a sense of God that was, well, foreign. But I readily adapted to that sort of culture shock. I wasn't really in the wilderness until now.
Circumstantially, my life is exceptionally good now--I'm healthy, and have been able to make it a year and a half on support and am supplied for at least a few more months. My relationships with my boyfriend, family, colleagues, and friends are all great. Work is going pretty smoothly. But the "theology shock" I've been in lately has taken away so much of my presuppositions that I don't feel safe or comfortable anywhere. Every angle is hostile--no place seems like it will ever be home again. I'm in a wilderness--the wilderness that in its desolation makes us receptive to the provision we don't get in a land of comforts, that in its bleakness makes us see God more clearly so that we can call Him by a different name, that in its harshness lets us experience the tenderness of God, find He has given our troubles and regrets to us as a door of hope, and sing like when we first experienced His salvation. Nobody really likes the wilderness ... but to be there is precious.