hedgeIn Hosea 2:6-8 we read, “Therefore, behold, I will hedge up your way with thorns, and wall her in, so that she cannot find her paths. 7 She will chase her lovers, but not overtake them; yes, she will seek them, but not find them. Then she will say, ‘I will go and return to my first husband, for then it was better for me than now.’ 8 For she did not know that I gave her grain, new wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold—which they prepared for Baal.”

Even as Gomer is pursuing her lust and being unfaithful, Hosea is doing all that he can do to make this pursuit of hers a failure. He is basically going to work to corral her, to undermine her pursuits and to provide what she needs so that there is no need to go after these other men. He says he is going to work to “wall her in, so that she cannot find her paths”, to make it so she can’t get out! As hard as she tries to chase after what she wants she will not be able to find it. And finally she will give up and realize she is not getting what she wants and she will return to Hosea. The word there for “first” husband is the word “original.” This is a phrase that refers to her genuine husband, the man who was not just the man she married, but the man who was actually fulfilling his covenantal duties as her husband.

The hope with this hedge of thorns is that things will happen that make her so sick and dissatisfied with her life of sin, that just like the prodigal son, she will come to her senses and return home. Luke 15 reminds us the story, “11 Then He said: “A certain man had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood. 13 And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. 14 But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. 15 Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything. 17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, 19 and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.”’ 20 “And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.”

When he came to himself – the circumstances and consequences of sin lead him to see his desperate need. He thought he was getting what he wanted and what he thought he deserved.

The truth is that sin can only please us for so long, can’t it? Does the sin ever deliver what the temptation promises? Maybe at first. But once we are snared by it, it becomes bondage. Like a fish on a hook being dragged where it does not want to go. Sin never fulfills or satisfies us like it advertises that it will!  For all we think we get by sinning, we still always are left wanting more. It is just like an addiction where we become desensitized and need more and more to get what we want out of it. Sin desensitizes us and sears our conscience, and once we are trapped by it we are not satisfied but dominated by it.

God’s solution as depicted here is to put up a hedge around His people. What was this hedge that He puts around them? We will learn what Hosea did to hedge Gomer in and finally bring her back home, but what did God do to hedge His people in, to capture and confine them? He sent them into captivity. They were conquered and taken as slaves into another nation. Then from there they were not able to continue to pursue their false gods and wickedness. The hedge then is judgment. It is an imprisonment. The people would be confined.

This is interesting to me in light of teachers we know from the past and others who take this hedge of thorns and they refer to it as a hedge of protection. And you may have been exposed to this teaching that as a matter of spiritual warfare, if you know someone living in sin and ensnared by sin then you need to pray a hedge of protection around them, appealing to these verses in Hosea, believing that this is a wall you can speak into existence in Jesus name to protect them from the sin that has ensnared them. But that takes these verse completely out of context. This is not protection against sin, it is judgment for sin that so confines Gomer that she can no longer pursue her sin.

Understanding the context, if we were to see someone struggling with sin and we prayed a hedge of thorns around them we would be asking God to execute the sentence and pass judgment on them right then and there. I do not think that is the goal of those who abuse this text. We should pray for one trapped in sin that they be given grace and mercy and be drawn out of that sin by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin.

Certainly a hedge can be used for protection. And there is one place where a hedge is used like that in Scripture. In the Book of Job when God and Satan are discussing Job, in Job 1:9-11, we read, “9 So Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for nothing? 10 Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!”

Job here was being protected by the Providential care of God. Satan refers to it as if God had put a shield around Job and his family. Satan’s bet is that if God removes that shield, if He removes that protection, then Satan can attack Job and Job will curse God. Of course we know that God did allow Satan to attack Job and his family, but Job still did not curse God.

So people take the idea of a hedge being protection and apply that to Hosea without understanding the context.

In looking at God’s response to our sinfulness, once we are His children He no longer condemns us, but He disciplines. And what is the result, or the desired fruits that come from discipline? The fruit of righteousness. Corrected, right living. The purpose of chastening is repentance and restoration and reconciliation.

Discipline at its heart is training, it is discipleship, and opportunity to learn and correct our thinking and behavior. If we pray a hedge of thorns around someone like Hosea describes here we are removing grace and mercy from the equation and actually pleading with God to bring judgment to pass on that person and through that judgment to corral, or confine them by the consequences of their unfaithfulness.

Hosea says here that the consequences of her sin will hopefully drive her back to him. Hosea is bringing these charges not to divorce Gomer, and not to have her stoned or put to death. His hope is restoration and repentance. He wants the circumstances to bring her to the point that she is ready and willing to come back. ‘I will go and return to my first husband, for then it was better for me than now.’

We see then that as this hedge is applied, as Gomer reaps the consequences of her unfaithfulness, she ends up with a man who cannot provide for her. She ended up being trapped in a situation where she actually owed this man things that she could not pay. And in the event that you owed a debt that you could not pay, in this day and time, you would be enslaved until the debt had been paid off.

She was pursuing sin to get what she wanted and found herself in debt and facing being auctioned at the slave market. This is the hedge!

And even then, as she was in these dire circumstances as a result of her sin, Hosea was making sure that her needs were met. 8 For she did not know that I gave her grain, new wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold—which they prepared for Baal.”

One commentator has an interesting take on what was happening behind the scenes. Think about how this would happen as she is living with another man and yet Hosea is providing what she needs. He takes food and drink, silver and gold…as God judges Gomer and she is unable to fulfill her obligations, Hosea is paying for what she needs. Hosea is going over to this house where his wife is living in unfaithfulness with another man and he is providing what THEY need for daily sustenance. Not going with a gun, but with groceries! He even knows that some of what he gives them they will give to the service of Baal. They will use it in their idolatry and their adultery. But as her husband he provides for her needs even in this dire hour.

Isn’t it true that God provides for us? And even when He does there are times we use what He gives us to serve self, or our idols? Amen, or Ouch! We are unfaithful and God still takes care of us. Still treats us as His children. You see, God does not meet our needs because of our righteousness or obedience. He provides for us out of His love for us.

Romans 5:8 tells us how God has given us ALL that we need when we were at our worst, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Hosea shows us this love in action as he provides for Gomer’s needs even as she is living in unfaithfulness.

Think about the parable of the lost sheep. When Jesus tells us He is the Shepherd with 99 sheep in the fold but 1 who has wandered off, He leaves the 99 and goes to find the one and bring it back. He goes and meets the most basic need of that wandering sheep…..who was wandering because it thought there was something it needed outside of the care of the Shepherd.

We see here then that our sin cannot undo the love of God for us shown to us through Christ. There is nothing that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.