The indigenous people of Australia, called Aborigines, have a rite of passage for young males called walkabout where several months are spent alone in the desolate Outback to mature into manhood and hopefully connect with something larger. In life, there are many lessons which can only be learned by escaping our usual routine; God is very aware of this and often sends us on walkabout. The prophet Hosea paints the sad state of Israel, God’s children, around 722 BC in Hosea 4:1-2, declaring, “the Lord has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land. There is no faithfulness or steadfast love, and no knowledge of God in the land; there is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed.” For all this, God has to correct His wayward children, as we would expect any good father to do. God says, “I will hedge up her way with thorns, and I will build a wall against her, so that she cannot find her paths.” (Hosea 2:6)
God is promising to lead Israel off her wicked paths, into the wilderness, where she’ll have a sort of walkabout with God. “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.” (Hosea 2:14-15) In years past, the Valley of Achor, as told in Joshua 7, was a painful reminder of God’s wrath; a man’s entire family was killed for stealing from the Lord. God will use this walkabout to reveal something new – the hope of His redemption. The Lord goes on, “And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt.” (Hosea 2:15) This unpleasant trip through the wilderness, though not voluntary, will turn Israel back to a purer version of herself, as when she was young.
Being corrected is never fun, but Scripture says, “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” (Proverbs 3:11-12) If we find ourselves paying the price for a bad decision, we can remember Hebrews 12:10, which tells us God “disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.” The consequences of our mistakes often take us on lonely walkabouts, isolated from our strength and confidence, yet God regularly chooses these times of weakness in the wilderness to reveal His biggest secrets.
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