The Path of Joy

This is an intro to communion I gave at church yesterday. I am absolutely floored by what God did through it. But isn’t that the essence of the gospel? That God can take our brokenness and make something beautiful out of it, make it COUNT for His glory… I am so blessed to be able to talk about him to my church family.

Hi, family. I’m going to use my best radio-announcer voice, here: “This goes out to all the lonely hearts.” No? Ok I’m not a radio announcer. I’ll leave that to John Miller. But this is for those of us who are feeling lonely, who’ve recently experienced death of a loved one or divorce or fights or any of that other nasty relationship mess we all find ourselves in at one point or another. 

I’m going to read a passage from the book of Hosea. This passage may resonate more for women. If you’re a dude, don’t tune me out. I promise there’s something for you there. If you’re not familiar with Hosea, he’s a prophet that God told to marry a prostitute named Gomer. Their marriage was meant to represent the relationship between God and Israel. Hosea the prophet represents God. Gomer plays the role of Israel and humanity in general. Hosea’s faithfulness in pursuit of his wife while she chased after other men for money represented God’s faithfulness to Israel in spite of her constantly running away. Gomer kept running back into prostitution and Hosea had to go BUY HER BACK. Repeatedly. This passage describes that loving pursuit. First, he puts her in a very lonely place:

“Therefore I will hedge up her way with thorns,

And I will build a wall against her,

So that she cannot find her paths.

She shall pursue her lovers

But not overtake them.

And she shall seek them

But shall not find them.”

Hosea 2:6-7a

Kind of a bleak picture, right? Nobody is envying Gomer/Israel. But look at what God does with her once she’s lost everything and everyone:

“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 (Trouble) a door of hope…”

Hosea 2:14-15a

“‘And in that day,’ declares the Lord, you will call me, ‘My husband,”…I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety.”

Hosea 2:16, 18b

God transforms the lonely wilderness into a place of refreshing beauty and peace, a place to reunite with Him. His longing is to be WITH US and he will do whatever it takes, even taking us into the wilderness. “I will make the valley of Trouble a door of hope.” What an amazing transformation, but it takes being in the valley of trouble first.

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Here’s something else that was interesting about Gomer/Israel in Hosea. Before God took her into the wilderness, when she THOUGHT that she was getting good things from her lovers, it was really coming from God:

“And she did not know that it was I who gave her the grain, the wine, and the oil,

And who lavished on her silver and gold,

Which they used for Baal (a local god)

Therefore I will take back

My grain in its time,

And my wine in its season,

And I will take away my wool and my flax,

Which were to cover her nakedness….”

Hosea 2:8-9

It came from God, but she gave it to idols in ignorance of the true source. He took away the gifts he’d given her, he took away the people she thought were the source of the gifts, so that she could find the true source.

Relationship is one of the special ways we as people imitate God. I challenge you to find a human relationship that God has not modeled for us already in the Bible. Father, Son, Master, Servant, Husband, Friend, Teacher, Champion, Healer…  An interesting thing about God’s truths is they tend to be true literally as well as metaphorically. They are true as an image or example and as ACTUAL FACT. What I mean by that is not only is God the model for these relationships but he actually HAS these relationships with us before everyone else. For instance, Isaiah 54:5 says “For your Maker IS YOUR HUSBAND, the Lord of hosts is His name.” Like, not just a model for all the dudes out there, but actually YOUR HUSBAND. This verse about Israel, but it’s also true of Gomer in our story, and of each of us.

Huh?  That’s weird. I have a spouse right here [point to side]… or at home…or, in my imagination… Isn’t that my spouse?

Think about the benefits you get from your relationships. Or the benefits you think you SHOULD get from your relationships. This passage I just read in Hosea tells us that God gave them first. They don’t come FROM that person, they come THROUGH that person. And sometimes, if you can’t see that, God takes the benefits away so he can show you the real source—Himself.

Think of the relationship  like a path. The person you are relating to is there [point] and you’re here. There’s a path between you, and that is the relationship. (marriage, parent/child, friendship, boss/employee).

Remember the first part of the passage in Hosea?

“Therefore I will hedge up her way with thorns,

And I will build a wall against her,

So that she cannot find her PATHS.”

If you have not walked that path with God until it is well worn and clear—side by side, back and forth, clearing the the thorny brush, putting boards over the muddy parts—then it is that much more difficult to walk that path with anyone else. If the relationship is off-course or non-existent, maybe it’s because God needs to clear the path.

Right now you might be thinking, “who is this chick and what does she know about my circumstances and the pain I’m going through? Nothing!” And you’d be right. I remember people telling me something similar a few years ago and I’ve never wanted to throat punch anyone so badly. “You don’t know the pain I’m in! BAP!” I have no idea the pain you’re going through. I don’t. But I will testify that God has met me in my lonely places. And I KNOW that Jesus knows what it’s like to be lonely.

Luke 5:16 in the NIV says, “Jesus often withdrew to the LONELY places and prayed.” The King James translation says he withdrew to the “wilderness”. Often. Not just a quiet place to be alone, not just a breath of fresh air after all of those smelly crowds who followed him around. A LONELY place. A LONELY wilderness. Christ knew what it meant to be lonely, and he sought it out because he knew that’s where his Father was.

Are you lonely? Are you in a wilderness? God has NOT abandoned you. God has you there SO YOU CAN FIND MORE OF HIM. Let him use the wilderness to allure you, to speak tenderly to you, to make a path with you, and bring you peace like you’ve never known.

In front by the stage and in the back over there [point], there are tables with bread and juice. If you know even the tiniest bit of Jesus and want to know more of him, these are for you. Walking to the tables to take communion is part of walking that path of relationship with God. Please, come take some, and I will say a blessing over them once everyone has some and returns to their seats.

[People get the elements]

God calls himself the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. He is our Father, Friend, Child, Spouse, Master, Champion, Servant, Healer before… and after… and better than any human representative of His love. This bread and juice are the physical representation TODAY of His continued presence with us after he came to earth as a person 2000 years ago. Emmanuel, God WITH US, then and now, in the wilderness and in abundance, in sickness and in health. Luke 22 says “ And (Jesus) took the bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it them, saying, ‘This is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ Likewise he also took the cup after supper, saying ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood which is shed for you.” Please eat and drink and remember his presence.

3 thoughts on “The Path of Joy”

  1. […] It was a beautiful time–a time she walked closely with God, figuratively and literally. She and God took long walks together on the bike trail behind her house. They had special spots on the trail where He had whispered loving things in her ear. Things like, […]

  2. […] stories, a sexy viking on the trail–was impossible to ignore. Was it really possible that, after writing about walking a relationship path with God before you walk it with someone else, she’d met someone on the bike trail where she liked to talk to God? There was a poetry to […]

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