“When I found Israel, it was like finding grapes in the desert . . .”
In this verse God is recalling how it was when he first discovered the ancestors of Israel among the nations and tribes that populated the earth. The ancestors of Israel knew there was only one God, not many gods. They knew God was not a hand-made idol like those worshipped by other nations. Their ancestors loved God and knew that God provided life’s essentials, not some imaginary fertility god. But the people of Israel had changed in the days of Hosea. They were giving their affections to other gods. Their ethics and morality decayed. And so we see through Hosea a picture of God recalling the good old days and mourning how far the hearts of the people had drifted away from fidelity with him. Dare I say it’s a picture of the passionate heart of God that has been betrayed by the love of his life—us.
As an outdoorsman, I’ve spent some time in wild places. There is a canyon in the foothills of Northern California I used to hike. In the summer it’s oppressively hot and dry. The flora is mostly hardy oak trees, Manzanita brush, and dead grass. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to live off the land in that canyon. On one hike I went off the main trail and discovered an old abandoned homestead. The cabin had fallen down and the weeds and brush had overgrown the site. But I noticed that the former occupants had built a small pond beside the old cabin. The pond still contained water, probably fed by an old well or spring. Beside the pond grew massive old fig tree laden with ripe figs. Its roots must have dug deep and were fed by the old pond. The fig tree was green and thriving in that hot desolate canyon. It seemed out of place. Needless to say I filled my little pack with ripe juicy figs and carried them home.
I believe that’s what it is like for God when you seek him and enter a relationship with him through Christ. God has found you in an unlikely cultural desert . . . and he is pleased.