6 Therefore I will hedge up her way with thorns,
and I will build a wall against her,
so that she cannot find her paths.
7 She shall pursue her lovers
but not overtake them,
and she shall seek them
but shall not find them.
God makes the sinful life difficult.
What is the purpose of the hedge of thorns? Why does God keep Israel from finding her paths?
Israel chose to follow other gods, and to look to them and other nations for her protection, her livelihood, and her treasure. God has been clear from the beginning that He will provide all these things, and that only in Him will they be truly found. By trying to wrest happiness and security from this world, and worshiping creation rather than the Creator, Israel was in fact destroying her chances of finding any true or lasting peace.
God chose Israel to be his people before the foundation of the world. He knew from the beginning that she would repeatedly fall away into apostasy, but elected to make his everlasting covenant with Abram in spite of her faithlessness. This, I believe, is clear evidence of God’s love for His chosen people.
This love, then, is the reason that God hedge’s up her way with thorns, and builds a wall against her. God does this not simply as a punishment for misbehavior, but as a guardrail against much worse sin. When Israel is on a path leading to destruction, God makes the path difficult to find with the intention that she might give up on the pursuit of those lovers and return to the true source of felicity, God Himself. If God were to allow Israel to walk smoothly down the path of her sinful desires, she’d end up in a much worse situation, the results of unbridled sin being more dire than the pain of attempting to travel the path leading there. When Israel finds that she cannot overtake or find the lovers she’s seeking in her selfishness, she may turn back to the God who loves her and wishes to provide her with all good things, in this life and the next.
The hedge in this passage calls to mind the hedge God put around Job and his house and all he had. The hedge held back Satan and evil from Job, allowing him to prosper though Satan wanted to destroy him. As long as God kept the hedge between Job and the evil around him, Satan could not touch him. The hedge of God is not there to harm Job, nor was it there to harm Israel. Rather, it was meant to keep evil from them and them from evil.
I must keep in mind that God makes the way to sin difficult. When I’m facing great difficulty, I need to check my motives, check the path that I’m on. If it’s a path of selfishness then the difficulties I face are likely put in place by God, a guardrail to keep me from falling off the cliff. Running into the guardrail is painful, but it’s not nearly as bad as the fall that it’s keeping me from.
I’m aware that I will also face difficulty in trying to do God’s will, in working towards the kingdom. Satan will attempt to put a hedge between me and God’s work. There is a difference in the quality of the difficulty though, one that I need to be aware of. When I’m on the path of sin and God blocks my way, in the midst of difficulty I’ll be aware of my sin and find hope and peace in the other direction. When blocked by Satan on the path of God’s work, however, I’ll likely be driven to despair at ever being able to accomplish anything worthwhile. Certainly the differences are subtle, and in the midst of the pain the differences are difficult to sort out. Regular contact with accountability partners and trusted friends can help me determine which path I’m on, and whether I should be persevering in the face of opposition from the enemy or repenting of a bad path I’ve been on.
In the end, I know that God loves me, and that the hedges he sets up are out of His love. He desires the best for me and wants me to follow the path towards Him, so He makes difficult the ways of sin and destruction. I pray that God never removes the hedge between me and Satan.