These "lovers" of ours

(J. C. Philpot, "The Valley of Achor" 1861)

"I will run after my lovers and sell myself to
 them for food and drink, for clothing of wool
 and linen, and for olive oil." Hosea 2:5

Here is the opening up of what we are by nature,
what our carnal mind is ever bent upon, what we
do or are capable of doing, except as held back by
the watchful providence and unceasing grace
and goodness of the Lord.

These "lovers" of ours are our old sins and former
lusts which still crave for gratification. To these
sometimes the carnal mind looks back and says,
"Where are my lovers that gave me my food and
drink? Where are those former delights that so
pleased my vile passions, and so gratified my
base desires?"

These lovers, then, are . . .
  the lust of the flesh,
  the lust of the eyes,
  and the pride of life;
all which, unless subdued by sovereign grace,
still work in our depraved nature, and seek to
regain their former sway.

But the Lord, for the most part, mercifully interposes,
nor will He usually let His children do what they gladly
would do; or be what they gladly would be. He says,
"therefore I will block your path with thornbushes; I
will wall you in so that your cannot find your way."
(Hosea 2:6)

The Lord, in His providence or in His grace, prevents
our carnal mind from carrying out its base desires;
hedges up our way with thorns--by which we may
spiritually understand prickings of conscience, stings
of remorse, pangs of penitence--which are so many
thorny and briery hedges that fence up the way of
transgression, and thus prevent our carnal mind from
breaking forth into its old paths, and going after these
former lovers to renew its ungodly alliance with them.

A hedge of thorns being set up by the grace of God,
our soul is unable to break through this strong fence,
because the moment that it seeks to get through it,
or over it, every part of it presents a pricking brier or
a sharp and strong thorn, which wounds and pierces
our conscience.

What infinite mercy, what surpassing grace, are hereby
manifested! Were our conscience not made thus tender
so as to feel the pricking brier, we can hardly tell what
might be the fearful consequence, or into what a miserable
abyss of sin and transgression our soul would fall.

But these lacerating briers produce remorse of soul
before God; for finding, as the Lord speaks, "that
when she runs after her lovers, she won't be able
to catch up with them. She will search for them but
not find them," there comes a longing in her mind
for purer pleasures and holier delights than her
adulterous lovers could give her
. And thus a change
in her feelings is produced, a revolution in her desires.
"Then she will say, I will go back to my Husband as
at first, for then I was better off than now."

The idea is of an adulterous wife contrasting
the innocent enjoyments of her first wedded
love--with the state of misery into which she
had been betrayed by base seducers.

And thus the soul spiritually contrasts its former
enjoyment of the Lord's presence and power--with
its present state of darkness and desertion. "Where,"
she would say, "are my former delights, my first joys,
and the sweetness I had in days now passed, in knowing,
serving, and worshiping the Lord? Ah! He was a kind and
loving husband to me in those days. I will return to Him
if He will graciously permit me, for it was better with me
when I could walk in the light of His countenance, than
since I have been seeking for my lovers, and reaping
nothing but guilt, death, and condemnation."