(To read these posts in order from the beginning, start here.)
Read Hosea 2:15-23
Last time, we stepped into the wilderness to discover that in the Bible, the wilderness is often a harsh and dangerous place God uses to test and refine his people. It is also a place where he provides sanctuary and allows his people to encounter him in powerful ways.
Today, were going to go back in time a bit to when Joshua fought the battle of Jericho. Remember the scene? Israel was to surround Jericho and march around the city once every day for six days, and seven times on the seventh day. Just after they marched on the seventh day, God gave them very specific instructions: “Keep yourselves from the things devoted to destruction, lest when you have devoted them you take any of the devoted things and make the camp of Israel a thing for destruction and bring trouble upon it.” (Joshua 6:18) In other words, they were not to take any spoils from Jericho for themselves.
Unfortunately, a guy named Achan thought he could get away with stealing a cloak and some silver and gold and buried them under his tent. This act of rebellion incited God’s wrath and ultimately, Achan was found out. He, along with his whole family was stoned, burned, and buried. Joshua 7:26 tells us that because of this, the place shall be remembered by “The Valley of Achor.” The word עָכוֹר (akhor) means “trouble,” and this Valley of Trouble would be remembered as such for many years to come.
Our reading today begins with, “And there…” Where is there? The Wilderness. God is going to bring Israel back to the wilderness, speak tenderly to her, give her vineyards, and turn that Valley of Trouble into a door of hope. The prophet Isaiah even predicted that the Valley of Achor would become “a resting place for herds, for my people who seek Me (Isaiah 65:10).
Now that the Lord has wooed her into the wilderness, he makes what one commentator calls “a bouquet of promises”[i] that culminate in a betrothal/marriage and a renewed covenant. The promises are really quite breathtaking… God promises to abolish the bow and sword from the land, establishing safety for his people. He promises that even the names of the Baals will be forgotten and Israel will call the one true God “Husband.” He promises to betroth them to himself in righteousness and justice, in steadfast love and mercy.
And remember those poor kids of Hosea’s with the terrible names? Here we have finally come to the great reversal. Not My People becomes “Children of the living God.” Jezreel (to scatter) becomes gathered up and planted. No Mercy becomes “You have received mercy.”
The Valley of Trouble has truly become a door of hope!
Here is the prayer I am praying as I study this section:
Most merciful God, thank you for how tender and patient is your steadfast love. Thank you for your perfect righteousness and justice. Please forgive me when I, like Achan and Gomer/Israel think I can take for myself things you have forbidden. Thank you for the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the perfection of your revealed word which is a light to my path. Thank you for the promise that even when I have created a Valley of trouble due to my sin, when I seek you, you can turn that into a place of forgiveness and rest…a door of hope.
[i] Garrett, D. A. (1997). Hosea, Joel (Vol. 19A, p. 91). Broadman & Holman Publishers.