THEME: The Promise of Hope
This week’s lessons show the consequences of Achan’s sin upon the nation of Israel, and how in the midst of God’s judgment, grace and blessing are offered.
Up to this point, we have dealt largely with sin and judgment. Judgment is a grim note. It is not something that we want when we see it unfolding, especially unfolding on a member of the people of God. We are drawn up short because we recognize that we, too, sin. And judgment is something that must be reckoned with in our own lives. But the note on which I’d like to end is not a note of judgment but of hope. And the reason I want to end on the note of hope is that this is the way God Himself handles this story at a later portion of the Word of God. This valley where they stoned Achan was named the Valley of Achor as a pun on Achan’s name. You can understand easily that Achor is just a slight variation of the word, “Achan,” The reason for this is that “Achor” means “trouble” or “disaster.” It’s why Joshua said, “Why have you brought this disaster on us? The Lord will bring disaster, Achor, upon you.” Thus, the place where he’s stoned is named the “Valley of Achor.”
The reason I mention this is that this valley is mentioned in the book of Hosea, where it is used in a most interesting way. You find that phrase in Hosea 2, which is also a chapter of God’s judgment. It’s a story of Hosea the prophet and Gomer, the unfaithful wife who has run away. This second chapter describes how God is going to deal with this woman in her disobedience. Her disobedience is a pageant of Israel’s disobedience. And God’s dealing with her is a pageant of God’s dealings with Israel and with us.
The outline of this chapter is found in a three-fold repetition of the word, “therefore” (seen in vv. 6, 9, and 14). Because Gomer has sinned and run away, “Therefore,” says God, “I’m going to do something.” In verse 6, God says this: “Therefore I will block her path with thorn bushes. I will wall her in so she cannot find her way.” What God is saying there is that when we go our way—rather than God’s way—God makes sure that we never get where were going. He walls us in. He keeps us from finding what we want. A young person who says, “Well, I don’t want to go the Lord’s way. I want to go my way. Then, maybe later I’ll come back and serve God.” Well, when a young person does that, God makes sure they never get their heart’s desire. God keeps them from it. He lets them get close enough to taste it but never really to seize it. God says, “I’m going to do that first of all with Gomer because of her disobedience.”
And then secondly in verse 9, God says, “Therefore, I will take away my grain when it ripens and my new wine when it is ready.” What God is saying there is that He’s going to deprive her of necessities. She won’t heed the still, small voice of the Lord, so He’s going to speak loudly. The fluttering of the moth doesn’t get through, so God is going to bring the lion. He’s going to take away what she needs. She’s going to be hungry. Life is not going to go well.
We come then to God’s third use of the word “therefore’ in verse 14. It’s in this context that the phrase, “the Valley of Achor,” occurs. Remembering this valley back in Joshua 7, when we first come across it here in Hosea 2, we’re really overpowered with fear because we say, “Look, the Valley of Achor was a place of death.” And here Hosea God is saying, “Because my people disobey me, first of all, I’m going to keep them from getting what they want. Secondly, I’m going to take away life’s necessities.” At this point we wonder what God is going to do. It must be death, given what we know about the Valley of Achor from Joshua. But then what God says next surprises us. God comes in grace and says, “Therefore, I am now going to allure her. I will lead her into the desert, and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards. And I will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope” (vv. 14-15).
You read those verses and you say, “Who could possibly make a place of death and judgment a door of hope?” Certainly not us. But God is able to do it. God makes our Valley of Achor a door of hope by taking the trouble of Achor upon Himself. Jesus was troubled for us. Jesus went down into that valley. Jesus endured that judgment in order that by His death, a door of hope might be opened for us into glory. You know, if that’s the case, if that’s the way God deals with us, using even judgment as a vehicle of cleansing and a means by which that door of hope is open, then you and I must turn from sin and serve Him wholeheartedly. And in doing this, we must speak to others of that hope which is found in Jesus Christ.
We must not think that God has blessed us because we are somehow better than others. But we must say, rather, that all of that sin that we find in these characters of the Old Testament, all of that dissatisfaction, all of that coveting, all of that outright disobedience, and theft, and lying is in us. That’s what we’re like. But God has taken our judgment upon Himself. And because He’s done that, He has opened up a glorious new day for us and set before us a door of hope which is not only hope for this life, but hope for all eternity. And that’s the God I make known to you, a God who will make your valley a door of hope as well. If we’re faithful in that, God will use us. God will speak even from the position of our own cleansing from sin to bring others to the knowledge of that same glorious Savior.
Why was the valley given the name “Achor”? What does it mean, and how does it connect with Achan?
Where else does this valley appear in Scripture? How is it used there, and what is it meant to teach us?
Probably all of us know people who are experiencing some kind of divine troubling because of their sin. Ask God to give you wisdom and opportunity to show them the door of hope that can only be found in Christ.