“Go and take for yourself a wife of harlotry.” Hosea couldn’t believe his ears — or more likely, the ears of his spirit. Had Yahweh truly said this to him? That he should marry a prostitute? Is this the sort of thing his beloved God would even say? Yet Hosea had been diligently seeking God for as long as he had had the understanding to search. He knew God’s voice. What’s more, this command was not a scrap of his own desire, masquerading as a word from the Lord. Hosea’s desires lay in entirely OTHER directions.
Heartache and sorrow. Hosea knew what awaited him, should he choose to obey the word God had given. And yet rebellion was not option. He was a devoted man and he knew his Father had reasons he could know nothing of. He trusted, and so he did as God had said.
The book of Hosea presents a beautiful illustration of Yahweh’s love for harlot Israel. And the illustration of Yahweh’s love for harlot Israel is in turn an illustration of Yahweh’s love for the ekklesia — the church — the bride of Christ. And once again, His treatment of and mercy toward the ekklesia is likewise an illustration of His love for the world.
In one particularly moving passage, Yahweh says to Hosea:
Wherefore, behold! I am enticing her (Israel), and I conduct her to the wilderness, and I speak to her heart;” and I give to her her vineyards from thence, and the vale of Achor for a portal of expectation.
And she responds there as in the days of her youth, and as the day of her ascension from the land of Egypt. And it comes in that day, (says Yahweh), she shall call Me, My Husband (Ishi), and no longer shall she call Me, My Possessor (my Ba’al), and I take away the names of the Baals from her mouth, and no longer shall they be remembered by their name.” (Hos 2:14-17 CLV)
(The bits I’ve added or clarified are in blue.)
Now here is, to me, the truly fascinating thing. The vale or valley of Achor is so called because this is the place where Achan, with his family, was stoned, burned, and buried in a cairn of piled up rocks. If you don’t remember the story, Achan was part of Joshua’s army, involved in the taking of Jericho. Everyone and everything in Jericho was to be devoted to God — that is, destroyed. But Achan succumbed to temptation and kept out for himself a quantity of gold and silver and a beautiful Babylonian mantle.
Achan’s disobedience and his continued presence with Israel’s forces caused them to be miserably defeated in their next encounter. Joshua sought God and discovered Achan’s crime. The sentence was the stoning that followed, and most likely this is where Achan got the name that is passed down through the ages; “Troubler” is the translation of Achan, and the valley in which he and his were destroyed was called Achor, or “Trouble.”
I don’t know about you, and perhaps you’ll consider this a weakness in me, but this story has always troubled me. Why were the unknowing family; the wife, the sons and daughters, and even the livestock of Achan destroyed with him? Lots of other people have been troubled by this too. You can see this in the multitude of dodges (Achan’s family was only required to watch) and justifications (God saw Achan and his family as one) offered for God’s apparent approval of the sentence handed down and imposed on this family.
Yet here in Hosea, I have found my answer, with the help of a brother who pointed it out to me. I don’t always regard names as important and so I have trouble remembering them. I didn’t remember the name of Achan nor of his valley of Achor. Therefore I missed the significance of the above passage in Hosea.
Yes, my bible has footnotes that informed me of the meaning of the words, but not that pointed me back to the story in Joshua. Let’s look at it again — well, part of it:
Wherefore, behold! I am enticing her, and I conduct her to the wilderness, and I speak to her heart;” and I give to her her vineyards thence, and the vale of Achor for a portal of expectation. (Hos 2:14-15a CLV)
A portal of expectation; a gate of hope. “. . . hope that is seen is not hope, but if we hope for that which we do not see, then do we with patience eagerly expect and wait for it.” (Ro 8) Hope is eager and confident expectation. The vale of Achor is a place of trouble, but it is more than that. The vale of trouble is the portal of expectation — of hope.
Though Achor and all his family come through trouble; though Israel and all who belong to her come through trouble; though the unfaithful church and all who are of her come through trouble; though the world and everyone in it come through trouble, yet the vale of trouble, the veil of death, is the portal of expectation and hope. The door of death is the entrance to life.
Gomer (Hosea’s unfaithful wife) is called back, purchased back and redeemed by her much abused husband, and her children who were not beloved and not shown mercy become the recipients of mercy; the beloved of the Father.
Israel will no longer call God, “My Possessor,” but rather “My Husband.” And Israel is the type of the church as the church is the firstfruits of the whole of the harvest. We won’t even remember the names of our false gods.
God is good — always and completely good. He never ceases to love and He never gives up. He pursues until we are held willingly captive in His embrace; He woos us until we surrender to His love. All of us.