The Valley Of Suffering And The Gateway Of Hope
Therefore, I'll Speak To Her Heart
1. Today we read from chapter two and verse sixteen. The first words there are "therefore." From this word we see that it is connected back to the previous verse. What does it say before in it? "For the days that she spent celebrating Baal I will punish her. She burned incense to Baal, She adorned herself with nose rings and necklaces, She went after her lovers, And has forgotten me, says the Lord," (2:15).
2. The one called she [here] is the Israelites. The Lord has announced that he will punish the Israelites who are likened unto an adulterous woman having forgotten her husband. As he continues his announcement of punishment he says, "therefore." Naturally we would think that a message that pertains to judgment would continue. But, over against that expectation, what we hear in this passage is a completely surprising message. The Lord speaks to the people who had turned their backs on him as follows:
"Therefore, I will allure her
I will lead her to the wilderness and I will speak to her heart.
There I will give her a vineyard
I will give the valley of Achor (suffering) as a gate of hope.
[Like] when she was a virgin
Like the day she went up out of the land of Egypt," (2:16-17).
4. Let's go back over what we've read so far. In the passage we read last week, the Lord belt out a message of sharp judgment against the back turning people. "Therefore, I will take back the grain at harvest time, And the new wine at the gathering time. I will take away the wool and linen, That was for the purpose of covering her. Thus, I will expose her shame out before her lovers. No one will save her from this hand of mine. I will stop all her pleasures, I will put an end to all the festivals, the new moon festival, and the Sabbath celebrations." The Lord says he will take away all the things he has abundantly given them so far. And actually during the reign of Jeroboam, it did come to pas that the peace and prosperity that the people had enjoyed eventually was lost and soon after the nation was destroyed and the people made captives.
5. However, the Lord, in verses sixteen on, says "therefore" and makes plain his surprisingly true intentions. What they experienced under God's judgment was to lose the land that flowed with milk and honey, the land of God's promise, and to relapse again back into the wilderness. But, the Lord does not say here that "I am driving her away into the wilderness." He says, "I am alluring her and leading her to the wilderness." That he is not driving them to the wilderness but is leading them into it means that this very same God is going with them himself all the way to the wilderness. It means that God is going with them to the wilderness of the suffering where they've lost their wealth and ceased their pleasures. And why is he doing this? So that he [may] speak to their hearts.
6. The phrase "speak to [one's] heart," in other biblical passages, is an expression used in a warm sense like that of persuading a female into love. That's how God is talking to a people who have turned on him and hardened their hearts against him. God is alluring [the people as his lover] into the wilderness to speak to [her] in order to somehow move [her] heart and to take these people who are equivalent to a kind of lowdown helpless adulterous woman back as his own people.
7. The Lord says that in that wilderness he will give her a vineyard. The vineyard that was once a fertile land wound up changed to weeds and devoured by wild animals, (verse fourteen). But, a vineyard will again be given them in the wilderness. Since it is a vineyard in the wilderness, therefore, it is also a vineyard that they have received by the grace of God.
8. And the Lord says, he will "make the valley of Achor (suffering) as a gateway of hope." I have used these words for today's sermon title. But, this is not merely about having hope in suffering.
9. The story behind the name Achor is found in Joshua chapter seven. This was the place where a man by the name of Akan who had sinned and his tribe had been judged and destroyed. "They piled up a large pile of stones on Akan and it remains until this day. The fierce anger of the Lord thus ended. Because of this the name of the place was called the valley of Achor and goes on to this day," (Joshua 7:26). Thus, the story behind the name of the valley of Achor has to do with a person's sin and with the penalty for that sin. In other words, the thing symbolized by this valley is the catastrophe from the results of sin and also its suffering. It certainly must have been a valley of Achor with such a meaning for Israel like that when it was an Israel that had lost its prosperity and lost its country. And as everyone knows, when suffering is connected to one's own sins there is no hope there at all. There is no hope in the suffering [that comes] as the results of one's sin.
10. If [anyone] could bring hope to a hopeless [situation] of suffering, it would only be Him who could remove the sin from the suffering. It would only be the Lord God, the forgiver of sins. Because he was a God who still forgave, loved and spoke to the Israelites who were like an adulterous wife, the valley of suffering was not just a valley of suffering. The Lord was able to make the valley of Achor as a gate to hope. That's where God's purpose really was. It was that they respond to God's speech to them that the Lord was hoping to get in that gateway of hope. It was that they respond by going back to when they had first walked through the wilderness with the Lord. It was that they respond once more to the Lord's speaking to them and as a wife joined to her Lord she would go back to that time when she was led out of Egypt and she had made a covenant with the Lord her God in the wilderness of Sinai.
When That Day Comes
11. And it tells in verses eighteen and nineteen about what the Lord would ultimately fulfill among the wayward Israelites. The Lord, repeatedly, speaks in regard to "that day" in which all things will be realized to their fulfillment.
"When that day comes
Says the Lord.
You will call me 'my husband'
You will no longer call me 'my lord (Baal).'
I will remove every name of Baal
From her mouth
You are not to recite that name," (2:18-19).
13. When we read this, we see that in a baalized Yahweh festival both of the names of Baal and Yahweh used to be used together indiscriminately without distinction. Since the name Baal itself meant "lord" in a certain sense it would have been very difficult not to confuse the two. But, to not make a distinction between the names means to not make a distinction in the substance behind those names. Actually, their worship wound up becoming indistinguishable from the agricultural worship services for the deity of Canaan. Then the relationship of the people of the faith to God was no longer a relationship of wife to husband.
14. The Lord says that he will take away the name of Baal from their lips. They must be set free from a religion of seeking for prosperity and the satisfying of one's fleshly desires and be restored to a relationship of love with the Lord. The reason the Lord led them to the wilderness was to restore them to this relationship. The true desire of the husband, who at one time had exclaimed (verse four), "She will no longer be my wife and I will no longer be her husband," was that a shout of "O my husband" that was right from the heart might be returned to his wife's lips.
15. And the Lord goes on to say.
"On that day I will make a covenant
On their behalf with the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the [animals] that creep on the land.
The bow, the sword, and even war will cease from this earth
I will make them rest peacefully.
I am making an eternal vow with you.
I vow to you
I will give righteousness and justice, and show mercy with love.
I make a true vow to you.
You will come to know the Lord," (2:20-22).
17. The entire natural world is represented by the three [animal kingdoms] of "beasts of the field," "birds of the air," and "the [animals] that creep on the land." The Lord even places the world of nature in the covenant. It is saying here that even the world of nature will be restored back to a relationship with God. It also says that fighting will be removed from the world of humanity and peace will come [over the world]. Both the bow and the sword will cease. It states that this peace is realized in getting a righteous relationship between God and the people restored.
18. You might be able to understand this if you look at it in reverse. When a person forgets the Lord and continually pursues after Baal, that is, when they turn their hearts only on the pursuit of prosperity and the satisfying of their desires, the natural world falls to pieces, heads for destruction and fighting and bloodshed are endless in the social world. How that comes to reality is given in the following words at the top of chapter four. "O people of Israel, hear the word of the Lord. The Lord has an indictment against the citizens of this country because in this land there is neither loyalty nor loving kindness, nor is there knowledge of the Lord God. Cursing, deception, murdering, stealing, and adultery run rampant and bloodshed runs into bloodshed. Therefore, the land will be dry and all those who inhabit it will be crushed and even the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea will be swept away," (4:1-3).
19. These are really some moving words. But, as we've already seen, the Lord will try to overturn this situation with his unlimited love. Even while the Lord is waiting for the time when this will be fulfilled he is concerned for his people.
20. Thus, the Lord makes a vow with the people who have returned. "Vow" is a word that corresponds to "engagement" as in marriage. It does not mean that a broken down married relationship is restored back the way it was. The Lord says that even though she is a wife who has betrayed him he will make a vow to her like he was first getting married to her brand new. Then, this newly given relationship is described in five words. They are "righteousness," "justice," "loving kindness," "mercy," and "truth (loyalty)." These five must be present in order for a relationship between husband and wife to be a real one. They were completely missing in the Israelites. Therefore, God shows them first, as the husband, all of these [qualities] of righteousness, justice, loving kindness, mercy and loyalty. And by [God showing them this first] these [qualities] are given to the people of God. These things become real in God's people. Thus, they become a people who truly know the Lord.
21. And the Lord goes on to say.
When that day comes, the Lord says
I will answer.
I will answer in the heavens
The heavens will answer in the earth.
The earth will answer in cereal, new wine, and olive oil
These will answer in Jezreel (God sows the seed).
I will sow her on earth
I will have mercy on Loruhamah (The one on whom I have no mercy)
To Loammi (those who are not my people)
I will say 'You are Ammi (my people).'
He will answer 'O my God,' (2:23-25).
23. Here again we have the names of Hosea's three children listed. Like the name of Jezreel [says], God's people will again sow in the promised land and yield forth abundant fruit. The people who by their very natures were only Loruhamah (without mercy on them) will become a people upon whom God will have mercy. By themselves they were Loammi (the ones who are not my people) and the ones who could not possibly be God's people, but they will come to be called Ammi (my people). As we've already seen, if this is to happen it will only be the unilateral work of God's love and forgiveness [totally by his grace alone].
24. When we read the New Testament, we see that God, who in Hosea had been speaking the way he did, has sent Jesus Christ into the world and beckoned to us. Peter says, "However, you are a chosen people, a priest drawing from royal lineage, a holy nation, a people who have become God's own possession. This is so that you will tell everywhere of the mighty work of him who called you out of the darkness into the amazing light. 'At one time you were not the people of God, but now you are the people of God, and it used to be that you did not accept his mercy, but now you accept his mercy,'" (First Peter 2:9-10).
25. As we've already seen in Hosea, now our offering up worship as God's people is thus based only on God's love and forgiveness. Also, we are being led to the fulfillment of "that day" when we become a people who truly know the Lord.