Posted: 9/13/19 at 3:00pm. Column by Ed Jordan.
I have been reading the book of Hosea, one of God’s Old Testament prophets. It is an interesting read, because the family life of Hosea was a living parable of the people of Israel’s relationship with God.
The prophet proclaimed God’s message for around 50 years, warning the people of Israel to come back to God before it was too late. Bringing God’s message to Israel, much of which was portrayed through Hosea and Gomer’s highly visible marriage, caused Hosea to constantly face trouble, heartache, betrayal, and mockery.
Most of the Old Testament prophets were called to two seemingly conflicting tasks. On the one hand, they were to speak for God—usually to a rebellious group of people—to help them understand that their behavior or attitudes were self-destructive and set them in opposition to God.
The other major role of the prophet was to present the hope of a new and better life, should the people respond to God’s message and change the direction of their lives. In this role the prophet proclaimed comfort, encouragement, and hope of a brighter future after we return to God.
The same can be true of parents as well. We love to make our children happy—to do things that make them giggle and fill their faces with delight. Few of us like to mete out confrontation, correction, and discipline. Yet the children need to be confronted when they are doing destructive things, just as they need to be encouraged and rewarded for living constructively.
Hosea was a prophet who was told to marry Gomer, a promiscuous woman. This was a very strange thing for God to tell him to do, but he obeyed. In their marriage, Hosea represented faithful God, while promiscuous Gomer represented unfaithful Israel.
Their children were given names which also conveyed what was going on in the relationship between God and Israel. God had been faithful and chosen Israel to be his bride, but Israel was not faithful and was always stepping out on God in love affairs with man-made, substitute, and destructive gods.
In Hosea 2:14-15, God conveys a message of hope to Israel, that in the midst of Israel’s unfaithfulness, and the troubles that will come as a consequence, God would try to woo Israel back into proper relationship with him.
In Hosea 2:14-15 (CSB) we read: “Therefore, I am going to persuade her, lead her to the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her vineyards back to her and make the Valley of Achor into a gateway of hope. There she will respond as she did in the days of her youth, as in the day she came out of the land of Egypt.”
Notice how God’s promise of hope appears in the midst of strongly disciplining Israel (Gomer). She will need to go out into the wilderness (a parched difficult life), where staying alive depends upon God’s continual provision of food and water. In her wilderness experience (depicting the Assyrian conquest of Israel in 722), she will find herself in the Valley of Achor. The Hebrew word Achor means trouble.
When you, as a part of God’s people, find yourself in the wilderness, despairing over the trouble you find yourself in, God can change your valley of trouble into a doorway to hope. He will restore you and return his blessings to you, when you return to him.
It is when you reach the end of your rope, and find your life sinking in trouble, that you are open to turn back to God. When you turn back to God, the valley of trouble is changed from a low valley of trouble into a passageway to the hope of a brighter future.
God is our hope, a very present help in times of trouble (cf. Ps. 46:1-11). Can you recall times in your life when you were in a valley of trouble, at wits end, and God changed your valley of trouble into a doorway to hope?
What kind of trouble do your find pressing in on you today? Is it trouble from you neglecting God, or trouble because you wholeheartedly are following God?
If you’re in a valley of trouble today, why not turn to God in prayer? Ask God to restore you and to change your valley of trouble into the doorway that opens up a path of hope for you. Your valley of trouble can become a doorway to hope.