The Valley of Achor a door of hope
Several years ago, a friend gave me the following verse, feeling it was applicable to my own situation at the time. Not long after, we had a house built and decided to name it “Valley of Achor”.
In our family Bible readings, having finished the first five books (the Pentateuch) of the Bible, I suggested to my wife that we might want to skip the next two (Joshua and Judges) because of the violence, but she wisely said continue straight on as it was not up to us to cherry pick what portions of scripture to read, and so we did. A few days back we negotiated Joshua fighting the battle of Jericho (Joshua 6) with a resounding victory, and then onto (on paper at least) the easier proposition of attacking the city of Ai (discussed in Joshua 7). Thinking it would be easy, the Israelites went in with an under-strength army and were heavily defeated. When Joshua enquired of the Lord, why He allowed Israel to be defeated, it turned out there was sin in the camp and that needed dealing with to get God’s help. It turned out the culprit was Achan, who had taken plunder from Jericho when it was expressly forbidden. The culprit was found, and Achan and his family (presumably complicit) were stoned to death, in a valley that henceforth was named Achor (meaning trouble). Only then was God’s favour restored, with Ai then taken and destroyed (Joshua 8) followed by the fear of Lord coming over all the surrounding territory, e.g. with the story of the Gibeon deception (Joshua 9) and with further battles to come, in order to possess the land, all in which Israel were victorious, and was all part of God’s promise to Abraham to give them the land.
There are two further mentions of Achor in the Bible. Firstly, Isaiah 65:10: “And Sharon shall be a fold of flocks, and the valley of Achor a place for the herds to lie down in, for my people that have sought me”. Secondly, Hosea 2:15: “And I will give her her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope: and she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt”. It is said that the “Valley of Achor” had become an expression that was associated with God’s displeasure and seasons of trouble yet, in both texts, we see this being reversed and God’s blessing. Hosea reveals a fascinating parallel between Hosea’s personal circumstances. He had married a wife that sold herself as a prostitute but rather than divorce her because she was unfaithful, he was told to take her back and to love her. What happened was a picture of God’s relationship with Israel, with Him wanting to restore that marriage covenant He made with them, that been established under Moses at Sinai, but had been compromised because of Israel’s sin and idolatry. This is the context whereby the valley of Achor was able to become a door of hope.
What I would like to do by way of tying up these thoughts is share some personal perspectives, which have wider application; this following this study on these two passages, in Joshua and Hosea.
- The Bible does contain difficult parts to comprehend, seeing how Joshua was commanded to kill all the inhabitants of Jericho and Ai (the only people spared were the family of Rahab).
- What would appear to be a relatively minor crime, in the case of Achan (taking booty he was not entitled to) and his family (in their presumed complicity) was to receive the ultimate penalty.
- In a day when sin is often treated lightly in preaching and the way people live their lives, it is anything but so regarding God’s relationship with His people and needs to be dealt with.
- Sin has serious consequences. In this story, it affected Achan’s community; it meant God was unwilling / unable to bless them, leading to defeat in battle and, in the case of his family, loss of life.
- Sin needs to be dealt with before we are able to move on in our dealings with God and receive the many blessings that he so much wishes to bestow on us and our endeavours.
- God seeks a relationship with His people. In the OT it was Israel; in the NT it is the Church. That relationship can be seen like that of how marriage between a man and a woman should be.
- What was seen as trouble (Valley of Achor) was turned about for blessing (Door of Hope). (The decision we made all those years ago regarding house name was right, but there is a challenge!)
Note: there is lot on the Internet regarding relevant preaching material on the Valley of Achor. I found the following five minute sermon helpful: “The Valley of Achor – Chuck Missler”. I also found the following music uplifting: “The Valley of Achor: A Door of Hope (entire album)”.