The Valley of Achor
God’s ways of grace and government are marvelously blended in this first recorded instance of the prophet’s ministry, which follows closely on the promise in the last two verses of the previous chapter. In accordance with the assurance of future restoration and blessing, Jehovah cries, “Say ye unto your brethren, Ammi, and to your sisters, Ruhamah” (ver. 1). It is faith’s anticipation of the time when the “Lo” (not) shall be removed, and they shall again be owned as His people, who have obtained mercy. This, of course, looks on for its accomplishment to the Millennium, when “all Israel shall be saved.”4 But it becomes true even now whenever a soul of either Israel or the nations turns to God in repentance, trusting the once-rejected Messiah.
It is to lead Israel to this place of self-judgment and abhorrence of her past ways that He so searchingly outlines her grievous sin in departing from Himself in verses 2 to 5. As a wretched harlot-nay, worse than such, an adulteress-He had to put her away. For, after all the love and grace lavished upon her, she had turned from Him to idols, in spiritual harlotry. Because of this He will see that she eats of the fruit of her own devices. His dealings with her in His holy and righteous government are solemnly portrayed in verses 6 to 18. This is in full accord with Jeremiah’s words, “Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee: know therefore and see that it is an evil thing and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God” (Jeremiah 2:19). It is in this way He makes sin to serve. If His people do not refrain their feet from evil, but persistently take their own course, and refuse to obey His voice, then they must be taught by their own sin the lesson they would not learn from His words of warning and admonition. Israel had forsaken Him for idols: she should be given up by Him for a time, and left to the idols of her own choosing for her correction; and in her trouble she would find none to answer (ver. 7). Broken-hearted and world-weary at last, chastened and disciplined by her experiences, she would cry, “I will go and return unto my first husband, for then was it better with me than now.” Amazing the grace that, after such heartless abandonment on her part, would yet cause Him to open His arms to her again in the day of her genuine repentance.
It is the same love and grace that every weary sinner and every failing saint is made to know when he seeks God’s face, confessing the sin and shame of his evil ways. No transgression is too great for Him to pardon, no evil-doing is too much for His mercy, if there be but a breaking-down before Him, and He be justified by the erring one, while the wrong-doer condemns himself.5
Touchingly Jehovah points out the insensibility of Israel as to the true source of all her past blessing. “She did not know,” He says, “that I gave her corn, and wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold, which they prepared for Baal” (ver. 8). The treasures He bestowed with lavish hand she had poured out upon the altars of her shame! Therefore He would withhold His favor until she learned that her false gods could bring her no good, but only sorrow and want of all things. One by one, all she valued would be stripped from her till she should learn that in Jehovah, whom she had so dishonored, was all blessing to be found. His gifts she had attributed to her idols, saying, “These are my rewards that my lovers have given me” (ver. 12): but, bereft of all, she shall learn that she had been deluding herself and dishonoring Jehovah.6
When at last her lesson has been learned, Jehovah has purposes of grace in store for her which will be fully revealed upon her repentance. This is the precious and tender theme of the balance of the chapter. “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her” (Heb., speak to her heart). “And I will give her her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor (Trouble) 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 Egypt” (vers. 14, 15). He loves to remember the days of her first betrothal to Himself, when she went after Him into the wilderness, into a land that was not sown; when she was holiness unto the Lord, and her heart was fixed upon Him alone. Those happy days of her first love are to be renewed. Once more He will allure and draw her away from the scenes of her captivity and dishonor. Alone with Himself in the wilderness of the peoples (see Ezekiel 20:35), He will plead with her face to face. Her vineyards of joy will He restore, and the valley of Achor (of trouble) shall become an opening of expectation. Achor was the scene of Achan’s judgment, as recorded in Joshua 7:24-26. Defiled by her unholy departure from her God and coveting of the accursed thing, Israel’s blessing shall begin when the sin that has troubled her is judged and put away. Then, restored to Him from whom she had wandered so long, she shall sing (or, perhaps, respond) as in the days of her early freshness, as in the days of her coming out of Egypt.
The application to the individual soul is simple and natural. For the backslidden child of God who, having learned the folly of departure from the Eternal Lover of his soul, returns to Him, stoning his Achans, and thus putting away the accursed thing, the joy of early days will be restored, and communion, long lost, be once more enjoyed.
In the day of Israel’s restoration she shall be owned as the wife of Jehovah. It is important to notice the difference between her place and portion and that of the Bride of the Lamb in Rev. 19 and 21. The one is earthly; the other, heavenly. The former is not called a bride, because she is a restored wife, who had long wandered from her husband. The latter is presented, as the bride for the first time at the marriage-supper of the Lamb in heaven. In the Millennium, the Lamb and His heavenly bride will reign over all redeemed creation. On the earth the restored wife of Jehovah will have her place in the land of Palestine. The New Jerusalem above is the capital city of the first; the rehabilitated Jerusalem on earth that of the second. Then will the words be fulfilled, “And it shall be at that day, saith the Lord, that thou shalt call Me Ishi (i. e., my Husband); and shalt call Me no more Baali (i. e., my Lord, or my Master). For I will take away the names of Baalim out of her mouth, and they shall no more be remembered by their name” (vers. 16,17). These will be the days of Isaiah 54:6, “For the Lord hath called thee as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth, when thou wast refused, saith thy God.” Then shall the land become the land of Beulah, and both land and people be manifestly Jehovah’s.
Of this joyous period the prophets treat in large measure. It is the day of the glory of the kingdom, when Jesus shall be owned as “the blessed and only Potentate” by the world that once rejected Him.
It will be a time of universal diffusion of spiritual light and blessing. But not only that, the curse shall be lifted from the ground, and the lower creation be brought into the liberty of the glory for which it has groaned so long (Romans 8:22). “In that day will I make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven, and with the creeping things of the ground: and I will break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the earth, and will make them to lie down safely” (ver. 18). All this is the result of the exaltation of the Son of Man of the 8th psalm, whose beneficent sway all creation shall rejoice in. Isa. 11 strikingly sets forth the blessings of that halcyon age, the true golden age, to be ushered in by the return of the Lord Jesus from heaven, who is to shepherd the nations with a rod of iron (Ps. 2; Rev. 19).
Nor shall Israel ever prove unfaithful again. The blotted history of the past will be forgotten, or remembered only to emphasize the grace that shall have restored. “And I will betroth thee unto Me forever” is Jehovah’s word; “yea, I will betroth thee unto Me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving-kindness, and in mercies: I will even betroth thee unto Me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the Lord” (vers. 19, 20). Not to the Church do these words refer, but to literal Israel, who, upon the expiration of the now fast-concluding “times of the Gentiles,” will be grafted in again into the olive-tree of promise, restored to God and to their land, and made the inheritors of the promises assured to the fathers. A careful reading of such portions as Rom. 11; Jer. 30; 31; Ezekiel 36:22-38, and 37 should make clear to the least-instructed reader that God has not cast off His ancient people forever. When He restores them, it will be in pure grace, on the ground of the New Covenant, sealed already with the blood of His Son. Nothing shall ever destroy that hallowed union, or again divorce the earthly spouse from Jehovah.
A lovely millennial picture concludes the chapter. “And it shall come to pass in that day, I will hear, saith the Lord, I will hear the heavens, and they shall hear the earth; and the earth shall hear the corn, and the wine, and the oil; and they shall hear Jezreel. And I will sow her unto Me in the earth; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not My people, Thou art My people; and they shall say, Thou art my God” (vers. 21-23). This passage may be a little plainer if we read “respond to” or “answer” in place of “hear.” In the soon-coming day of Messiah’s glory, heaven and earth shall together be united in the blessing, of “the times of restitution of all things spoken by the prophets.”
The heavens, in which will dwell the glorified saints who have been raised or changed at the coming of the Lord, will respond to the joy of a redeemed earth, even as God Himself will respond to them. It will be a scene of blissful communion, never again to be broken, despite Satan’s last effort to mar and ruin what God shall have wrought (Revelation 20:7-10).
The earth, freed from the primeval curse, shall no longer yield thorns and briars, but shall respond with overflowing supplies of corn, and wine, and oil. The desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose. No more in the sweat of his face shall man eat his bread with weariness, but, as though an animate thing, the earth shall ungrudgingly yield her treasures for the redeemed of the Lord.
To Jezreel all shall likewise respond. Israel will be sown as the seed of God in the very land that had once been stained with the blood of the righteous One, and since, in awful retribution, with their own blood.
There they shall take root downward and triumphantly spring upward, and the people called once Lo-Ruhamah shall become Ruhamah, while the Lo-Ammi sentence shall be forever repealed and they shall be called Ammi. In gladsome response they lift their eyes and hearts to Jehovah’s throne, and with deepest reverence and self-abandonment exclaim, “My Mighty One!”
This shall be the closing scene of the day of Jezreel. No more shall sin and sorrow, war and desolation, sweep the plains of the field of blood, which shall become the scene of unmingled joy and blessing when Jesus is owned as Sovereign-Lord.
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Hosea 2". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany