By Rachelle Green
It has been a good seven years since my world started imploding.
I had come to believe that God rewarded godly living with certain blessings. I began to work hard to do the opposite of what I had done my whole life. I figured if doing wrong resulted in my life exploding, well, then the opposite must be true for right living. I had been beautifully saved by the grace of God and I thought all this would please Him. I tried to follow all the rules, whether manmade or Biblical.
But then I failed. I wondered if these failures were the reason God’s blessing had been withheld. My marriage was falling apart. My 13 year old daughter left home and turned away from God. My health began to fail and my friendships disappeared. No matter how hard I studied, prayed, worshipped, served and begged God to help me, my life still crumbled. I looked in the mirror and saw everything I tried not to be. I thought I was unlovable… But it was in this state of weakness that God began to assure me of His love.
I learned God’s love apart from my performance and it’s been one of the most cherished gifts God has given me. Recently God highlighted a verse in my alone time with Him and I became enamored as I thought about it in light of all that He had done for me. God had used my pain and sorrow to teach me about His love. The well of hope is so much deeper now that my faith rests in Christ.
Hosea, whose name means salvation, speaking to Israel in a time of prosperity, prophesies that captivity is on its way. He also speaks of God’s grace when he says to them in Hosea 11:15:
“I will give them the Valley of Achor as a door of hope.”
The Greek word Achor means “trouble” and immediately will bring to the Israelites’ mind the story of Achan’s sin, in the book of Joshua. After the miraculous conquering of the city of Jericho, God commanded the people not to take for themselves spoils of war. Achan took and hid treasure in the ground. Later, he and his family were punished for this sin.
The word hope in the Greek is tiqvah and means “cord or rope”. It seems a strange word for hope but if we look at the first use of the word tiqvah in the Bible we begin to get some clarity. The first use is in Joshua and it’s in the story of Rahab and the spies. Rahab was on the eve of destruction with all of Jericho. Soon the children of Israel would be marching around their city. All the walls of Jericho would fall, the people would be destroyed as the children of Israel took possession of the promised land. Joshua had sent spies to check out the city. Rahab was a harlot who lived in a house in the wall. She hid the spies. She declared her faith in them and their God and asked for mercy when the city fell. They made a covenant which was contingent upon a red cord that she must hang from the window.
Archeologists have found remnants of the fallen walls and remnants in one part of the wall that did not fall. It’s the place where the red cord hung from a window. God was faithful to Rahab. When God miraculously brought the walls down, as the men shouted– that cord or hope that Rahab held onto was honored and her house was saved. This is where the word tiqvah or hope has its origins. It’s this word for hope that Hosea uses when he writes that God will give “the Valley of Achor as a door of hope”.
Today the word hope carries a different meaning than Biblical hope. We might say, “I hope I pass this test”. Hope in this sense carries a desire but also a doubt. Biblical hope is confident because it is based on a knowledge of God’s character. Rahab and all of Jericho were in fear of Israel because they had heard of what God had done to free them from Egypt, sustain them in the wilderness, and conquer their enemies. When Rahab hung the cord from that window she had been assured she would receive mercy from a very powerful God.
Christ Himself has an incredible encounter with a woman in Israel. She, like many before her, was aware of her sin and also knew that Jesus was her only hope. She began to anoint his feet with her tears and wipe them with her hair. The Pharisees questioned Jesus: “Do you know what kind of woman is touching you?” Jesus knew. He answers them with a parable and concludes by saying, “He who has been forgiven much loves much.”
The Bible says we all stand equally guilty before God. I think what was different about this woman was her awareness of her sins. She knew her need for God. On the other hand the Pharisees were not aware of their sins and therefore did not know their need for God. Consequently they did not go through the door of hope.
No one likes to be confronted with the state of our broken souls, human frailty, secret sins, and failure to live the way we desire– even when we desire to do good. The truth is that whatever valley brings us to the awareness of our sins, it is a gift from God.