Summary: God loves us so much that he gives us a doorway of hope. What kind of hope is that, and where do we find it?
In Europe, there’s something called “Lock Bridges”. They are bridges where young lovers will take padlocks, engrave their initials or messages on them, and then lock them onto a bridge in the city, throwing the keys in the river. There are 20 “Lock Bridges” all across the world, and in 2015 there was a pedestrian bridge in Paris that had so many of these locks attached to it that they weighed nearly 45 TONS. The city was forced to have the locks removed because they feared the bridge would collapse. Legend has it that the practice started in Hungary when a woman – who’d lost her boyfriend during World War I - started to attach padlocks on bridges where they used to meet in the city. It was her way of expressing that her love was unbreakable. (https://citywonders.com/blog/France/Paris/paris-love-lock-bridge-story#:~:text=The%20'lock%20bridge'%20is%20a,ritual%20symbolizes%20love%20locked%20forever.)
The book of Hosea describes God’s love for His people as being unbreakable. God was a relentless lover of Israel
(PAUSE) But Israel’s love FOR GOD wasn’t nearly as secure. They had broken and torn away from God because they wanted to be like other nations and worship their gods.
In the midst of the book of Hosea God makes this declaration: “Behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt.” Hosea 2:14-15
Now this was an interesting statement by God because He started out telling Israel that He would “allure” her and speak tenderly to her - but then he talks about… the valley of Achor. What’s that all about?
Well, the Valley of Achor was a place… of sadness. In fact, “ACHOR” means “trouble.” And in the minds of the Israelites, it was a place where trouble had happened. The story is found in the book of Joshua chapters 6-7. It tells of the time when God delivered the city of Jericho into the hands of Israel. And all Israel had to do was to march around the city for 7 days as God ordered… and God did the rest.
The walls of the city fell down, the city was conquered, and was completely burned (BTW, that’s just what archaeologists discovered had happened to the city when Jericho was dug up back in the early 1900s, see footnote). God told Israel that everything in Jericho was to be destroyed, except for items of gold, silver, bronze and iron were God’s possession and were presented to the Priests at the Tabernacle. God warned them to “keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them.” Joshua 6:18
They could plunder other cities, but not Jericho… that was God’s
But one of the Israelites, Achan, got greedy and picked up a few things for himself. I’m personally convinced that other Israelites knew Achan had done this but looked the other way… and the results were disastrous. Israel went up against a small insignificant city named Ai and got roundly defeated. God’s anger had been kindled against His people and the hearts of the people melted with fear. Joshua and the elders fell on their faces in despair, and confession, and repentance before God.
God revealed to them that Achan was the culprit. Achan and his family were to be taken to this valley (the valley of Achor) and put to death. It is from this event that the valley got its name. The name “ACHAN” (the guy who stole the stuff) means, “trouble.” And the valley’s name, “the Valley of Achor,” means “the valley trouble,” or “The valley of the one who troubled us”. Afterwards Israel piled up a heap of stones as a memorial to remember and never to forget the lesson of Achan’s disobedience. (adapted from a sermon by Dennis Lee)
The valley of Achor was a place of judgment, punishment… and trouble; and by the time Hosea became a prophet, Israel had spiritually come to that place… a place of judgment and punishment - and a place where they were in serious trouble.
And God was declaring to Israel that He loved them too much to let them stay there. He wanted to rescue the nation from their dark valley of trouble and give them a doorway out of the place they were in. He wanted to give them … a door of hope.
Now, the key question is this: WHERE were they going to get that hope? Where would they find the hope that would lead them out of their dismal and dark valley. Well, the thing about hope is that it has to have a source, and the source of hope for Israel had become practically anything but God! They hadn’t looked to God for encouragement or protection for years! They were depending upon things of this world to supply their answers, but they’d put their hope in the wrong things… and life began falling apart.