Hanging By A Line of Scarlet Thread
"Turn you to the strong hold, ye prisoners of hope: even to day do I declare that I will render double unto thee." Zechariah 9:12
Have you ever felt that the burdens you carry are too heavy for you to bear? That God was not hearing your prayers or responding to your petitions? That you were just overwhelmed or alone in your situation? Such things caused me to seek God for a renewal of His hope in me and a better understanding of how to hold on to it.
The Scriptures are full of references to God's love, His longsuffering, and His mercy; where His arm is outstretched to save. The Book of Hosea is one example of this. The word "Hosea" literally means salvation.
God had instructed the prophet Hosea to marry a harlot so that he would understand first-hand how God felt about Israel's idolatry. He could have just given Hosea the words to proclaim, but God is more practical than that. He often places us in tough situations to give us a personal testimony that can transform his words from being mere recitations to being spoken from the heart by the power of His Spirit. It is the difference between talking about a God whom you believe can do anything versus telling of a God whom you know has brought you through everything. If we never have a time of testing, then we will never have a testimony or a personal revelation of God's delivering power of which to speak. This is how we grow from faith to faith, as we go on to walk with God and see His deliverance in various aspects of our lives.
Although an unfaithful wife must have been a painful burden to carry, this is what God did with Hosea. As a result, the Book of Hosea tells the beauty of how the love of God can take an idolatrous harlot and make of her a pure Bride. In speaking of the blessings God would bestow on Israel when she turned back to Him, Hosea says in part:
"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. And it shall be at that day, saith the LORD, that thou shalt call me Ishi; and shalt call me no more Baali." Hosea 2:15-16
Sometimes, you read things in Scripture that just make you go, "Huh?" This was one such passage for me. It sounds like such a beautiful promise, yet as I looked more closely, it presented some questions. Why is the valley of Achor a "door of hope"?
trouble, disturbance; the valley of trouble where Achan and his family were stoned
The first time we hear of it in Scripture is not a happy time. God was giving the city of Jericho into the hands of Israel, but had instructed them not to take of the accursed things in the city. Yet Achan (which means troubler in Hebrew) did just that and brought a curse upon all of Israel. When found out, God led Joshua to do the following:
"And Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver, and the garment, and the wedge of gold, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had: and they brought them unto the valley of Achor.
And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? The LORD shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones. And they raised over him a great heap of stones unto this day. So the LORD turned from the fierceness of his anger. Wherefore the name of that place was called, The valley of Achor, unto this day." Joshua 7:24- 26
And so I asked the Lord, "Why is this valley "a door of hope"? Where is the hope in this? Why is this the door through which we must enter to receive God's blessings?"
"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." I John 2:15
The valley of Achor is associated with Israel's release from the world: both their captivity to it (outward bondage of Egypt in Hosea 2) and their love for the things in it (inward bondage of Achan in Joshua 7). The valley of Achor represents our deliverance. It is the "door of hope" that we - like Christ - can overcome the world and all that is in it, so that we may enter into the promises of the Father!
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out...Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture." John 10:1-3, 7-9
Jesus Christ is the door; He is leading us out...out from the bondage of the world. He is our hope in that He is our Deliverer (Hebrews 6:17-20; I Timothy 1:1). He is the means by which we are freed from enslavement to the world, and thereby from the god who rules it (II Corinthians 4:4).
"These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." John 16:33
Just as Israel went through this valley before they could enter into the Promised Land, so must we experience this deliverance in order to walk in the new covenant promises of God: a resurrected life.
As Hosea says above, the valley of Achor is the door of hope through which we know God, not only as our Lord (Baali), but as our Husband (Ishi). Just as in a marriage relationship, we are brought into intimate communion with Him as His Bride and become one with Him. Such is our hope; it is not of this world and neither can it be taken away by this world.
"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end [hope]." Jeremiah 29:11
a cord; a hope or expectation
We may have circled in the Wilderness of Sin for what seemed like an eternity as God dealt with our idolatry and taught our hands to war, but there comes a time when we have been prepared to enter into the promises. There comes a time when we come through the Valley of Achor as we are crucified to the world - and it to us - leaving behind the dead body of the old man (the troubler), so that we can truly move on in the promise of the power of new life in Christ. This is the beauty of the cross (of which the valley of Achor is a type).
When Jesus was on the cross, God wasn't sitting in Heaven scratching His head trying to figure out what to do. Not one thing happened to Jesus that was not part of God's plan. When we yield our lives to the Father's hands, we also have this comfort. We can know that - no matter what we go through - God is working out His plan for our deliverance and for our good!
"Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts. Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel." Ezekiel 37:11-12
The death of the cross may seem like agony, it may feel like God has forsaken us...but He has not. Don't focus on what you are going through but where God is taking you. It is even the joy of what lay ahead after the cross which gave Jesus the strength to endure it, and that same hope will also give us strength (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus has come to set the captives free and whom the Son sets free is free indeed. God is a Deliverer, and He is delivering us! He is bringing us into His promises of new life, which requires the death of the old Adamic nature.
Sometimes it may feel as if you are hanging by a thread - but then again, sometimes that thread is all you need; for a three-fold cord is not easily broken (Ecclesiastes 4:12b). It is this same cord, this same hope, which saved the harlot Rahab and her family.
In preparing to take the city of Jericho, Israel sent a few men to spy out the land. They were taken in and given shelter by the harlot Rahab, who also helped them to escape their pursuers from Jericho. In return, the men promised to save her and her family if she obeyed their instructions:
"Behold, when we come into the land, thou shalt bind this line of scarlet thread in the window which thou didst let us down by: and thou shalt bring thy father, and thy mother, and thy brethren, and all thy father's household, home unto thee...
And she said, According unto your words, so be it. And she sent them away, and they departed: and she bound the scarlet line in the window...
And Joshua saved Rahab the harlot alive, and her father's household, and all that she had; and she dwelleth in Israel even unto this day; because she hid the messengers, which Joshua sent to spy out Jericho." Joshua 2:18, 21; 6:25
The word "line" in the above text is the same as the word translated "hope" in Hosea describing the Valley of Achor. We are saved by hope (Romans 8:24)!
Rahab's hope allowed her to be transformed from a harlot to a woman of faith, even becoming one of the ancestors of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:5). As we saw in Hosea, God's love is able to transform even those with the heart of a harlot into pure brides for Christ. There is a journey that God is taking every Christian through; molding us into a Bride without spot or blemish. This is the power of God's salvation.
Hold on to the promise...hold on to the hope...hold on to the blood-stained, three-fold cord which is an anchor to our souls and binds us to Christ, making us His own. The valley of Achor is a door of hope for it is the path to our deliverance.
"I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD." Psalms 27:13-14