“Therefore I am now going to allure her;Hosea 2:14,15, 21-23 NIV
I will lead her into the wilderness
and speak tenderly to her.
There I will give her back her vineyards,
and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
There she will respond as in the days of her youth,
as in the day she came up out of Egypt. …
“In that day I will respond,”
declares the Lord—
“I will respond to the skies,
and they will respond to the earth;
and the earth will respond to the grain,
the new wine and the olive oil,
and they will respond to Jezreel.
I will plant her for myself in the land;
I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.’
I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’ ‘You are my people’;
and they will say, ‘You are my God.’”
The opposite of hope is hopelessness. It’s when life seemed wrecked, she hit rock bottom, everything felt like it had burned to the ground, there was no way out. These are the phrases we use in our moments of despair.
In the wilderness, in the valley, in the shadow of despair, God spoke tenderly and restored what was broken.
The book of Hosea captures the relentless love of God for the fickle and unfaithful. It is a call to all those who have run from their first love or never knew that love in the first place, to listen for the love of God in the midst of their trouble.
The word “Achor” means “trouble.” Why does God wait until we’re in the valley of trouble to speak up? Maybe God waits because he knows it’s only then he has our full attention. Maybe God is speaking and wooing and calling to us all of the time, but our souls are too distracted or apathetic to listen for love. Maybe this current valley of trouble—this pandemic, this political hurricane, this personal fill-in-the-blank crisis—is our meeting ground for El Roi, the God Who Sees, to woo our souls back to our one true love.
Maybe that is how he turns the valley of our trouble into a door of hope.
The first Sunday of advent is traditionally the Sunday of hope. The coming Christ walks through the valley of Achor and transforms it into a door of hope. Jesus arrives in the middle of our hopelessness. Jesus speaks into the heart of our despair. Jesus meets us in our trouble.
How does he do such a thing? How does he transform the valley of trouble into the door of hope?
He sees our brokenness, our mistakes, and our sins, and he offers us the forgiveness we can’t even conjure for ourselves and wouldn’t dare to ask for from others. He shows us the face of love incarnate. He shows us love for the broken, love for the shattered, love for the liar and the cheat and the thief, love for the battered, love for the weary, love for the abandoned, love for the lonely, love for everyone and anyone, even and especially those who have not yet sought love out, those who, like the woman in Hosea, have run from that love in search of other lovers. He loves each and every one of us and then calls us onward, to love ourselves and others the way he loves us.
Jesus, the Christ who came and became Emmanuel, God With Us, sings over each and every one of us: “I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the Lord” (Hosea 2:19-20 NIV).
Points of Reflection
- What valley of trouble in your life has God transformed into a door of hope?
- What does the hope of Christ, God with us, mean for you this year?
For the Kids
- When you think of “hopelessness,” what comes to mind?
- How do you feel when you’re in trouble? What do you usually do?
- How does it make you feel to know that God pursues you in his love, even when you’ve done something wrong?
Often, God transforms our valleys of trouble into doors of hope, not just for ourselves but for others as well, through the sharing of our stories, through gifts to ministries, through the founding of organizations, through personal interventions and quiet conversations all over the globe. Sometimes, the hard thing we have been through we might not wish on another soul, but we wouldn’t trade it for the world because of what good God has done through it. Think back on a valley of trouble God has transformed into a door of hope. What might you do this season to bless someone who is walking through a similar valley? Our actions as part of the body of Christ are deliverers of the love of Christ today and every season.
It isn’t too late to enter into an advent practice this Christmas. A beautiful literary devotional by Sarah Arthur, called Light Upon Light: A Literary Guide to Prayer for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany, includes liturgical readings, Bible verses, poetry, and fiction to gather together a variety of voices from Christendom to speak into this season of advent and the seasons of Christmas and Epiphany that follow.
Listen or read online through your local library’s Libby app, or buy on Amazon.com or through a local independent bookstore near you.