A Door in the Valley

How easily we can be distracted by pressing circumstance. That is not to say that we should make light of the serious matters that are before us; but they can so easily distract us from the One leading us. How does the Lord bring us back to Himself?

The prophet Hosea had an enormously difficult calling; he was directed by the Lord to marry prostitute. The Lord would then use Hosea’s life as a witness to His people – that they had gone astray after another בַּעַל/baal, another “master” or “husband,” perhaps believing that someone else had the answer to their struggle, pain or simply boredom.

In one sense, the book of Hosea is utterly unbelievable; and yet, it is wholly beautiful. The Lord is pursuing His bride, His beloved that He will take to Himself in “righteousness, justice, lovingkindness, mercy and faithfulness,” even though she had gone astray. Yet, after reconciliation He says, וְיָדַעַתְּ אֶת-יְהוָה, “you shall know the Lord” (Hos. 2:20).

As the Lord begins “alluring her,” His bride, she is led into the Valley of Achor, עֵמֶק עָכוֹר, interpreted: the Valley of Trouble or Troubling. With His wooing there seems to be an increase in troubles, the pressure becoming almost unbearable. Where is He taking us?

Almost unbelievably, in the midst of the Valley of Achor, the Valley of Troubling we enter לְפֶתַח תִּקְוָה, “the door of hope.” As we read in Hosea,

“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, I will bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfort to her. I will give her back her vineyards from there, and the Valley of Achor as a door of hope; she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, as in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt” (Hos. 2:14-15).

תִּקְוָה/tiqvah, translated hope, is literally a cord used to attach one thing to another. In the trial, the Lord brings us to the “opening of attachment.” No longer tossed about by the wind and waves, we are attached to, and drawn into, His presence.

When we drift due to life’s turbulence, do not be surprised if you find yourself in a wilderness – the place where He sets in order. In the wilderness, as Hosea writes, He will speak comfort. The vineyards of His people, symbolic of peace and serenity, He will restore. And in the deep Valley of Achor, that valley of troubling, we enter the door of hope, as experienced in the exodus. When all seemed hopeless, He made a miraculous way (Heb. 11:1).

Many of us, naturally, become discouraged as we endure trial, not realizing that in the midst of the trial, the Lord is demonstrating His faithfulness to us. He is calling us in the direction of the greatest difficulty in order to show how He overcomes every difficulty (Jn. 16:33).

When we go astray, and the feeling of emptiness begins to build up, then the Lord begins to woo us – speaking to our hearts, desiring us to return to Him.

There are times when we are in that wilderness, when the silence seems deafening, to the point that we feel completely abandoned; but it is to that point that the Lord brings us, and there He who is the “door of hope” (Jn. 10:7) rescues us from the troubles we find ourselves in. He will demonstrate His faithfulness in those times of silence, not necessarily by words, but through affection and love by the Holy Spirit – remember, He has covenanted Himself to us in Messiah Yeshua/Jesus, He will not leave or abandon us (Heb. 13:5).

Meditation: Hosea 2:19-20

Be well. Shalom.

The Heel Catcher: Reformed

When Jacob (יַעֲקֹב) emerged from the womb as the heel-catcher (Gen. 25:26), fixed on living for himself and his own benefit to the detriment of others, God delivered him into the hands of a bigger, wiser, more cunning heel-catcher in the person of Laban.

Having fled from Laban, and now facing Esau, the heel-catcher was caught between Laban behind and Esau ahead; and between the two God appeared (Gen. 32:25).

When the heel-catcher was caught by God, He asked, “What’s your name?” (Gen. 32:28). Jacob answered, but his answer was a confession, “I am the heel-catcher” (Gen. 32:28).

From that confession, God reached out, reformed, and renewed Jacob, and said, “No, you are no longer the heel-catcher, you are Israel (יִשְׂרָאֵל). You are now God-governed, a prince with strength from God” (Gen. 32:29, amplifying paraphrase).

The reformation of Jacob happened when he was at his lowest point: alone, afraid, and facing certain death (Gen. 32:25). No one left to swindle, God wrestled him away from his old nature by confession: “Jacob is my name.”

Face to face with God (Gen. 32:31), he confessed, and changed man limped away with a new name, facing certain death by his brothers hand.

Israel, however, is saved from destruction, and he would now limp out, or walk out, the prophetic word given to his mother, “the older will serve the younger” (Gen. 25:23); not from swindling, but the promise of God’s presence in covenant (Gen. 35:10-12).

It is our nature to be the heel-catcher, to live for the benefit of this self; but when God suddenly appears, when all options of self-salvation and self-preservation have vanished, God, in our darkest hour wrestles the old nature away, and speaks a new name to us, one that we walk out in Him by faith (Rev. 2:17), a name of overcoming.

When you walk out to face the uncertainty with your limp, you are not in a position of weakness, but strength. You have overcome by Him, and will not be overcome. Glory to God! For you are now governed by God the Father, in the name of God the Son, by the abiding, empowering presence of God the Holy Spirit.

We all limp differently, but its source and healing is the same: Yeshua/Jesus.

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33).

Be well. Shalom.

Dreams. Dungeons. Diadems.

Joseph shared his dreams. He wore his gifts. He kindled the anger of his brothers. He was rebuked by his father. Betrayed, thrown in a pit, and sold into slavery, Joseph’s dreams lay in waste. He journeyed from prince, to slave, to prisoner, to ultimately wear a diadem. A nearly twenty-five year journey from dream to realization.

Putting flesh and blood on Joseph, as a real person who lived his story, we can all relate to the deep pain, sadness, joy and relief of his journey and reconciliation. And by faith, at the end of his journey, he recognized how the Lord had sent him before his family, in order to save them (Gen. 50:19-20).

Psalm 105 recounts the journey of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob’s covenant family from the Promised Land to Egyptian bondage and ultimate deliverance.

“Oh, give thanks to the LORD! Call upon His name; Make known His deeds among the peoples! Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him; Talk of all His wondrous works!” (Ps. 105:1-2).

The author continues: glory in His name; seek and rejoice in Him; remember the wonders, miracles, and judgments; He healed the afflicted; he gave bread from heaven, and water from a rock. Hallelujah!

But there, nestled in among the glorious, miraculous acts of the Lord is the pain of the servant on the way to glory. Joseph.

“They hurt his feet with fetters, He was laid in irons. Until the time that his word came to pass, The word of the LORD tested him” (Ps. 105:18–19).

Have you ever noticed this before? They hurt Joesph in bondage, with shackles and irons “until the time that his word came to pass, the word of the LORD tested him.”

Joseph endured proving, a time of maturation in the midst of life changing and deeply painful circumstance, until his dreams given by the Lord came to pass, until the time was at hand. He was tested by the Word.

The descent from a prince of the tribe of Jacob, to slave, to prisoner, to a viceroy with a crown, a diadem, was filled with heartache.

When Joseph was sold by his brothers in Dothan, the slavers caravan would have passed Hebron on the way to Egypt, the land where Jacob lived. From the wagon Joseph might have been able to look out and see where his father was. Can you imagine?

We often read Joseph solely as a type of Messiah, looking for clues of messianic fulfillment, and rightly so. Yet, if this is our only perspective, we strip Joseph of the reality of his humanity, and the pain he endured as a servant of God.

In the story of Joseph, from slavery to exaltation, we find no hint that he lost his faith in God. In fact, he spent nearly twelve years in prison because he would not sin against God with Potiphar’s wife. Those who witnessed Joseph’s life knew that God was with him. He didn’t sulk in his circumstance saying, “they were supposed to bow to me!” He was faithful in the circumstance, even with the pain of the shackles.

His dreams appeared crushed. The pain was real. The diadem would come with a high price.

With calling – dream/vision – there is proving. Proving is painful, stressful, confusing, and it is always life changing as the sovereign Lord works the clay.

All of us, in faith, have been sent out, as Joseph was, before those who will follow behind us to Yeshua/Jesus. How are those around us seeing us endure in our dungeon? Are they seeing that the Lord is with us? What is your dungeon? Sickness? Financial stress? Cancer? Family distress? Unemployment? Divorce? Depression? Grief?

From where will you be exalted in His time? Paul encourages us, from his own dungeon, “In the future there is reserved for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not to me only, but also to everyone who has longed for His appearing” (II Tim. 4:8).

If you are enduring in faith right now some circumstance constructing a dungeon of grief or stress, remember, as with Joseph, there is a time of release. Still, your release will be intertwined with His glorious acts of deliverance. Hallelujah!

Be well. Shalom.