Friday, September 2, 2016

The Prodigal Daughter

   This is the story of a certain woman, who like the well-known Prodigal Son became desolate and impoverished after resorting to ‘lovers’ for her sustenance and well-being.  Although married, she loved her adulterous ways so much that she even sold herself to harlotry.  The consequence of her sin put her on the road to destruction (see Micah 2:10).

Under the pressure of life’s circumstances this adulteress reached an unfathomable level of desperation. She found herself without lovers, and without sustenance, much like the Prodigal Son. So in desperation she decided to repent and return. From that lowly place she cried out:  “I will go and return to my first husband, for then it was better for me than now” (Hosea 2:7b). 

But how could her (former) husband even think twice about forgiving her and taking her back? Thankfully, YHVH’s great mercies are entwined in the laws that govern sin and rebellion, even adultery combined with harlotry, which to us seem the worst of the worst. And so in His great compassion the Elohim and Husband of Israel gave her a certificate of divorce, in order that she would not have to face the death penalty as a consequence of her rebellion, and would still have an opportunity to repent.  

The prophet Hosea allows us to take a close look at the relationship between YHVH and Northern Israel.  It is not only a prophetic declaration of YHVH’s destiny for her, but also a revelation of His sovereignty and faithfulness to redeem and restore this wayward one back to Himself.   

"Therefore, behold, I will allure her, will bring her into the wilderness, and speak to her heart. I will give her 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” (Hosea 2:14-15).  YHVH banished the faithless wife to the wilderness of the nations in 722 BC, but has left her a door of hope in, of all places, the valley of Achor.  What is this valley and why there the door of hope?

When Joshua and the Children of Israel first entered the land and witnessed the miracle of the collapse of the walls of Jericho, they were told by the Elohim of Hosts (Elohey Tzvaot) that, “The city shall be under the ban, it and all that is in it belongs to YHVH” (Joshua 6:17).  The Israelites were not to be tempted by the silver, gold, garments or anything else in that doomed city. However, one man violated the ban and took the silver, gold and a Babylonian garment and hid it in his tent. That one violation brought on all Israel a defeat when attempting to take the next city of Ai.  YHVH eventually revealed the culprit and sentence was passed, but not before Joshua and the elders went on their faces before YHVH and repented.  Then in the valley Achor, Achan and his family were stoned and then, together with all their belongings they were burned.  Notice that all of Israel was indicted by Achan’s sin, and until the “accursed” thing was removed all of Israel stood guilty because of the sin of the one man (Joshua 7:1, 11). (All of Israel were rid of the guilt of sin by virtue of the act of the one man – Yeshua).

What are the traits shared by Achan, the Prodigal, and the unfaithful wife? Achan coveted the Babylonian garment, the silver and the gold (Joshua 7:21), the son coveted his inheritance, while the adulteress was much easier to please. She only went after bread, water, wool, linen, oil, and drink (Hos. 2:5), even though YHVH maintains that He had provided her with much more: grain, new wine, oil, silver and gold (v. 8). But being blind to His love, she couldn’t see what was available to her, and was willing to settle for much less and get it from other sources. But whereas for Achan the valley of Achor was a place of total annihilation, YHVH was willing to turn that lowland of death into a gateway of hope for His repentant wife.

The root letters of “Achor” (ayin, kaf, resh) make up a verb which means “to trouble” or “to stir up”. At most times this troubling involves breaking a status quo, compromising someone else’s situation, even to the point of bringing upon them a taboo, excommunication, or a curse, and there are many scriptural examples of what this kind of “troubling” can cause another, or has the potential to do (e. g. Gen. 34:30, 1st Kings 18:17,18).

As mentioned, all of Israel stood guilty of Achan’s act before YHVH, and hence forfeited their ability to defeat their enemies (Joshua 7:12). Therefore He told Joshua to sanctify the people and then have them remove from their midst that which was under the ban (7:11, 13).  It was only when the people as a whole were gathered, having taken corporate responsibility toward one another and faced the issue at hand, that YHVH revealed the root cause of their predicament. Notice the order of the procedure; first the nation as a whole, then the tribes, the families, and lastly the individuals (7:14, 16-18).

How does the valley of Achor then become a door of hope?  In Joshua 7:26, it says that after the stoning, the burning, and the raising of a heap of stones over the remains of Achan and his family, “YHVH turned from the fierceness of His anger”. But then it adds, “The name of that place has been called the valley of Achor to this day”. Even though YHVH’s anger has been “appeased”, at that time the place itself has not become a “door of hope”.

What makes for the reverse? Why in the case of the woman/Israel this valley is no longer named “Achor”, but instead is named a door of hope? Listen to the words of Joshua to Achan: "My son, I beg you, give glory to YHVH the Elohim of Israel, and make confession to Him, and tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me" (Joshua 7:19).

It was not the gold, silver or the garment that were accursed, but it was the covetous and disobedient heart of Achan (and the heart of the wayward wife) that were not right before YHVH.  The hope of Israel is embedded in learning that YHVH is holy and everything that is His is holy, including us as His people. When the wife returns to Her Husband she must do so in total holiness (k’dusha), as there is no other way to come to Him. Has the door of hope started to crack open in what was the valley of Achor, a valley that now spells a future and a hope? Are these words meant for now, for those who after repenting have been cleansed and redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, and who have also regained their identity as Israel?  If it is now that Israel is to be that repentant wife in accordance with Hosea’s description? Will she be willing to follow His prescribed protocol?   
Ephraim and Rimona

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