************ Sermon on Hosea 2:15 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on May 12, 2002
"The Valley of Achor"
Topic: SinHow easily spiritual "bumps" can develop in the life of a Christian! Unconfessed sin in the heart is like rust on the steel belts. At first, nothing appears to be wrong, and we may even consider it of no consequence. But our love for the LORD dwindles; interest in God's Word declines; prayer becomes less important. Soon spiritual progress comes to a bumping halt.
Subtopic: Concealment of
Title: Spiritual Bumps
I felt a suspicious "bump" as I drove down my parents' driveway and came to a stop in front of the house. Sure enough, one of the rear tires was flat, exposing the metal cord of the steel-belted radial. The next morning, when I visited the tire dealer, I noticed that the same brand of tire on the other side of the car showed no such wear. I asked why. The dealer explained that a nail had stuck in the rubber and transferred rust to the steel belts, weakening the interior of the tire. That in turn caused the belt and the tread to separate. Just a nail and a little rust!
This evening Hosea speaks of the Valley of Achor. In speaking of this valley Hosea reminds us about the danger of unconfessed or hidden sin; but he also reminds us that there is hope for those who repent of that sin and change their way of life.
I Place of Despair
A The Valley of Achor, which is southwest of Jericho, has always recalled thoughts of trouble in the minds of Israel. An Israelite father telling his children about the Valley of Achor would automatically lower his voice to a whisper, for the name Achor means valley of turmoil, misfortune, trouble!
Do you remember what happened there? Israel was at the border of the Promised Land. By the grace and power of God she had just conquered Jericho. In giving them this city the LORD had one request: just as He wanted the first fruits of the harvest, so He also wanted the first of the cities of Canaan for Himself. Jericho and her riches were to be devoted to the LORD – the city was to be destroyed and burned and her riches were to go either into a great bonfire or into the treasury. But there was one man, Achan, who coveted the riches of Jericho and took some of the wealth for himself. With his greedy hands he secretly seized silver, gold, and a beautiful robe from Babylonia and hid them in his tent. No one would know!
That was a hidden sin on Achan's part. It was a serious offense not because anyone was hurt by it but because he was stealing from God. You see, that was the LORD's wealth in Jericho. It was devoted to the LORD. It belonged to the LORD and was not meant to be used by and for anyone except the LORD. Achan stole from God.
B Stealing from God – this is the most common and most serious form of theft within the camp of God's people. It's certainly not unheard of for the people of God to steal from each other. In one of the churches I served two farmers in the congregation exchanged heifers and they both knowingly gave a heifer with problems; they tried to steal from each other. In another church a businessman overcharged church members for goods and services; that too is theft. In John Calvin's Geneva a shopkeeper used dishonest weights and measures to increase his profit; that too was theft. But stealing what belongs to God is much more widespread than stealing from each other.
How can we steal from God? Someone who claims he has "no time" or "no gifts" for work in God's church or kingdom is stealing from God. Thank God that our members are generally willing to say "yes" when asked to do some work. But I have heard of churches that have problems getting consistory members, church school teachers, Cadet & Gems counselors, and the like. Those who are unwilling to be involved are stealing from God. As I mentioned this morning, we also steal from God when we don't support the church budget. In the Old Testament God required His people to give Him a tenth of all they had; because we in the New Testament have been blessed far more richly than God's Old Testament people we should want to do even more than this 10%. I have to say that this includes young people and adult singles too. Too often I get the impression that we think it is only the married who should give to the church budget. But young people and adult singles who earn money either at part-time or full-time jobs have a responsibility too. As a young person I put my way through college by surveying farms and spraying crops during the summer. Being a student I needed every dollar so I worked 14-16 hour days. Yet, I always made sure 10% went to the LORD's work. Another thing: too often we think 10% should go to the LORD only when we are alive; but after death at least that much of our estate should go to the LORD and His work too. It is too easy to forget that we are but stewards of our time, our gifts, our money. It is too easy to forget that God, not us, is the owner of all that we have and all that we are. So we steal from God by not giving of our time or money or spiritual gifts.
All of this take place in secret, of course. No one who withholds his time or money will end up in prison. Those who say they have no time to serve on the church council are not arrested by the police, any more than those who can't be bothered with evangelism or those who refuse to contribute to the church budget or never give to the poor. Such people may even be honored and respected members of the church. Consider Achan; he remained a soldier in good standing in God's army as long as his sin was secret.
C As my opening story illustrates, however, hidden or secret sin is very deadly in its effects. We see this in the church of Corinth. Many in the church became weak and sick and some even died because members did not repent of sin and ended up eating and drinking judgment upon themselves (1 Cor 11:29f). We certainly see this in the case of Israel and Achan. Mighty Jericho fell without a single drop of Israelite blood being shed. Yet, Israel suffered a stunning defeat when the weak city of Ai was attacked; thirty-six Israelites were killed and many others were wounded. The reason for the defeat is obvious to us. Israel could not move ahead as a victorious army as long as the hidden evil continued and Achan lived on among the people as a hidden source of corruption. Likewise, the church of the LORD will never win any battles as long as she is consumed from within by evil that festers like an infected wound. The defeats of the church are due to her hidden sins, sins that are not confessed and abandoned.
It makes no difference what name we give to the evil we fail to combat and root out. It could be anything. It could be theft, slander, quarreling, adultery, unchastity, divorce, covetousness. As long as it remains and is tolerated, the church will suffer defeat after defeat. The church will have no victories over the world to boast over as long as she has no victories over the sins of the flesh. The church will have no power if she harbors an Achan in her midst. She cannot march victorious behind her King. She will be defeated and scorned.
Topic: SinWhat the strangler fig does to the trees of Mexico, so hidden sin does to the church of God. Therefore the church must always be eager to combat and root out sin in her midst.
Subtopic: Impairments of
Title: The Strangler Fig
In Mexico and the tropical zones of South America a so-called "strangler" fig grows in abundance. The Spanish-speaking people refer to it as the "matapalo" which means "the tree killer." The fruit is not edible except to cattle and the fowls of the air. After the birds eat it, they must clean their beaks of the sticky residue. They do this by rubbing them on nearby trees. The seeds of the small fig have a natural glue which makes them adhere to the branches. When the rainy season arrives, germination takes place. Soon tiny roots make their way down into the heart of the wood and begin to grow. Within a few years the once lovely palms have become entirely covered with the entangling vines of the parasitic growth. Unless the tree is set free through the removal of these "strangler" figs, it finally begins to wither, dropping one frond after another until it is completely lifeless. The only way to stop the killing process is for someone to take a sharp knife and cut away the invader.
D It is the LORD Himself Who opens the eyes of His people to the sin in their midst. He does not and cannot let His people be blind to evil. So He intervened in the case of Achan. Through the casting of lots, He pointed the finger at the guilty party. The sinner was unmasked, the sin was uncovered, and the Israelites were given an opportunity to deal with the situation.
The people did not hesitate for a moment in rooting out the evil. The reformation was radical! This is what Scripture says:
(Josh 7:24) Then Joshua, together with all Israel, took Achan son of Zerah, the silver, the robe, the gold wedge, his sons and daughters, his cattle, donkeys and sheep, his tent and all that he had, to the Valley of Achor.There Achan was stoned together with all his family and possessions. Afterward the entire household and all its members were burned, so that nothing – absolutely nothing – was left.
Sin always demands a radical response. The old man of sin is to be crucified, put to death, and buried. That's exactly what happened in the Valley of Achor.
For Achan and his household, the man who confessed his sin only when the finger of God was pointing at him, the Valley of Achor became a place of despair, turmoil, misfortune, trouble! Screaming and gasping in fear Achan and his family were plunged into eternity. For them the Valley of Achor became the door to hell.
E Why does Hosea drag out the unhappy story of the Valley of Achor? Hosea speaks of Achor because his time was like Achan's time in that there was a great evil in Israel. It's the same old story: the Israelites were stealing from God Himself. The wine and oil and gold and silver that the LORD had given Israel had been turned over to Baal (2:8,13).
Sin enters human life with depressing regularity, but punishment is just as regular – to the Valley of Achor! The entire nation of Israel had to appear in court. The entire nation of Israel had to be sentenced to exile in the valley of turmoil, misfortune, trouble!
II Door of Hope
A But now comes the miracle! Those who entered the Valley of Achor with tears and lamentation can emerge at the other end with joy and hope. Speaking the Word of the LORD, Hosea says, "I ... will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope." Exile in the Valley of Achor will not mean total destruction. God just can't put His people out of His mind. He will not make the Valley of Achor a dark pit in which the people perish forever. Instead, He makes it a door, a gate, a passageway! The exile will not mean death but rather a purifying fire.
The Valley of Achor, however, does not become a door of hope for everyone – or even almost everyone. More than half the children of Israel will die Achan's death. For those who refuse to repent and believe, there is no door and no hope.
Hosea tells us this evening that the Valley of Achor becomes a door of hope only for those who are reformed and purified. We see that this is what happened to and for Israel. After the defeat at Ai the people had given up hope of ever conquering the Promised Land. As Joshua said:
(Josh 7:7) "Ah, Sovereign LORD, why did you ever bring this people across the Jordan to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us?But when the sin that caused Israel's setback had been pointed out and dealt with, God's blessing again rested upon Israel's army. Once more Israel became powerful in battle. So the Valley of Achor became a door of hope only when Israel, by grace, repented of her sin and dealt with the evil in her midst.
B Any church and Christian that fails to root out evil will enter the valley of defeat. But a church and Christian that does deal with sin and evil will, by grace, move in triumph through the victory gate. The Valley of Achor becomes a door of hope for these people because of Christ. But this means dealing with sin and evil, this means repentance, this means a radical break with the old man of sin.
Many people are unwilling or unable to deal with sin in their life.
Topic: SinSpiritual ailments are often mis-diagnosed too. People are hurting deep within because of guilt and the effects of their sin. In an attempt to ease the pain, well-meaning counselors may recommend therapy, a vacation, yoga, transcendental meditation. But unless sin is recognized, they can't help cure the real trouble.
Title: Wrong Diagnosis
I'm reminded of the time a Toronto newspaper carried an account of an Arab woman brought to a hospital emergency unit screaming and pulling her hair. She spoke no English and no interpreter was available. The doctor examined her, then admitted her to the hospital's psychiatric ward. Three days later she died. An autopsy revealed a malignant tumor in an advanced stage. The doctor had made a wrong diagnosis!
C Sin must be dealt with. It is not enough to confess that we are sinners. It is not enough to feel sorry for the wrong we have done. The evil must be removed from our life. Our lives must change direction. The quiet, hidden sin of Achan – you know what it is in your life – must not be allowed to continue, for if it does, you will suffer defeat. The Valley of Achor will then become the gateway to hell.
Don't delay, then, in removing the evil from your life. And if you do, then the Valley of Achor, by God's grace towards us in Christ, becomes a "door of hope."
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