No more manna, God’s people ate lunch in the land of plenty after generations of lack. It was the end of walking in circles and calling it progress. The day after Passover and this meal was proof the wilderness season had ended.
They weren’t going to mess it up this time. Unlike a New Year’s resolution forgotten a week later, their hearts were determined as they kept their eyes on the presence of God.
A divine encounter sealed the deal. The Commander of God’s army met their new general, Joshua, one day outside Jericho. No negotiation, His presence silenced every voice except His own.
Yield your right to lead, Joshua. Submit it to Me.
Jericho was their first battle. Instead of a committee, Joshua chose two men for a secret mission to check out the city’s defenses. Things were good to go. Only one caveat before the people’s shout brought down the impenetrable walls.
Don’t take anything from the city.
A man named Achan ignored the command.
His thievery was no ordinary trespass. No “Whoops, I didn’t know any better.” It was an invitation to a vile, lust-soaked malice by the name of Baal.
Achan stole a jewel-studded Babylonian mantle, often used in Baal worship. This sin was fueled by more than self-will. His rebellion highlighted an illicit love hidden in his heart. Why not keep his options open? Who needed Jehovah alone when Baal was a friend with benefits?
God gets a bad rap for calloused slaughter in the Old Testament. Google Canaanite worship for an overview. We don’t understand because we haven’t had to feed our babies into the flames of Molech. Our sons and daughters aren’t required as temple prostitutes. Our culture doesn’t demand the sacrificed body of our youngest son under the foundation of a new home.
Achan’s adultery brought the leaven of Baal worship into the new era of promise. It was a cancer no one recognized until the next battle.
The Israelites could defeat Ai with one arm tied behind their backs. But a demonic force entered by the invitation of one. Its presence mocked and defied Love Himself.
Have we suffered because someone invited the wrong god into our camp? Has lust betrayed us? Maybe it started with a small invitation. A mantle for Baal worship hidden in the closet. It didn’t seem like much.
But it summoned a liar, a thief and murderer. It slinked in sticky sweetness, leering under a thin veil, waiting for its moment to destroy.
The valley of trouble was at the end of this summons. A miserable hovel, it became home before we knew what hit us. Not a ripple of discontent, this was extreme, serious trouble. The kind that stole children and stripped all that was precious.
Like a starved rodent in a researcher’s maze, I lived in that valley, smashing into one wall and falling headlong into another. Baal sneered as I wandered without hope of escape.
I needed a door, but couldn’t find it until one early September afternoon. I cried out to my Commander. I threw off my sandals and put Him in charge.
Love like liquid sunshine on the snowy sand of a Gulf coast beach traveled down my head. It came in mint green waves lapping the shore, deepened into emerald hues, and then plunged me into its depths.
Its tide washed and overtook fortified walls as it immersed the core of me, shattering chains from the inside out. Love I couldn’t contain and couldn’t explain was the door I hadn’t seen.
I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor (Troubling) to be for her a door of hope and expectation. And she will sing there…(Hosea 2:15)
Not content to be only a door out of trouble, He transformed that valley into a gate of hope. Not just a wish for something better. But a real gate into the bigness of Him and His plan. Only He could make the place of my pain a vineyard, offering life to others.
Is blogging your vineyard? It is mine. It is my confident hope extended to you, knowing He will turn a desolate valley into a place of life.
So toss those sandals, accept that holy ground. A gate is open to the ocean. Come on in, the water is fine!