PASSING THROUGH THE VALLEY
“’Therefore, behold, I will allure her, will bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfort to her. I will give 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. And it shall be, in that day,’ says the LORD, ‘That you will call Me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer call Me ‘My Master…’” Hosea 2:14-16.
The Valley of Achor, the location where Achan (and his family) was judged by stoning (Joshua 7) for his sin that incriminated the entire nation of Israel, is more than a geographical place. According to the prophetic word, it is also a spiritual place of trouble, despair and desolation. A state of being into which we are brought for the purpose of dying, and from which only the Lord can and does deliver us as He raises us into newness of life in Him! For Israel, passing through this valley is an annual event.
The nation of Israel and the Jewish people as a whole have just passed through the period of the summer fasts of the fourth and the fifth months of the biblical year. This period is referred to as “the time of dire straits” because during the long and often times painful history of Israel, time and again, devastating tragedies, disasters and dangers occurred during this tumultuous season. It seems that this is one of those “portals in time” which is repeatedly targeted by the forces of evil. Knowing God’s prophetic word regarding the Messiah’s return and coming Kingdom, they are relentless and desperate to cut off and destroy God’s testimony and purpose through His ancient people Israel.
This season occurs during the hot summer months between the spring and the fall feasts of Passover and Tabernacles, signifying the long and difficult stretch of time between the first and the second comings of the Lord Jesus. Prophesying about this prolonged and painful season, the Lord Jesus Himself wept over Jerusalem, saying, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” (Mt 23:37-39)
The culmination of this season is called in Hebrew “Tish-ah Be-av” – the 9th day of the month of “Av” (the fifth Hebrew month) which occurred last week. On this very date, both the first and second Temples were destroyed by pagan empires, massive waves of persecution erupted in various nations, and many tragedies occurred over the ensuing centuries of exile and persecution. Consequently, the fast of Tish-ah Be-av is as serious and intense as the fast of the Day of Atonement due to its historic horrific implications.
FAST & MOURN – FOR WHAT?
Biblically, the fast of the 9th of Av is mentioned during the days of Zechariah who prophesied, encouraged and exhorted Israel while the nation who had returned from the Babylonian exile had been in the process of rebuilding and restoring the second Temple in Jerusalem. When the prophet was asked whether the builders still needed to observe this fast even during the reconstruction period (as many are today, they too were looking for a “loophole” in God’s commandments, see Zech. 7:3), Zechariah’s reply came loud and clear.
Paraphrased, he said to them, “what were you fasting for during those 70 years of exile? Do you think that now you don’t have to fast anymore just because the Temple is being restored? Hear this – this fast is not about a ruined Temple - it is about the ruined relationship with the God of the Temple! If you truly desire to find favor and grace with God, you would have known that it’s not about fasting, it’s about taking care of the things that are important to Him; and you would have repented from hatred, injustice and oppression...” (See 7:4-11).
Zechariah’s rebuke was aimed at reminding the people that the first Temple was destroyed for very real reasons, and the severe divine judgments came with vengeance because of the nation’s moral corruption. This is the primary reason, he said, that the people should be fasting at all, otherwise these calamities will again become inevitable and will be repeated in due time! Until and unless the cry arises from the land of Israel declaring “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord,” the possibility of further divine chastisements remains very real and present.
Your prayers make all the difference in order to lead a people who are still blinded into the embrace of their God and Savior. Israel was brought back into the Land in blindness, trauma and unbelief after having been slain, betrayed and rejected among the nations. Yet in the Land, God promised, He will draw them to Himself. Therefore, let the word be fulfilled in your spirit which says, “’Comfort, yes, comfort My people!’ Says your God. Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her, that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she has received from the Lord’s hand Double for all her sins.” Isaiah 40:1-2.
A JOYFUL END
However, the prophet Zechariah also declared in chapter eight that in the end all these fasts which served to remind the nation of the calamities and judgments would eventually become the occasion of joyous feasts. As it is written, “Then the word of the LORD of hosts came to me, saying, thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘The fast of the fourth month, the fast of the fifth, the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth, shall be joy and gladness and cheerful feasts for the house of Judah. Therefore love truth and peace.’
“Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Peoples shall yet come, inhabitants of many cities; the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, ‘Let us continue to go and pray before the LORD, and seek the LORD of hosts. I myself will go also.’ Yes, many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the LORD.’” Zech 8:18-22.
This time is not yet upon us, but it is nearer by the day! Pray for Israel, pray for your soul, and pray for your nation as well. The recent 9th of Av passed this year without a major calamity, yet still the Jewish worshippers were lamenting for the destruction of the Temple and the other painful tragedies that befell the nation. We however, who worship in Spirit and in Truth, must pray (and fast) for God’s Spirit to heal and restore His ancient people as well as our own households and nations, so that our focus, identity and security will be found not in buildings, organizations or man-made institutions; but rather in the Lord alone and in the things that are dear to His heart!
We pray that as you pass through your Valley of Achor, that place of trouble, gloom and desolation (whatever the reason that brought you into it may be), that the word of the Lord, united with your faith, will rise upon you with power to transform even “… the Valley of Achor as a door of hope.” Hope in Resurrection Life is the natural birthright of every child of God in the Messiah, and this resurrection “dunamis” is ours even before the final resurrection of our bodies. It applies, through faith, to everything we commit into God’s hands and submit to His sovereign rule.
YOUR INVITATION - NOVEMBER IN ISRAEL
Join us as our team of intercessors and worshipers travels to the land of Israel November 8-18, 2009 (not final dates). Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 507-438-9096 to learn more. We will explore Jerusalem’s ancient past and eternal future, visit the beautiful Galilee, Nazareth and the Golan Heights, travel south through the Jordan Valley to Jericho, the Dead Sea and Masada, and visit Tel-Aviv. As we travel throughout the land, we will worship with local congregations, meet Messianic leaders and hear from Israeli scholars in the fields of