F. B. Hole.
(Extracted from Scripture Truth Vol. 11, 1919, page 36.)
There are not many doors that lead into salvation. There is but one. Jesus said, "I am the door; by Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved" (John. 10:9).
Neither are there many doors leading from a feeble or backslidden spiritual condition to one of power and nearness to God. Again, there is but one, and by that door we must enter if today we would pass from our weakness and declension into a renewed measure of devotedness and faithfulness to our Lord.
Since Israel's history was written for our admonition, the things that happened to them being ensamples, or types, for us (1 Cor. 10:11), to that history we will turn for an illustration of this matter.
First, then, it is striking to notice that their history as a nation began with the afflictions of Egypt. To Abram it was said, "Thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years" (Gen. 15:13), and it was in connection with that prophecy that Abram had the vision of the smoking furnace and the burning lamps passing between the pieces of his sacrifice. Into Egypt's smoking furnace of affliction Abram's seed passed. It was an unpromising beginning, for Jacob and his sons were far beneath Abram's spiritual level. They came down as a small tribe of quarrelsome and suspicious nomads into Goshen, apparently ignorant of what awaited them.
God, however, took them in hand and permitted them to feel the scorching heat of Egypt's furnace. "But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew" (Ex. 1:12). In that furnace of affliction they were welded together as a nation. They entered Egypt a feeble and disunited family: they left it a compact and powerful nation.
Their subsequent history, with all its sad declension and sin is known to all of us. Nothing could surpass the blackness of their unfaithfulness and ruin save the brightness of that faithful mercy of God which plainly predicts and holds out before them the hope and way of recovery.
Now, their sin had taken two great forms: first their forsaking the true God for idols, and second the rejection and murder of the beloved Son of God, their Messiah, when he appeared. Israel is to be richly blessed upon earth, and richly a blessing to the nations in the millennial age, but before ever this can be they must pass through this one and only door to recovery of which we speak.
Hosea the prophet exercised his ministry in the years preceding the utter ruin of the kingdom of the ten tribes and capture of Samaria; and his book is occupied with scathing denunciations of the atrocious idolatry that was about to bring down these sore judgments. Mingled with these denunciations are predictions of ultimate recovery, and it is in his second chapter that the expression "a door of hope" occurs.
"Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak to her heart [margin]. And I will give her her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope: and she shall sing these, as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt" (vers. 14, 15).
How amazing the grace that shines in these promises! To think that there shall yet be a moment at the end of Israel's disastrous history when she shall sing the praises of Jehovah with the sweetness of her youth and with the vigour of that moment when on the further bank of the Red Sea she saw all her foes dead upon the shore!
"She shall sing THERE." Where? In the valley of Achor. Not literally and physically of course, but morally and spiritually she will be there.
Joshua 7 enlightens us as to the significance of this reference to the valley of Achor. It owed its name to the terrible judgment that fell on Achan within it.
When Israel entered the land of promise under Joshua, they were strictly commanded to touch nothing, but make a clean sweep of the nations in possession and all their works. These instructions were sanitary precautions of a spiritual kind. Idolatry is terribly infectious as well as corrupting, and a policy of thorough isolation was the only safe one.
Achan was the first who broke through the sanitary cordon that had been established. He coveted and took a little of their silver and gold and also "a Babylonish garment." Now Babylon was the seat and stronghold of idolatry in the ancient world. This garment was Babylonish, i.e. one to be used in connection with some heathen and idolatrous practice.
Upon Achan summary judgment fell. He and all his surroundings, as well as the offending garment, perished beneath a judgment of stones and fire. Thus the infection was stayed — for the time at all events. It was judged and put away.
Idolatry will yet be revived in Israel's midst in connection with the Beast and False Prophet of Revelation 13, and their final clearance will only be when nationally they enter afresh the valley of Achor, or, in other words, they are brought to whole-hearted self-judgment, and an utter and radical forsaking and destruction of the accursed thing.
Amongst the latter prophets, long after Hosea, Zechariah appeared. In his days a remnant had returned from Babylon, idolatry had been dropped and the first appearing of Christ was the approaching event. Hence he has hardly a word to say on the subject of idolatry, but much as to the religious formalism and hypocrisy that was developing and also as to the Messiah whose coming drew nigh. He predicts His first coming in grace, and His rejection.
The rejection and death of Jesus at the hands of His wayward people was the crowning infamy of all their sins. One may well wonder if any door of hope can possibly be opened to a people guilty of such an act as this.
But, such is the goodness of God, Zechariah was commissioned to predict the opening of just such a door. Zechariah 12:9 to 14 present it to us.
It is a door of PROFOUND repentance. The remnant of David's house and Jerusalem's inhabitants, who at that time will have come through the awful furnace of the great tribulation, a furnace far worse than that of ancient Egypt, will under the hand of God be smitten with an agonizing conviction of sin that will utterly prostrate them.
Notice a few points:-
It will be a change, not merely of thought or attitude, but of spirit. An "unclean spirit" had been in the land (Zech. 13:2), now a "spirit of grace" is poured upon them.
It will not be mere regret for wrongdoing, nor sorrow for the consequent chastisement, but rather a profound sense of the enormity of their offence against Christ. It says, "They shall look upon Me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for Him as one that is in bitterness for his first-born," We read "there was a great cry in Egypt" when the first-born fell on the passover night. But this will evidently exceed that in intensity.
Further, the conviction and feeling will be so keen that not only will families be isolated in their sorrow but even men and their wives will find it impossible to mourn together. Each and all will instinctively seek that solitude that shuts up the soul to God alone.
We are familiar with the fact that Israel is to be the great channel of earthly blessing in the millennial age, but have we sufficiently considered this great work which is the moral foundation upon which their subsequent greatness rests? Objectively their glory in the age to come rests upon the finished work of Christ's atonement; subjectively it rests upon this great work of the Spirit in their hearts.
We stand in the last days of the church's sojourn upon earth. Its shameful failure and declension is patent to all beholders. To sit in the critic's chair and expose the wrong is an easy matter, and fruitless too, if there we stop. We need to go forward each for himself and herself, really repenting of the evil, in keeping with the spirit of Zechariah 12, and really putting away the evil in keeping with the action of Joshua in the valley of Achor.
For those who do so there is the assurance of recovery and blessing.
The matter may be crystallized into few words: All recovery is based upon repentance.