On the morning of September 11, 2001, two commercial passenger planes flew into the north and south towers of the World Trade Center. Both erupted into balls of flames upon impact, causing the towers to collapse and resulting in the deaths of thousands of people. In the last several years, a memorial has opened to mark the national tragedy and remember the lives of the many who died. The National September 11 Memorial & Museum is an attempt to reclaim the site for memory and hope rather than ignorance and despair.
Much like Ground Zero was a site of national devastation, the Valley of Achor also symbolized a dark day in Israel’s history (see Joshua 7:25, 26). After the euphoric victory at Jericho, Israel’s troops faced unexpected defeat at Ai. When Joshua asked God why He had abandoned His people, God answered that there was sin in the camp. Though Israel had been warned against taking any spoils of victory in Jericho, someone had disobeyed this prohibition. Achan was eventually singled out and confessed to having stolen and hidden a cloak, 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold. As punishment for his sin, the people of Israel took Achan, his family, and his livestock and stoned them in the Valley of Achor.
Achor had been the site of divine judgment early in Israel’s history, but now God was announcing, through Hosea, that Achor would become a door of hope. This is the kind of reversal we commonly find in Hosea and in the rest of the Minor Prophets: judgment becomes mercy. God does bring judgment on His people, exiling them from the land that had been theirs by divine promise. Exile is not the end of the story, however, and God promises to return them to the land and to restore their fortunes.
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Only by God’s initiative are His people restored to Him. He speaks tenderly to His bride; He removes the names of her lovers from her lips; He makes a new covenant with His people; He betroths her to Himself. God’s grace doesn’t just save us; it also sanctifies us. By His persistent love—and not our self-discipline—we become His faithful bride.