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August 3, 2009

by: Charleeda Sprinkle, Assistant Editor

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Hope is what keeps us going and keeps us from giving up. In Ezekiel’s vision of the Dry Bones, the dry bones of scattered Israel lament, Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off” (37:11), which is what the enemy of our souls would love for all of us to believe. But God says otherwise: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer. 29:11).

He sees down the road, far beyond what we can see. He sees that what is currently troubling to us is not a forever thing. He can take trouble and transform it into hope. “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, will bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfort to her. I will give her her vineyards from there, and the Valley of Achor [trouble] 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 type land of nameEgypt” (Hosea 2:15).

The Valley of Achor did not hold good memories for Israel. Joshua 7 relates that it was here that Israel’s victorious march through the Promised Land came to an abrupt halt when Achan kept some of the forbidden spoils ofJericho. Here, Achan and his family were stoned and burned. Thus, the place was called the Valley of Trouble. However, even as God is reprimanding God’s people for their idolatry and forecasting their downfall as a nation in the days of Hosea, He promises them that He will turn their Valley of Trouble into a Door of Hope. While they will have to undergo a time of exile, they are not to lose hope. They will return, and He will make them fruitful and happy in the Land once again. As one commentator wrote, God promised them “a future unlimited by the painful past.”

A City and a Song

Though God fulfilled His promise when He returned them to Israel from Babylon, this verse has also been fulfilled in a most amazing, specific way in modern-day Israel. In 1878, a group of religious pioneers fromJerusalem established the town of Petah Tikva (door of hope) as one of the first Jewish settlements in pre-State Palestine during Ottoman rule. They took the name of the town from Hosea 2:15.  Originally, they purchased land in the same vicinity of the biblical type Valley of Achor, Jericho, but the Sultan forbade them from moving there, so they eventually ended up at their present site northeast of today’s Tel Aviv.

Naftali Imber—who came to Palestine in 1882, but only stayed six years—was inspired by the town’s pioneer spirit and wrote a poem called “Tikvatenu” (Our Hope). Encapsulating the Jews’ 2,000-year longing for a land of their own, it became very popular quickly in the pre-State land. It was first published in 1886 and soon afterwards was set to music. Many adaptions later, using only one verse of Imber’s nine-verse poem, “HaTikvah” was sung at the conclusion of the Sixth Zionist Congress in Basle in 1903 and at all subsequent Zionist Congresses. In 1933, it was officially confirmed as the Zionist anthem. Though it was unofficially proclaimed the national anthem in 1948, it did not officially become Israel’s national anthem until November 2004!

It is the yearning of the Jewish people for its Land, and its cityJerusalem, that perhaps stands as hope’s best defining example. A land and people reborn after 2,000 years was never seen in the annals of history before Israel was reborn. God never let their hope die, and the words of the prophets kept that hope alive in Jewish hearts throughout the centuries. God would keep His promises.

I was reminded of this on Israel’s last Independence Day when a Jewish friend, visiting from America, and I were walking into Jerusalem for the festivities that night. She had never visited the Great Synagogue, so when we walked by, we decided to go inside. We did not know, until we opened the doors to the women’s gallery, that a service was in progress. I noticed that a lot of men below were in uniform, even with their guns hanging beside them. At the end, the whole congregation sang “HaTikvah,” with no musical accompaniment (so this was a special service for the day). Though some women probably joined in, what I heard the most were the men. I’ve never heard “HaTikvah” sung more beautifully. I blessed God as I thought of all the accomplishments this young nation has achieved in a short 61 years. What other country has seen such hope realized as Israel has?

Photo Credit: Photoby Wikipedia/Creative Commons.org

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