If you are ever in Boston, Massachusetts, take time to visit the Liberty Hotel. Though now it boasts luxurious accommodations, upscale restaurants, and celebrity clientele, it once served as the Charles Street Jail. In its day, it hosted a much different clientele including: prisoners from a World War II German submarine; the thieves behind the Great Brinks Robbery in 1950; and Frank Abagnale Jr., the con artist portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie Catch Me If You Can.
It was built in 1851. In 1973, after 120 years, prisoners revolted because of the poor living conditions, after which the jail was declared unfit. It wasn’t until Memorial Day, 1990, that the last prisoners were transferred to the new Suffolk County Jail.
Years later, the building was purchased by a group of investors and underwent a $150M renovation. When you walk into the “prison” today, you enter an Italian Restaurant where some tables sit next to jail bars and brick walls. The catwalk, where guards once stood to watch over the prisoners, is now an elegant balcony. One former prisoner visited the hotel and exclaimed, "How you could take something that was so horrible and turn it into something of tremendous beauty, I don't know.”
The prophet Hosea talked about a total transformation like this. The valley of Achor [or Trouble] was the place of disgrace and punishment which befell Israel on her first entrance into the Promised Land [see Joshua 7.25-26]. It would later be known as a gateway of hope. The sorrows of the past would be replaced with anticipations of hope.
Greater still is the transformation God offers by turning opportunities for punishment in our lives into gateways of hope and restoration. God's justice has no place for evil. It will not allow Him to overlook it. Evil will not go unpunished. Yet, in His great love and mercy, God set in place a plan where His justice might become a gateway of grace and hope.
We do the same every time we extend forgiveness to someone who doesn't deserve it. What would our world look like if we allowed our resentment to be transformed into a gateway of hope and grace?
I will return her vineyards to her and transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope. She will give herself to me there, as she did long ago when she was young, when I freed her from her captivity in Egypt. Hosea 2.15