Around this time 5 years ago, Psalm 84 showed up on my reading plan. It was a little over 8 months since Sue’s tumor had surfaced and the multiple brain surgeries had been performed. The intense radiation was over and we were winding down on the chemotherapy. While it had been a hard journey, we marveled that while so much had happened, by God’s grace, so little had changed. Unbelievable. But it hadn’t been easy. Such was the context for the thoughts that morning as I hovered over the psalm.
A year ago, about 8 months after the re-diagnosis, a couple of cyber-knife procedures, and a couple failed chemo treatments, there was Psalm 84 again. And again the heart was stirred by what awaited the pilgrim journeying to the Holy Mount and the reminder that between here and there lay a valley.
Re-read both those devo’s this morning . . . a few times. And God used them again to minister to my heart. Thought I’d share 2012’s musings as this morning’s meal.
Oh, to have the heart of the sons of Korah. The heart that seeks the presence of God. The heart that is prepared to do the journey in order to be in His courts.
You got to love Psalm 84! If ever there was a psalm that invited meditation, it’s this psalm. If ever there was a song that stirred the soul, it’s this song. You can sense the intensity of the composers’ desire for the courts of the LORD. Their longing to be as close to Him as someone can be to God taking them to the point of fainting with desire. With just a couple of seconds of consideration you can’t help but whisper, “Amen” as the declaration that a day in the presence of God is better than a thousand anywhere else. That to be but a doorkeeper in dwelling place of God, is far superior to living in any luxury mansion this world has to offer.
But this morning I also noticed that, at some point, the path to the dwelling place of the LORD of hosts will invariably take us through the Valley of Baca.
Blessed are those whose strength is in You, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. As they go through the Valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools. They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion.
(Psalm 84:5-7 ESV)
It’s the only mention of the Valley of Baca in the Scriptures. Literally it is “the Valley of Tears” or “the Valley of Weeping.” Baca is also the word used for the balsam tree mentioned in 2Sam. 5:23-25, described by one commentator as a large bush, packed with thorns, which could not be passed through without labor and tears.
For the worshiper of God . . . for those who have set their internal GPS on Zion . . . who have the highway to the Holy marked on their hearts . . . who “have set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem” (NLT) . . . they can know that their travels will, at some point, take them through the Valley of Baca, the lowland of thorns. Not necessarily through catastrophe. But certainly through painful experiences, nevertheless. The type of stuff that’s gonna hurt and make you cry.
But for the worshiper of God, doing the thorns . . . get scuffed up on the journey . . . shedding the tears . . . is worth it. It is worth it not only because of the destination, but also because of what they learn during the journey. Because they experience the LORD of hosts as their strength. And know first hand how the tears shed in the valley can make it a place of refreshing springs as the God of all comfort draws near (2Cor. 1:3-4).
Along the way they encounter oasis after oasis, provided by God when they are most needed. They testify to the ministering, healing rain of God which transforms the valley into pools of His abiding love. They drink of heaven’s living water poured out abundantly.
And the worshiper of God knows that Baca is not the destination, it’s just a part of the road. A road where, according to the King’s promise, the pilgrim will find strength to help in time of need. Where they will know the sustaining grace of God during the journey. Where they will know the revitalizing power of the Spirit as He faithfully leads them, to be sure, to the Father’s throne where they will appear before God in Zion.
If I could avoid the Valley of Baca, I would. But not if it prevented me from reaching His courts. Not if it kept me from being but a doorkeeper in His house for even a day.
The path of God may take us through the streets of thorns and the places of weeping, but the grace of God is sufficient for the day and His promises sufficient for the pilgrimage.
And to be in His dwelling place, within the courts of the Lord, will be worth it all.
For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly. O LORD of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in You!
(Psalm 84:11-12 ESV)
By His grace. For His glory.