“How blessed is the man whose strength is in You, in whose heart are the highways to Zion! Passing through the valley of Baca they make it a spring; the early rain also covers it with blessings. They go from strength to strength, every one of them appears before God in Zion.” – (Psa 84:5-7 NASB)
I’ve thought it would do well to resend a writing that I provided well over two years ago. It has become one of the highest readings of my blog. It has to do with what the Bible calls, ‘the valley of baca.’ Hope it refreshes your heart.
Have you ever been through the valley of Baca?
Sure you have. Every human has been there The valley of Baca is the valley of weeping. The valley of Baca is part of our journey of life. My wife and I are very familiar with this valley. Forty-three plus years ago we stood by the grave of our nine month old son. We were passing through the valley of weeping. How our hearts filled with sorrow.
But the valley of Baca isn’t simply about tears. Believe it or not the valley of Baca is also the valley of strength. It is in the valley of Baca that a believer finds himself being renewed in the Lord. Betty and I knew that we would see David Lynn again. There was no question in our minds about that. That knowing has become one of the trail markers on our journey of faith.
There is an explanation for this idea of Baca also being the valley of strength The truth of the matter is that…
We are on our way home
No matter what else Psalms 84 may speak to, it also carries its own spiritual significance for our journey of life. And so Psalm 84 begins with,
“How lovely are Your dwelling places, O Lord of hosts! My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.” (Vv1,2)
Psalm 84 opens with the longings of the heart. And while the Psalm has in view the earthly Jerusalem and the tabernacle, its deeper spiritual inference is for those who have been born from above. Its deeper spiritual lessons go far beyond an earthly Jerusalem.
To be born again is to be born from above. In this ‘heavenly’ birthing we actually become children of God, or, heaven’s children. In the heart of every born-from-above person, God places the seal of the ‘Holy Spirit’. Paul calls this seal the ‘pledge’ of our inheritance. (Or, ‘the seal of redemption.)
The seal cannot be broken. It is a seal of ownership. It is also a seal that carries with it the very essence of heaven. We can think of it as our ‘going home’ seal. The seal lets us know that we are pilgrims in this life. It is because of the seal we can say with Paul,
“For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven.” (2Co5:1,2)
See the connection. The Psalmist said, “My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the Lord.”
But in the meantime, we groan. We all have these groaning times in this life. Paul uses the same language as the Psalmist.
The tell-tale sign
The book of Hebrews tells is that this ‘longing‘ is one of the signs of God’s people through the ages. It is applied to the Old Testament saints who longed for Messiah and for a country that was to be their own. It says that Abraham “was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” (He11:10)
Then it speaks of all the holy ones who were before Christ. Of them it says,
“[They] confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth … But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.” (Cf. He11:13-16)
When birds preach the gospel
Psalm 84:3,4 continues with,
“The bird also has found a house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young. Even Your altars, O Lord of host, My king and My God. How blessed are those who dwell in Your house! They are ever praising You. Selah.”
The issue here is that heaven’s children are able see the goodness of the Lord in everything. Even the swallow has a lesson to teach us about God. Perhaps she knows much more than we realize. Did not the Lord say,
“Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?” (Matt6:26)
I’ve had a couple of unique experiences that involved birds. One was when we pastored a former church. For a good while each morning when I showered I would hear a bird outside the window. One day I caught a glimpse of her. She was on a limb right outside the shower. Coincidence? Perhaps. But I like to think that she was sent as an encouragement. Yes I know. I’m a dreamer.
Another time was when the Lord spoke to my heart to ‘Expect the unexpected.’ This was when the Lord gave me a miracle healing from cancer. I was sitting on the hill behind Christian Challenge during a time of devotion and meditation. When the Lord spoke to my heart, I glanced up and right above my head on the high line was a beautiful dove. She didn’t move a feather. I looked at her and she looked at me. Coincidence? Not for me.
Well, let’s continue, Psalm 84:5 says,
“How blessed is the man whose strength is in You, in whose heart are the highways to Zion!”
Again we can reflect on Jesus. The highway to heaven’s Zion is the path of Jesus. The Psalmist said in another place that God would make the Messiah’s footsteps “into a way.” (Ps85:13)
So where are the highways to Zion? Are not the highways to Zion in our hearts?
And where is our true strength?
It is in Jesus. The Psalmist said, “How blessed is the man whose strength is in You.” Did you know that most burn out in a believer’s life is a burn out of the flesh. There is no burn out in the Spirit. The Spirit refreshes. But if we are doing our work in the flesh, we will wither with weariness.
Let’s now look at the path that leads us home. After all we live in the nasty now-and-now.The Psalm continues,
“Passing through the valley of Baca they make it a spring; the early rain also covers it with blessings.” (V6)
How many times have we been through the valley of Baca? I’ve been there often. There is no use in me telling you about my “Bacas.” You’ve been there. It is a place of deep sorrow. But it is in the valley of Baca that we come to know the Lord in a even more intimate way. Thus we hear in another place, “Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning.” (Ps30:5)
One day the Lord may pull back the veil of our life and allow us to see all the ways He intervened in those moments of deep sorrow. And what may amaze us the most, is when He shows us His intervention in our lives before we came to a conscious knowledge of Him as our Lord and Savior. It is very much like the song which says, “He was there all the time.”
It was 1961. I was in Manila bay with a group of sailors and marines. In tossing a beach ball around, the ball got away, and I began swimming to retrieve it. What I didn’t realize was that the tide was carrying me out. On top of that, every time my fingers touched the ball, it sprang forward. When I finally realized that I couldn’t get the ball, I turned to swim back. But I had been carried far out into the bay. And as hard as I tried, I couldn’t fight the tide. It was pulling me further out. (Manila bay is part of the South China Sea, and is known for its shark activity.)
The short side of this is that I became so exhausted that I began to lose hope. I felt that the sea wanted to drag me down. Then I heard this thumpa, thumpa, thumpa, thumpa. A Philippine fisherman saw my distress and he headed his banka boat straight for me. That non-English speaking fisherman became my savior that day. But to this day I believe the greater Savior was behind the scene. My Baca valley turned to rejoicing.
Every one of them appears before God
The Psalmist continues,
“They go from strength to strength, every one of them appears before God in Zion.” (v7)
Listen to the language. Every one of them! Every one of them! Why does this sound familiar? Jesus said,
“For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” (Jn6:40)
This is Jesus saying, “Every one of them will appear before God in Zion.”
In another place He says, “Behold, I and the children whom God has given Me!” (He2:13)
It is like Jesus is saying, “Here we are Father. They are all here. I haven’t lost a one of them. I have kept them in Your name. The family is home.”
Salvation is an awesome and wondrous thing. But it only becomes truly awesome when we realize that our salvation is never based on anything we can do. Jesus alone saves us. He saved us. He is saving us. He will save us. He intervenes in our lives constantly. He intervened before we came to know Him. And He is ever-present in our lives afterwards to help us process every struggle.
Is it any wonder that our path goes from strength to strength, from grace to grace, from blessing to blessing, and yes, even from baca to baca.
Lets end our study with the ending prayer of Psalm 84. No need for me to explain prayer. Just listen with your heart:
“O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah. Behold our shield, O God, and look upon the face of Your anointed. For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand outside. I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of wickedness. For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord gives grace and glory; no good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly. O Lord of hosts, how blessed is the man who trusts in You!” (vv8-12)
What say ye — How are you doing on your way home?
Much love to you from the Martins,
In Christ always,