07/29/W – Hearts Set on Pilgrimage

Joshua 12:1-24; Luke 17:11-25; Psalms 85:1-7; Proverbs 20:8-10

NT: “When he was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming with something observable; no one will say, ‘See here! ’ or ‘There! ’ For you see, the kingdom of God is in your midst.” Then he told the disciples, “The days are coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you won’t see it. They will say to you, ‘See there! ’ or ‘See here! ’ Don’t follow or run after them. For as the lightning flashes from horizon to horizon and lights up the sky, so the Son of Man will be in his day. But first it is necessary that he suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.”” (‭‭Luke‬ ‭17:20-25‬ ‭CSB‬‬)

The mystery of the Kingdom of God is that there are 2 comings. The Pharisees and the majority of Jewish believers were expecting one political coming of the Kingdom. They expected the Messiah to be a victorious warrior who would defeat the political enemies of Israel and establish the political Kingdom of God on earth. They didn’t realize that the Messiah would come first as a Spiritual victor that would defeat sin and the kingdom of darkness to establish the Kingdom of God first in the hearts and lives of His faithful disciples. Even now, people try to make the Kingdom of God into a political movement. While it is right and good for disciples of Jesus to be involved in the politics of the day, the Kingdom of God is not a political movement nor is it associated with a political party. The Kingdom of God, in this moment in history, transcends all political movements and parties. It does not seek to establish a political government, but seeks to govern the thoughts, attitudes, and activities of those who are submitted to the word, will, and ways of the King of kings. There will come a day when the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our God, and the Son of Man returns to physically establish His reign on earth – but that time is not yet. Until that day, we do not establish God’s kingdom on earth through political activism, but through gospel activism. The way we are to see societal transformation is through seeing souls saved and disciples made. As men and women invite the Kingdom of God into their hearts to rule over their lives, the Kingdom of God will be in our midst – transforming people. Then as people are transformed, politics will be transformed. We must seek first the Kingdom of God… we must pursue the presence and fullness of the Kingdom within. People whose hearts were set on the Kingdom first… people who did not love their lives to the death… people who laid down their own rights to further the Kingdom transformed the Roman Empire. If we want to see God’s Kingdom come, we need to be Kingdom people first, and activate our lives to Kingdom pursuits and purposes. The sooner we do that, the sooner The King’s commission will be completed, and the sooner all righteousness and justice will be fulfilled.

Psalms: “Happy are the people whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a source of spring water; even the autumn rain will cover it with blessings. They go from strength to strength; each appears before God in Zion. Lord God of Armies, hear my prayer; listen, God of Jacob. Selah Consider our shield, God; look on the face of your anointed one. Better a day in your courts than a thousand anywhere else. I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God than live in the tents of wicked people. For the Lord God is a sun and shield. The Lord grants favor and honor; he does not withhold the good from those who live with integrity. Happy is the person who trusts in you, Lord of Armies!” (‭‭Psalms‬ ‭84:5-12‬ ‭CSB‬‬)

During the time of the writing of this psalm, faithful men were required to pilgrimage to Jerusalem to present themselves before the Lord and worship Him at the temple. Baca means balsam tree. Along the way to the temple, there must have been a valley filled with balsam trees, where the trees oozed sap that looked like tears. The Valley of Baca (or the Valley of Tears) symbolizes a difficult and painful time in your life – a place of hopelessness and despair. Those whose hearts are set on worshipping the Lord pass through the Valley of Tears… they don’t camp out there. And their tears become a source of blessing and life. As we set our hearts on pilgrimage – on going before the Lord in worship, God transforms those challenging times into a spring of life and blessing. We no longer live in Old Testament times. Through Christ’s death and resurrection, a new way to God has been opened to us. The veil of separation that kept us from God has been ripped from top to bottom. Those who are faithful disciples of Jesus don’t have to be content to just stand in the courts of the temple. We can boldly go before the very throne of grace for help in times of trouble. Do we look around the world and become hopeless with despair, or do we set our hearts on pilgrimage? Do we, instead of becoming disillusioned by the state of the world, set our hearts to meet the Lord in worship and seek His kingdom first? If the writer of this psalm was made happy by traveling to the temple and placing his trust in the Lord of Hosts – how much more should we who set our hearts on the King who is in our midst – abiding in us and working through us as we seek first His Kingdom and trust His word, will, and ways.

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