Jeremiah 26:1-24; 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5; Psalms 84:5-12; Proverbs 20:8-10
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, Jewish men were required to make pilgrimage from wherever they lived to Jerusalem – to present themselves before the Lord and worship Him. I imagine, for some, the journey was an inconvenience and a nuisance – where they had to stop their labors and spend time and money to make the journey. For others, the journey was an honor and a joy, and they looked forward to every opportunity they had to experience the Lord’s presence. On this side of the cross, people of God no longer have to make pilgrimage to a place to worship God and experience His presence. When Christ was crucified, the veil in the temple was ripped in two from top to bottom, the temple of God was turned on end, and a new and living way to the very throne room of God was opened through faith in the crucified and resurrected Lord. If we no longer have to go to a place to worship, what does it now mean to have our hearts set on pilgrimage?
There is a “place” where Jesus taught us to go to have deep and intimate fellowship with the Father. “But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who is in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:6)” In my church family, we refer to this place as the Secret Place. It is a place of solitude, or a place where no one or nothing can distract you. It is a daily place of meeting with God. In the Secret Place, we listen, study and meditate on the scriptures, pray, praise and journal the things that the Lord reveals. The Secret Place is where we go to receive strength for each day and bright hope for tomorrow.
For some, making the time and effort to spend time with the Lord each day is an inconvenience and a perceived waste of time. For others (myself included) the Secret Place is a pleasurable never-ending spring of life and fountain-head of every spiritual blessing. The Valley of Baca (Valley of Tears) mentioned in this psalm may be a literal place, but it serves as a metaphor for difficult and painful places in life. For those whose strength is in the Lord and set their hearts on spending undistracted time with Him, those places of difficulty and pain become springs of life and showers of blessing as they receive grace for the time of need from the throne of God. They don’t burn out and fade away, but go from strength to strength as they submit their lives in faith to the Lord. If the psalmist claimed that a day in God’s courts was better than a thousand elsewhere, just think of how wonderful and refreshing a lifetime spent abiding with Christ and fellowshipping daily with God in the Secret Place will be. Happy is the person who trusts in God and sets his heart on pilgrimage.
Prayer: Lord, I thank You that through You I can boldly come before the throne of grace for help in the time of need – but I don’t have to limit my time with You to only times of need. I can come before You, worship You at Your feet, and receive any and everything I need from You at any time. You are my source of strength. You are my place of trust – so I set my heart on fellowshipping with You daily in the Secret Place. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.