Many years ago – actually a decade to be precise, as I was meditating on a certain Psalm, some of the verses quickened my spirit to the point of fantasising doing the very same thing. I clearly remember that moment even now – down to the detail as to where I was seated in the annexe i had rented out at the time.
It was my very first rented place in Sri Lanka, where I had come to serve Him.. It was just me and Him, stripped of my comforts inclusive of my friends… Yes, this is my country of birth but as my life had been spent for the most part overseas and with my relatives too overseas, I felt a fish out of water here. Thus it provided a place of solace where I had to lean into God and just get to know Him deeper.
It was during this time that this verse leapt out of the printed pages of my Bible!
Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage – Psalm 84:5
I had been working with Christian organisations at this point which had taken me around Sri Lanka. Yet I longed to go out and meet people on a personal basis and be used by God to touch them. After all, isn’t that what a missionary is supposed to do. I was just day dreaming! Yet I was fearful, “would i be able to cope and adjust?”. As messy as I can be, I’m pretty organised – my brother used to tease me saying my room was an ‘organised mess’ which it really was.
Now looking back, I realised that a mere six years later, that’s where God had led me. It wasn’t easy… and I was scolding myself for “asking” God for something without thinking as it was “answered prayer” but boy, did I not like it! I was missing the stability of a place to call ‘home’. I missed having my organised mess…
Now four years into this stage of ministry and more mature in the Lord, I realise that that prayer 10 years ago, was nothing but a spirit led prayer. God had shown me that this is where He was about to take me. Yes, I see God’s hand in every move I have had to make through this ‘nomadic’ or rather ‘pilgrimage’ chapter of my life. I can see God has taken me to places, to people whom He longed to minister to, to embrace and to nudge onto the narrow path He had ordained for them… (And I have to admit, that as much as I see the spiritual aspect of it, my fleshly nature yearns for stability and a place of ministry as I had in the past, where people used to have open doors to enter).
As we delight in Him, He places His desires for us within our hearts and thus those desires become ours.. and He gives us the desires of our hearts!
The Merriam Webster dictionary defines the term “pilgrimage” as follows:
* a journey to a holy place
Thus couldn’t the ‘modern’ version of pilgrimage be seen as going from place to place to ensure His Kingdom come, just as Jesus did and just the way He sent out His disciples… and also in the same fashion of the great commission of Matthew 28:19?
The verses that followed Psalm 84:5 were words of promise and assurance – of course now I can see all that clearly in my life:
6 As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. 7 They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion. 8 Hear my prayer, O LORD God Almighty; listen to me, O God of Jacob. “Selah” 9 Look upon our shield, O God; look with favor on your anointed one.
I was curious as to why the Valley of Baca was mentioned… The Holman Bible dictionary states:
BACA (Bay’ kuh) Place name meaning, “Balsam tree” or “weeping.”
A valley in Psalm 84:6 which reflects a poetic play on words describing a person forced to go through a time of weeping who found God turned tears into a well, providing water.:
As opposed to the term “autumn rains” used in NIV, the NKJV uses simply the word “rains”. Many other translations use “early rains”. The Message paraphrases this verse as discovering springs and pools brimming with rain. I however do not feel this paraphrase is fitting especially in light of the verses that follow especially verse 7 where it talks about going from strength to strength… and this till the end of our days.
10 Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
Of course, the Psalmist wrote that during the before Christ era. We now realise God’s courts are no longer the physical structure but rather our bodies – the bodies of those who believe in Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour.
We are His dwelling place. But yes, this Psalmist puts things into perspective – better to be a “door keeper” for God than living in all the luxury of the wicked.
For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless. O LORD Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you –
Yes.. as I look back these last four years, I can say that only God has been a sun and shield.. I can see how He has bestowed divine favour in the eyes of those who truly trust in Him, who too go from strength to strength.
“no good thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless”
As believers, our lives should be surrendered to Him and thus our prayers also surrendered to His perfect will. In this context, we realise that “good things” are not what we in the flesh would deem to be good but rather what God ordains as “good” for us. It may be something that others look down upon or even ridicule, but it could very well be “huge” in the spiritual realm.
All the days of our lives, here on earth, we find strength in God who gives us all “good things” despite our walking through the Valley of Baca aka weeping… He turns our mourning into dancing and He strengthens us! Isn’t that awesome…
Blessed are we if we trust in Him and not the work of our own hands or our limited human wisdom!
Is your strength in God? Is your heart set on pilgrimage?