When a verse or segment of scripture stirs something in us, stops us in our reading, perhaps brings a tear to our eyes, that is when ordinary scripture becomes the Living Word. That is the very thing God wants to show you. The Holy Spirit prompts you to stop and pay special attention.
This scripture caught my attention one morning about fifteen years ago. I read it in the NIV.
Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.Psalm 84:5-7 NIV
I wondered what the Valley of Baka meant and what did it mean to set one’s heart on pilgrimage?
I did not know why God was drawing my attention to these verses at that time; however, these same verses captured my attention again a few weeks ago while reading the Passion translation.
Note: There is some controversy over whether this version is a translation or a paraphrase. I consider it a paraphrase.
How enriched are they who find their strength in the Lord; within their hearts are the highways of holiness! Even when their paths wind through the dark valley of tears, they dig deep to find a pleasant pool where others see only pain. He gives them a brook of blessing filled with the rain of an outpouring. They grow stronger and stronger with every step forward, and the God of all Gods will appear before them in Zion.Psalm 84:5-7 TPT
The Passion version broadened my understanding of this verse, added imagery I did not grasp the first time this verse impacted me, and has brought me a renewed sense of God’s purpose in my life.
I most certainly have set my heart on pilgrimage. Perhaps you have too.
We are those determined to know more of God than what we can glean from a Sunday morning sermon. We are passionate about the Bible and always eager to learn more, understand more, and share more. As we read the Bible, we continually ask ourselves, and God, “What does this mean?” We want to learn, to keep going, and keep growing!
We must know the answers and discover the less apparent truths hidden there.
That we go from strength to strength certainly speaks to meeting challenge after challenge in our lives, armed with our steadfast faith in the goodness and wisdom of God. We manage to get through one spiritual or actual life crisis, only to run head-on into another challenge. We rely entirely on God’s word to get us through, we do go from strength to strength, God’s strength
The Valley of Baka is the valley of tears. Oh, to have skipped this part! This I know because I live in the Rocky Mountains. Very little can grow on the tops of the mountains. It’s too cold for too long, often too rocky, so the water runs off and down into the valleys where the ground is flatter, less rocky. The temperature stays warmer longer in lower elevations.
We, too, have our best growing season, not in the mountain top experiences of spirit-filled joy, but in the valley of tears. I often say that I would not want to go through that hard time again, but oh, but I would not have wanted to miss all that I learned in the midst of that trial!
Some lessons are best learned when we are in a hard place, when our source of hope and joy seems to have dried up, so we must dig deeper, look harder.
The imagery I take from the Passion version reminds me of being a child, digging in the sand near the seashore. As you dig, your little hole magically fills with water, even if the tide does not come into it.
Even when I do not understand what God is doing in my life, like that child digging in the sand, when I dig a little deeper, springs of knowledge and wisdom fill the empty places in me. That is what I see as digging into God’s word when I am in the valley of Baka.
Others may become “stuck” in a hard place, in the Valley of Baka, unable to move forward when their faith is tested. They cannot or will not search harder for God’s truth. But for those who will dig down deeper in faith, deeper in prayer, God fills that place with the water of His Word, gives new insights and wisdom, to not only refresh them but to refresh all in proximity to them. If that is not enough, he sends the autumn rain.
These words became the Living Word for me.
Although I took these verses to heart when I was a younger woman, and I set my heart on pilgrimage, the reference in the NIV version to autumn rains is a comfort to me now. I often feel I am too old to begin new ventures in ministry. As a younger woman, I realize now that I did not possess the wisdom and experience the years have given me, so yes, I have yet set my heart on pilgrimage in this autumn season of my life. I welcome the autumn rains.
You may be on the mountain top right now, and if so, I encourage you to breathe deeply and enjoy the view. God gives us seasons of rest. Realize mountain top experiences rarely last. Get a good sense of where God would have you going next. Like Moses, sooner or later, you have to come down off the mountain, and there will be a valley to navigate. Make the most of the time you have unhindered by troubles.
Without mountains, there would be no valleys, and without valleys, there would be no mountains. We need both.
You may be in the Valley of Baka, the place of tears. If you are in the valley, realize that even here you are sheltered from the wind and the storms. It’s hard to see the future when you are in the depths of the valley, but another mountain top awaits you. For the moment, dig deep and find the Living Word God has set aside to speak to your heart, so that you can go from strength to strength.
Until we appear before God in Zion, let us set our hearts on pilgrimage.
Let us not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.Galatians 6:9