“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. As they go through the Valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools. They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion.” – Psalm 84:5-7
As the psalmist makes his pilgrimage to Mt. Zion, the place he can come into the temple of the Lord to worship and make sacrifices on behalf of his sin, he describes the journey of faith. We have no idea quite how long the journey was for this worshipper; however, we do know that many Jews travelled hundreds of miles to get to Jerusalem. Not only did they travel many miles but through rugged terrain without McDonalds or Subways on every corner. Not only was the terrain challenging at times but there were constant threats of robbers along the way. If not robbers, there were more than enough wild animals and many other dangers that come from travelling on foot instead of modern luxurious car travel.
Despite the dangers, millions of Israelites made these journeys. They longed to meet with the Lord, to worship, to hear his Word, to fellowship with the Israelite community. This gathering of God’s people was their great place of joy, refreshment, and satisfaction, so much that the psalmist longed to live within the temple. He speaks of the sparrow that finds his home there as well as the swallow who builds a nest. The insignificant sparrow has a home in the temple as does the rapid swallow. All are welcome in God’s sanctuary, and all are invited into worship of the one true king.
With that invitation, the pilgrim presses on towards Zion and the place of worship. As he does, he passes through the Valley of Baca; these are very challenging places to pass through for the traveler, and they symbolize the trials, tribulations, disappointments, and pain all encounter in the journey of life and faith. Yet, because of his faith in God and his heart’s inclination towards worship, even these challenging places become springs. Worship transforms the pilgrim’s painful places to places of refreshment, and he finds that he moves from strength to strength.
The challenging journey does not deplete this pilgrim but strengthens him. How can that be? It is a simple answer but not a popular one – worship of the one true God! Worship lifts his eyes off himself and places them upon the Lord. Worship helps one to remember the faithfulness of God in the past leading to the expectation that he will be faithful again. Essentially, worship turns one from self-centered, self-reliant, and self-focused to God-centered, God-empowered, and God-focused. Thus, worship becomes the place of transformation. How can one stay the same after meeting with the living God?
Are you meeting with the living God, or do you need to meet with the living God? Are you ready to have your self-focus transformed to a God-focus? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Let's face it, the Christian life is hard. Relationships take work. Christians forget. Sometimes it is tempting to go back to the days when God was not the center of our lives - to backslide. We are all faced with tremendous pressures to drift away from intimacy with Jesus and the community of the Church. However, the Lord invites us to pay attention, to move forward, to draw near, and to live lives of worship. Draw Near: Hebrews on Christian Worship is a small group Bible study on the Book of Hebrews intended to lead participants into a deeper intimacy with the Living God in the context of New Testament worship. Draw nearer to God in authentic worship today!
Comments will be approved before showing up.