“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
Oh, the Valley of Baka. It’s on every Christians journey closer to the throne. The literal translation here is “weeping.” The Valley of Weeping. This valley is the place of trial and tribulations. Suffering. Let’s consider the whole scripture here for a moment:
“Blessed are those whose strength is in you” If I can throw in a parallel scripture, Nehemiah 8:10 says, “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” So then, blessed are those whose strength – their joy, or heart’s delight – is in God.
“ … whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.” What does is mean to be on pilgrimage as a child of God? It means to be ever drawing nearer. Always pursuing. Not standing still but moving closer and closer to the Kingdom. I love the promise this pilgrimage comes with. “Come near to God and he will come near to you” (James 4:8). Our Father – our King – promises that when we begin our pilgrimage and endeavor to be near to Him, He will close the gap by walking in our direction as we walk in His. He is so committed to us.
“As they pass through the Valley of Baka …” It’s going to happen. It’s a part of the journey. There’s a place of deep suffering in every endeavor to draw near to the Father. It’s design is two-fold: it can either cause you to turn back, or cause you to become steadfast and determined to reach the Lord. Both parties have a purpose to the pain: Satan would have you turn and flee, chasing you back into the temporary safety net of the world. But God would have you press on despite the anguish into his eternal, loving arms. This Valley awaits all of us.
“… they make is place of springs …” Your tears are collected here, according to the precious words of David in Psalm 56:8. God is aware of them and they are not wasted. You see, these springs become a place of refreshment for those who come afterward. Those who walk the way you come will be drenched with the power of the Holy Spirit blessing your pain and suffering. Your tears provide an oasis for those who will be ministered to by your testimony. “the autumn rains also cover it with pools.” Your tears combined with the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit raining down on the pilgrims behind you. The Valley of Baka is not a dry place. It is a place where those who seek God have a reprieve in their suffering. Trials and tribulations come there, but there abides also in that place the precious waters of the Spirit of God, called down as you pray and trust Him in this otherwise desolate place.
“…they go from strength to strength …” As you draw closer and closer to the Lord, you experience things that test your faith. Your desire for Him. Your commitment. Your love. As you withstand the enemy’s assaults, you become strengthened. Your spiritual muscles grow exponentially, and you are stronger with each assault. You are able to withstand more, believe more. Love through more. Seek God more. It’s often bitter-sweet because it doesn’t always feel glorious. Rather, it mostly feels like abandonment. But feelings are not always true. The Word of God is true, and it is to the Word we must cling if we want to make it through the Valley of Baka into the arms of God. He has promised, “He will never leave you nor will He forsake you” (Deut. 31:6).
“ … till each appears before God in Zion.” What does it profit a man to suffer these days? We hear of a grace that doesn’t require such a commitment. We can be saved and ushered into the kingdom without all this effort … or so they say. The truth is, this “gospel” is not the gospel of the Bible, but rather a New Age lie that requires no service from Christians. It requires no obedience or repentance. It requires nothing but acceptance of Jesus. But this is not the full Word of God. It is a half-truth. Grace without pilgrimage leads you nowhere. The truth is, pilgrimage which brings a believer nearer to God will take a believer far from the grip of sin. It will make a person dissatisfied with everything they crave in the world. It will take a person far from evil desires and fleshly pursuits because the nearer you come to God, the more sickened you become of the world. Of yourself. Repentance flows in this valley, and it is all the more harder to live here. You realize what it means to be “not of this world.” You are in pursuit of “a city with a foundation, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrew 11:10). This world no longer satisfies. Your heart, becoming more and more like Christ as you journey toward the Lord, pines for the throne of God and forsakes even the will of the flesh to have the heavenly promises.
We can avoid the Valley of Baka, but to do so is to accept that we will get no closer to the kingdom of God. We can avoid pain and suffering, but to do so is to decide against spiritual maturity in favor of comfort in this life. This life that is a vapor. When put next to eternity, it’s a life that counts for nothing unless our hearts are set on pilgrimage. If we do decide to pursue the Father in this life, we must accept that anguish and tribulation is part of the journey. We must press into the side of Christ and press on despite the pain, leaving pools of mercy behind for our fellow sojourners and making head-way toward the Kingdom.