5 Blessed is the man whose strength is in You,
Whose heart is set on pilgrimage.
6 As they pass through the Valley of Baca,
They make it a spring;
The rain also covers it with pools.
7 They go from strength to strength;
Each one appears before God in Zion.
8 O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer;
Give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah
I do not wish to sound like a doomsayer, but if you have not already experienced some tragedy in your life, someday you will. Hard times, sudden deaths, sorrowful days are the lot of men since Adam, and no one of us in immune to the curse of toil that came through the first man. Because of this, as many have said before me (and probably said better), the true measure of our faith is not so much in how we act in the good times but in how we REACT to the hard times in our lives. When darkness falls, what do we of faith see? Do we wallow in despair? Do we, as the saying goes, see a light at the end of the tunnel? Do we give up, or do we give more? What strength do we have, and what strength do we seek?
3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance;
4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope.
Perseverance through trials shows our true character, our true faith. Our ability to face trials and persecutions and tragedy is determined by our faith. So, where do we place our faith? Where do we set our hope?
In today's verses from Psalms 84, the sons of Korah remind us that we are truly blessed when we find our strength in the Lord God, when we set our hearts on God's ways and God's will. We will all pass through the Valley of Baca--literally the Valley of Weeping--a place of grief and mourning, a place of frustration, a place without the peace of God, a place seemingly without hope. How shall our faith survive there?
16 No king is saved by the multitude of an army;
A mighty man is not delivered by great strength.
17 A horse is a vain hope for safety;
Neither shall it deliver any by its great strength.
18 Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him,
On those who hope in His mercy,
19 To deliver their soul from death,
And to keep them alive in famine.
Truly, salvation is of the Lord (Jonah 2:9), and those who trust in their own or others' strength are deceiving themselves. If our hearts are set on the Lord, if our strength is found in Him, then we will be saved. When we pass through the Valley of Weeping, it shall not be watered by our tears but by our righteousness--a righteousness found only in the Lord our God. It will be as if springs have risen up in a land that had no life, as if rain were falling in a land locked in a drought of faith.
"The LORD will guide you continually,
And satisfy your soul in drought,
And strengthen your bones;
You shall be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail."
37 On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.
38 "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water."
Yes, we will face seasons of weakness, but trusting in the Lord will bring us from strength to strength. We will not always be in turmoil, not always afflicted. We will rise upon the strength that is found only in the Lord our God. When we feel as if we are deep down in the valley, we can look upward to the next rise, lift our eyes to the One who gives us faith and grace and hope.
1 A Song of Ascents.
I will lift up my eyes to the hills--
From whence comes my help?
2 My help comes from the LORD,
Who made heaven and earth.
There is no magic formula for this help, only love and fear of God, only faith in Christ Jesus His Son, only trust in the security of our salvation, only hope for the eternal life that He who cannot lie has promised. The Valley of Weeping seems long and deep, shadowed by our despair, twisted by our sorrow, and the crooked road of tragedy seems to keep us from seeing the way out. But when we lift our eyes to the Lord, when our strength and our vision is in Him, then we will stay on the straight and narrow path that is God's highway.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
Tragedy will strike us all in one form or another, and the difficulties of life in this broken world may tempt us to give up. Some may view dire straits as punishments for past deeds, but we of faith know that God allows us to be tested to try our faith, to build up our perseverance for His Son, not only to see our true character but to shape it. And when we pass through the Valley of Baca, when there seems to be no end in sight of the shadows of death, even then we shall see our Lord and find new strength and new hope. Jesus Christ died for our sins to bring us the salvation of God, but that was not all He did. Jesus also rose again to bring us new life. It is on that new life, on that eternal salvation, that we must set our sights. Therefore, let us pass from strength to strength with our Lord and partake of the Water of Life that is Christ. Let us lift up our prayer to the God of hosts, the God of Jacob, and never let go of our faith. As we pass through the Valley of Weeping, let us not look downward to the crooked path of toil and tears, but look upward to the glory that awaits us in Jesus, our Lord and Savior.
Our Father in heaven, You rod of correction and Your staff of guidance have comforted me before, and I know You will again. Your Word kept me strong, Your Spirit lifted me out of despair, and I know that my faith was found only in You. I could not have faced tragedy without eyes of faith set upon You. Therefore, Lord God, I ask that You be with all who are traveling through the Valley of Weeping, all who face the temptation to despair and mourn and to abandon faith. Give them new life, Father, and let Your grace water their lives, reviving them in their drought, strengthening them for the crooked road ahead. And whatever the end that lies on that road, I trust, Lord, that You shall see them through to the salvation they find in You. Amen.