Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baca, 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, GNT
One afternoon we fetched our granddaughter who was very excited because she was coming to be babysat at our house; yet, when we were hardly halfway there, to our surprise she asked: “Where’s Audie going?” As we had travelled further away from her home, Audie’s memory of her new destination had become hazier in her little mind as she discovered other amusements along the way.
Doesn’t this happen to us, too, at times?
We journey out into a new year enthusiastically, with the best intentions, to travel on new roads of discovery, unaware that fresh attractions, potholes, and other obstacles that can delay, will divert us if we let them. Like Pilgrim, of Pilgrim’s Progress, we may at times have to re-negotiate our way wisely, and skilfully keep focused on our destination.
The psalmist who wrote today’s verses had this problem of distraction. He longed so fervently to be in the house of the Lord at a time that he was denied this joy because his duty was to be with the king, that he envied all who were there; he even envied the birds that nested there because they were close to God when he couldn’t be. Seeing others who were free to go on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem didn’t immediately help him either.
Yet, as he contemplates the situation, he recognises that these people, “whose strength is in (God), who have set their hearts on pilgrimage” (Psalm 84:5) are blessed and joyful, unaffected by the difficult conditions en route. Because they’re so focused on God, their joy and dedication are palpable on their pilgrimage to honour and worship Him in Jerusalem.
He realises that instead of the dry valley exhausting and robbing them of their joy, it’s their presence there that brings God’s blessing on it, and refreshing to its aridness, which encourages them to trust in Him as their Provider even more. Nothing can dampen their zeal. They live to worship God and remain close to Him.
They have experienced that “The LORD is (their) protector and glorious king, blessing (them) with kindness and honour. He does not refuse any good thing to those who do what is right.”(Psalm 84:11, GNT) Their spirits are vibrant because they truly know God, and are purposeful in following Him. This insight helps the psalmist to view his own predicament with new insight and he returns to pray for the king, encouraged to persevere.
Does this picture help us? How dedicated are we to what we have been called to at the beginning of this New Year?
May God be our focus and strength.
Prayer: Lord, “How happy are the people who worship you with songs, who live in the light of your kindness! Because of you they rejoice all day long, and they praise you for your goodness.” (Psalm 89:15-16) Help me to joyfully refocus and renew my purpose in You this year. Amen