Be not deceived, beneath that thorny crown lay all the authority of Godhood. Only a thought, a single world from those parched lips and the earth would have opened up beneath the feet of His tormentors. One word and a battalion of over seventy thousand eager angels would have sped from heaven to destroy this world and its wretched inhabitants.
He speaks from the cross. What is it that He says? “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” Oh what kind of wondrous love is this?
- J.B Nicholson, Counsel Magazine, Nov-Dec 1997.
That sense of unworthiness can be quite overwhelming.
But thankfully His grace is sufficient for me.
View on Path
You have possibly heard the story of a young minister who had been called to be pastor of his first church. He was just out of seminary and had much confidence in his own ability. He had graduated with honors, and everybody felt sure that he was going to be a second Henry Ward Beecher. The people were watching him as he entered the pulpit with an air of self-importance. He read his text, and then his whole sermon went from him. The whole thing was gone. He read the text again, and still he could not recall the sermon he intended to preach. He tried the third time and said, “I want to read my text again,” hoping the sermon would come back to mind. But all was a blank so far as the sermon was concerned, and looking at his audience he said, “I am sorry, but I can’t speak to you this morning.” Down the stairs he went with bowed head and broken step. At the close an old church officer came to him and said, “Laddie, if you had gone up the way you came down, you might have come down the way you went up!” – H.A. Ironside
The bowed head and broken step.
Psalms 84:4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house,
ever singing your praise! Selah
5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
6 As they go through the Valley of Baca
they make it a place of springs;
the early rain also covers it with pools.
7 They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion.
The Valley of Baca, also called Valley of Weeping, was a valley that was often dry and difficult to travel through, but was the path that many Jewish pilgrims had to take as they travelled annually to Mt. Zion (or Mt. Moriah), where the temple was, to celebrate the feasts.
It would be among the more difficult parts of the journey, as the heat and dryness tests every pilgrim’s resolve to obey the Lord’s command and reach their destination for the feasts in anticipation and excitement of the feasts.
The Christian pilgrim is also in this dry, difficult valley. The world we live in is one we have to pass through before reaching our destination – home in Heaven. But while we walk here, our faith and trust in God gets tried and we are brought to realize that we can’t go through this valley on our strength. We will end up like the valley – dry, thirsty and despondent.
In the psalm above, the psalmist describes the people who are blessed (happy) as they pass through the valley. These don’t escape the valley, but go through it, and come out joyfully victorious. He’s not just ‘passed through’ but found joy in going through.
For instance, the phrase “how blessed are those” in verse 5 is, in Hebrew, written as “Oh the happiness of the man.” – what an expression of joy and happiness, even in the valley of weeping.
Let’s take a closer look at the one who is described as happy. He is…
V4: one who stays in the temple and praises Him continually. Those who have gone before are surely blessed as they are with the Lord in Paradise. But the verse can also mean something to us still here. The Lord says, “where your treasure is, there your heart is also“. I have met some men and women whose hearts are so occupied with the Lord that it’s as if they are already with Him. They are full of praise and thanksgiving. Surely we could be happy (blessed) by laying our treasures in Heaven and not here on earth.
V5: the one whose strength is the Lord. The one who realizes that it is the Lord who gives strength to go through the pilgrimage. The strength to persevere through times of disappointment and sadness, tragedy and loss. The strength to prepare and serve in ministry, it’s all His strength, not ours. Natural ability will only sustain us for a short period before we realize that we’ve gone dry and thirsty and have no strength to carry on.
Paul said, “when I am weak, then I am strong” 2Cor12:10. We will only be able to draw from His strength when we stop relying on our own.
V5: in whose heart are the highways to Zion. The heart can also be translated ‘inner man’. The hidden person who no one can see. When our inner man is completely dependent and close to the Father, it does not despise the way of difficulty. It takes every trial and sees the hand of God in it and finds comfort, rest and hope in the One who leads him.
How do we strengthen our inner man?
I believe time spent in conscientious reading of His word, really soaking in what He has ‘written for our learning‘. This is how we ‘hide the word in the heart‘, that we may not sin against Him. We invest time in our hobbies and interests, and it gives us nothing in our times of trial. Let’s invest our time into something that is of eternal value.
Unhurried time in prayer is also how we find rest in His presence, where the exchange of wills occur. When His will becomes ours, so does the ability, because ‘it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.’ Phil 2:13
So there, this is the happy man, who is full of praise and reliance on God’s strength, finds well springs, even pools, of refreshing, in an arid valley.
Are you feeling stuck in the valley of Baca? Don’t be discouraged. Though it is the path we must take, the Lord can and has provided the way and means to go through it. Himself. Forsake any unfruitful and sinful ways and return to God and find refreshment for your soul in His grace and love.
You will then be able to go front ‘strength to strength’ (v7), i.e. from one place of strength, to another, and, ultimately, whether through death of the Lord’s Return, be at the destination and stand in His presence.