Pilgrims Making Progress

LifeLink Devotions

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Psalms 84:5 – 7 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.

I grew up on music. Church music. My mom played the piano and organ and flute and had the singing voice of an angel that still resonates in my heart. My dad is an accomplished pianist and organist, and his voice blended in perfect harmony with my mom’s as they sang to the glory of God. My dad’s twin brother played the trumpet and sang, and his wife also sang. I remember the times when the two pastoral families would get together in one or the other’s church for a night of music. I remember my first trumpet solo, then my first baritone solo, then my first trombone solo. I remember the first duet I sang with my cousin. Music has always been the way I worship and connect to God.

Musical styles have changed since then, but some of the old time songs still deeply touch my heart.  One of them from 1965 written by Albert E. Brumley goes like this:

This world is not my home, I’m just passing through.
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.
The angels beckon me from Heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.

Chorus
O Lord you know I have no friend like you
If Heaven’s not my home, then Lord what will I do?
The angels beckon me from Heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.

(Now I will have that melody rattling around in my brain all day. If you don’t know it, call me and I’ll sing it for you. Then it can be in your brain too.)

That song describes a pilgrim. Our Psalm today also describes a pilgrim. It was originally written when construction began on the temple, and celebrated the people who would come and worship there.

It also has special significance for us today. We are pilgrims on a journey to the temple of God in heaven. We have set our hearts on that pilgrimage. We have determined that one day in the presence of God is better than a thousand anywhere else. We would rather live as abject servants in the house of God than in the wealth of wickedness. We have found our strength in God alone, and have set our hearts on heaven, not on earth.

This world is not our home. We are just passing through. Our treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue. We do not feel at home in this world anymore.

But as we journey through this life with our hearts firmly fixed on the finish line of faith, we are to leave God’s mark on every place and person we pass. Sometimes we pass through valleys, described in Psalm 84:6 as the Valley of Baca. Baca refers to a large shrub covered with thorns, and the Valley of Baca, according to Celsius, was so thick with these bushes that he described it as “embarrassed with (such) bushes and thorns, which could not be passed without labour and tears”.

But look how pilgrims respond to such valleys.

 

First, they pass through them. I have heard it said, “This too shall pass.” For me, that insinuates that the valley moves. Not so. We move through the valley. We do not get distracted from the destination of our pilgrimage by the thorns in the valley around us. We keep on passing through.

Second, though there will be tears shed in that valley, those tears become the healing waters of the valley and turn it into a place of springs. God has placed us in that valley to bring His grace to it.

It’s so easy to become self-focused when we are in a valley. We seek strength and ask for deliverance for ourselves, when all the while we are the walking warehouses of God’s wealth. He has placed us in the valley to change the valley. O my friend, if we could only grasp this point. We are God’s instruments of grace, yet we spend most of our “valley” time seeking what we already have. Let it flow from you and it will turn your desert into an oasis.

Third, to expound a little more on the last point, we are to live our lives going from strength to strength, not from weakness to weakness. So many of us waste our lives seeing only the valleys. No sooner do we get through one than we begin preparing for the next. How much more splendid is the life that is lived from peak to peak, rather than from valley to valley. It is on the peaks that we can keep our eyes most clearly fixed on the destination of our pilgrimage.

Let me close with the words to another song from Steve Green:

We’re pilgrims on the journey
Of the narrow road
And those who’ve gone before us line the way
Cheering on the faithful, encouraging the weary
Their lives a stirring testament to God’s sustaining grace

Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses
Let us run the race not only for the prize
But as those who’ve gone before us
Let us leave to those behind us
The heritage of faithfulness
Passed on through godly lives

Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful
May the fire of our devotion light their way
May the footprints that we leave
Lead them to believe
And the lives we live inspire them to obey
Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful

Happy trails, Pilgrim.

Pastor John