Daily Devotion: Pilgrimage

“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

This Psalm is attributed to the Sons of Korah. It describes the physical and spiritual journey of traveling to Jerusalem to be in the house of the Lord and worship Him. The physical journey to Jerusalem mirrors the spiritual journey of being a pilgrim and sojourner here on earth on the way to God’s heavenly dwelling place.

Just as during the time period this was written the Israelites would go on pilgrimage to reach the dwelling place of the Lord, so too are we pilgrims in this life.

Scripture is filled with the truth that this world is not our real home and we are looking forward to something far greater. Just a few of the many examples:

Hebrews 11 lists many of the main characters of the Old Testament and then says this about them,

“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one.Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” – Hebrews 11:13-16

They had lived their lives in a state of pilgrimage as sojourners and aliens in this world looking forward to something far better. In Philippians, Paul contrasts the lives of those who do not know Christ and are living for this world with those that do by writing,

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” – Philippians 3:20-21 

Our citizenship is in heaven, Jesus Himself declared that His kingdom is “not of this world” (John 18:36). This truth is foundational to our understanding of scripture and our identity in Christ. It completely changes the way we should live here on earth because this is not our home.

Keeping this in mind as we look at Psalm 84, a number of things stand out that we can take away from it.

Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
    whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.” – Psalm 84:5

Our strength for this journey is from the Lord. He is the one that sustains us and gives us endurance. We “fix our eyes on Jesus” so that we “do not grow weary or lose heart” (Hebrews 12:1-3).

As they pass through the Valley of Baka,
    they make it a place of springs;
    the autumn rains also cover it with pools. – Psalm 84:6

The Valley of Baka is also interpreted as the “Valley of Weeping” and was a very dry place. This is a powerful word image. A lack of water often portends death and death is often a reason for weeping. Even though the pilgrim passes through the valley of weeping–a desolate place where death reigns–it is filled with life giving water. The pilgrim has their heart set upon the Lord and being in His presence, this focus and hope invades their present desolate circumstances and transforms them.

Looking at the imagery of water in this Psalm brings to mind the living water that Jesus talks about that is available to those that put their faith in Him.

“Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14

“Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’ By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.” – John 7:38-39

We can also view this world and our earthly life as our own “valley of weeping”, a dry and desolate place where death is present. However, for those of us in Christ, we have the source of living water “welling up to eternal life.”. Though we are pilgrims on this earth that is filled with sin and death, we have a source of life that is totally separate from the circumstances around us.

“They go from strength to strength,
    till each appears before God in Zion.” – Psalm 84:7

Generally a pilgrimage would be physically draining and the pilgrim would be worn down at the end, exhausted from the trials of the journey. Instead, just as water appears in the dry land, those on the road to Zion are strengthened on their journey rather than worn out. This holds true for us as believers today.

“I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge—God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”- 1 Corinthians 1:4-9 

Even when times of weakness come in this journey of life, the power of Christ is strong in us.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Though we walk through the “valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4), through a dry and sorrow filled land, we have abundant life welling up inside of us. Though the journey may be long and hard, even in our weakness we are strong in the the Lord and He will “keep us firm to the end”. We will go “from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.”

One thought on “Daily Devotion: Pilgrimage

  1. Pingback: Daily Devotion: Impartial Justice and Love | Nathan Van Hoff

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