Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Heart Set on Pilgrimage

Psalm 84:5 says, "Blessed is the man . . . whose heart is set on pilgrimage." Let's think about that word, pilgrimage, for a moment. The Old King James translates that same phrase as, "In whose heart are the ways of them." The word for ways, or pilgrimage, is usually translated as highways. Therefore, this makes it sounds like, "Happy is the fellow who has a highway in his heart."

I've been accused of having wanderlust a time or two because I like to travel and have moved around a lot following God's call in our lives. This verse seems to say, that's good! That is probably taking the verse of out context though. The real meaning is this: We need to be on a constant pilgrimage to draw closer and closer to God.

Think about Abraham. His life was one of constant pilgrimage. He wandered from Ur down to Canaan, then to Egypt and back again. He was always on a pilgrimage. Why? Hebrews 11:9-10 says:
"By faith he sojourned in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise,for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God."
Abraham wasn't content with an earthly city. He wanted to be where God was at. He longed for heaven. He was on a pilgrimage to God. There is never real contentment in our hearts until we get there. Shouldn't we all be on that pilgrimage?

Do you long to draw ever closer to God? Do you do whatever you can to improve your fellowship with Him? Is your heart set on pilgrimage? That pilgrimage is the path to blessing. And by that, I'm not talking about salvation. A lot of Christians who have trusted Christ for salvation live lives with little real blessing in them. But maybe this is why. They aren't on a pilgrimage. They aren't constantly on a journey to get to the heart of God. Are you?

But where will our pilgrimage take us? Psalm 84:6 shows us the pathway. It says: "As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a spring; the rain also covers it with pools." Where is the Valley of Baca? Nobody knows - not geographically. This may have simply been a symbolic term, because the Valley of Baca means the Valley of Weeping. That makes perfect sense. Baca means to weep. Think about it. Don't people usually find God most often during times of personal tragedy; during some crisis in their lives?

When things are going great, when we are healthy, when or bank account is full, we act like we don't need God. We tend to function in our own strength and live our lives on our own. But when tragedy strikes, and the tears start to flow, and we come to the end of our rope with our energy and resources all used up; that is when we turn to God. Isn't it true? When we are most vulnerable and most in need of comfort and love, we find God there waiting for us. He's not hard to find once our heart begins to look. As God says in Isaiah 45:19, "I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place on the earth. I did not say to the seed of Jacob, seek Me in vain."

God is findable, but there is a catch. Deuteronomy 4:29 asserts, "But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul." What is the catch? You have to make a good faith effort. This has to be a whole heart pilgrimage. God wants to be wanted.

The word, Baca, can also refer to a place of desolation - a waterless valley. Traveling through would be an ordeal. You would get hot, thirsty, and tired. But after camping out, the next morning you find that the rain had come and had filled up the waterholes with cool, refreshing water. Remember? Verse 6 says, "They make it a spring; the rain also covers it with pools." God turns our desolate places into oasis.

When we seek God traveling through our valleys of desolation, God meets us and brings blessings from barrenness. This is why 1st Peter 1:6-7 says what it does:
"In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious that gold that perishes, though it be tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ."
Are you on a pilgrimage to find God? It is on this pilgrimage that you will find blessing.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Heart Set on Pilgrimage

Psalm 84:5 says, "Blessed is the man . . . whose heart is set on pilgrimage." What on earth does that mean? Obviously, this refers to life under the Old Testament economy. So what was a pilgrimage for an Old Testament saint? In the old Testament, the pilgrimage had reference to those who were making the regular pilgrimages back to the temple as required by the Mosaic Law for feast days. All the people would flock back to Jerusalem for the Passover, for the Feast of Tabernacles, and others. And they were blessed. They were blessed because going back to the temple was where they met God. To go back on a pilgrimage was truly a blessing.

What about for us? We don't live under the Old Testament. How can this apply to us? Hopefully, you find going to church a blessing because you also meet God there. Church should never be a drag. It should never be a bore. Instead, going to church ought to be the highlight of your week. That's where you can fellowship with other believers. That's where you can join them in lifting your voice in praise of God. That's where you can hear how God has been at work in the lives of other believers. That's where you can sit under the teaching of the Word of God. That's where you can encourage and be encouraged by other believers. But mostly, church is a place to meet with and communicate with God. You can do that whether or not the preaching is dynamic or the music is to your taste. You can do that whether the church building is comfortable and ornate, or an old gym.

There was a time when the church was the center of of the social life in this country. In some places it's not even the center of religious life any more. What a shame, and what a loss for people. Because going to church should make you happy. Going to church should be a means by which God brings blessing into your life.

But ultimately, our pilgrimage is never to a building, but to God. there should be a constant restlessness within us, a constant longing to draw closer to God. Joining other believers in worship is a part of that. Do you have that longing in your heart? Until you do, you will never be truly blessed.