Where I'd rather be!

Reading: Psalm 84
The pressure of the media and advertising constantly suggest to us that somewhere else would be far preferable to our present situation. If only we won that million dollars we would be able to have our own pleasure boat and cruise the Greek islands - or wherever else we might choose.

A change of clothes, a change of furniture, a change of partner, a change of occupation... Thereís always something wrong or missing "out there".; A change of circumstances will bring true fulfilment and happiness, we think. Except that it doesnít!

Well... whatís your ideal? Where would you rather be right now - truthfully, honestly?

The writer of Psalm 84 - one of "the sons of Korah" - expresses a deep yearning to be in the Lordís house and to live with God. "How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God" (vv. 1,2).

Even the sparrow and swallow find a nesting-place near the Lordís altar (v. 3) - surely not even the humblest person need be excluded!

"Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you" (v. 4). That seems to be the ideal. "Better; is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere" (v. 10a).

The reality is that most of us have to live and go elsewhere. We are "on pilgrimage". Life may take us through dry and barren situations. But our strength can still be in the Lord, even when far away from the Lordís house. That is why, "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" (vv. 5-7).

"Baca" is the balsam tree, favouring dry soil. It is not clear where this valley might have been located. It has been suggested that it may have been on a route often taken by pilgrims. With a slight variation, the word would mean "weeping". Whichever way it is taken, "the valley of Baca" became a symbol of dry desolation, and speaks to us of those experiences in our lives.

But for these pilgrims, even the valley of Baca is transformed into a place of springs.

When Jesus calls us to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Mt. 5.13-16), he is indicating that our life has to be lived with God "out there" - not retreating and withdrawn. Thatís where we will know the Lord God as our "sun and shield" and where we will receive his "favour and honour" and his bountiful provision (Ps. 84.11).

"O Lord Almighty, blessed is the person who trusts in you" (v. 12).

So... where would you rather be right now? Away from pressure and challenge and change? Able to be quiet in the Lordís presence praising him? He calls us to trust him right where we are. After all, he has promised to be with us on our "pilgrimage" - all the way!

Prayer: Lord God, we cannot hide from you that, again and again, we wish we could be somewhere else! That is especially true in the "dry" patches of our lives - when we are unfulfilled with drudgery and when circumstances seem to suck all meaning out of our lives. Yet you promise to be with us always - not only when we can be quietly and reflectively "in your house", but also in our "valley of Baca" with all its tedious details and demands. Thank you for your constant presence and help. Help us to encourage others who may be passing through their "valley of Baca", so that they too can discover the springs of your love and grace. In Jesusí name, Amen.

Valley of Baca

I do not choose
the valley of Baca -
place of dryness,
place of tedious
without my choosing,
has a way
of taking me

I do not enjoy
the valley of Baca.
I have no desire
to linger there
or to revel
in its desolation.

Yet my Lord
has promised
to be with me
all the way,
even when
I must pass
through this valley.

Because he is here,
even the valley of Baca
can become
to me
a place of springs -
from strength to strength
with him!

© Peter J. Blackburn, Burdekin BlueCare Devotions, 9 September 2003.
Except where otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, © International Bible Society, 1984.

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