“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. 6 As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. 7 They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.” Psalm 84:5-7
Our Valley of Sorrows.
Chippie the parakeet never saw it coming. One second he was peacefully perched in his cage. The next he was sucked in, washed up, and blown over.
The problems began when Chippie’s owner decided to clean Chippie’s cage with a vacuum cleaner. She removed the attachment from the end of the hose and stuck it in the cage. The phone rang, and she turned to pick it up. She’d barely said “hello” when “ssssopp!” Chippie got sucked in.
The bird owner gasped, put down the phone, turned off the vacuum, and opened the bag. There was Chippie — still alive, but stunned.
Since the bird was covered with dust and soot, she grabbed him and raced to the bathroom, turned on the faucet, and held Chippie under the running water. Then, realizing that Chippie was soaked and shivering, she did what any compassionate bird owner would do . . . she reached for the hair dryer and blasted the pet with hot air.
Poor Chippie never knew what hit him.
A few days after the trauma, the reporter who’d initially written about the event contacted Chippie’s owner to see how the bird was recovering. “Well,” she replied, “Chippie doesn’t sing much anymore — he just sits and stares.”
It’s hard not to see why. Sucked in, washed up, and blown over . . . That’s enough to steal the song from the stoutest heart.
Max Lucado,In the Eye of the Storm, Word Publishing, 1991, p. 11.
This Christmas you may relate to Chippie. Your year has not turned out the way you imagined. You feel like life has sucked you in. There have been too many friends lost, too many funerals to attend. It is a year you have been washed up with disappointments, job uncertainty, or loss. It has blown you over by damaged relationships. Now it is Christmas and all the events of the past year come crashing down in this season meant to be one of joy, family, and celebrating the birth of the Christ-child; but songs of glory to God in the highest have been silenced. This is the valley of Beka, the valley of sorrows.
God provides the Strength we need.
In this, the psalms focus on Yahweh’s presence in the temple in Jerusalem. The psalmist stresses the joyful experience of the worshipers being in the House of God. He describes how Yahweh cares for His people by providing a place at the temple. Those who took advantage of Yahweh’s offer will be blessed in their worship. Normally, during a pilgrimage like this with each passing day, the pilgrims would grow wearier until finally their strength was depleted.
But that is not the case says the psalmist, just the opposite was the case. The closer the pilgrims got to the city of Jerusalem, the stronger they became. Their love for worship was so great that the mere anticipation of it had an energizing effect upon them.
So, as they reach the Valley of Baka, the valley of sorrows, those journeying to Zion gained strength. They got stronger from anticipating being in the house of God. What an awesome picture of our faith walk! When life seems to be the most difficult, when we are traveling through the barren valleys what gives us strength is the anticipation of being in the presence of Yahweh. This Christmas may we find strength as we anticipant the coming of Jesus, first as a babe in a manger but also as He returns victorious as King on the last day.
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