The Pilgrimage to God’s Presence: His Strength, Our Weakness

As I was reading through and praying Psalm 84 this morning I was struck by verse 5:

Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.

I paused. The original context of the psalm is debated, but it may well have referred to the ancient practice of journeying to Jerusalem for one of the three annual feasts (Deuteronomy 16:1–17). But the psalms were used over and over. Ancient poetry not only reflected the culture (and experiences) that it came from; it sought to shape its audience. I paused and started again at the beginning.

How lovely is your dwelling place, LORD Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.

Psalm 84:1–2 NIV

Pilgrimage. Longing. Yearning for the presence of God.

I continued on.

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 NIV

Back to the pilgrimage—one that goes through the “Valley of Baka.” Scholars have not been able to identify a specific location for the “Valley of Baka.” It has also been described by some as a metaphorical reference to either a “valley of tears” or a “valley of drought.” But what really hit me was verse 7:

They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.

What does it mean to “go from strength to strength”? While I love the idea, that hasn’t really been my experience. But it ties back to verse 5. Our strength is found in God. My mind immediately jumped to 2 Corinthians 12:9 where God tells Paul:

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”

And Paul responds:

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 12:9b–10 NIV

Do I really “delight” in these things? And then God reminded me of my own words:

Being confronted with weakness and failure isn’t for the faint of heart. We have to choose to cooperate with the Spirit’s work, staying in the difficult places and relationships. But when we recognize, accept, and then integrate our own weaknesses, vulnerabilities, and brokenness into our lives, God brings healing. It is here where we meet Jesus, for it is only when we welcome our own weakness, need, poverty, and insufficiency that we are able to welcome him.

Returning to Psalm 84:5–7,

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.

What follows isn’t an exegetical interpretation of these verses. Although it is exegetically informed, it’s my own devotional reading. But, it’s what God laid on my heart, quickening his word into a double-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12).

We are blessed when we embrace our weakness, finding the entirety of our strength and sufficiency in God.

We are blessed when we seek His presence with the entirety of our being. We will truly find him only when we recognize our own brokenness and need.

It is in our brokenness—our personal valleys of tears and drought—that we encounter Jesus. It is there where He pours His Spirit anew and brings life into our desert.

It is only in our weakness that we can “go from strength to strength,” because it is about God’s strength, not our own.

So, my prayer is that by God’s grace we may each embrace our weakness and insufficiency instead of fleeing from them. May we delight in them as Paul did, because it is there where we encounter God’s presence. And ultimately that’s what we really need.

My soul yearns, even faints for the courts of the LORD;
            my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.

Psalm 84:2 NIV

If you’d like to receive an email update for future videos, blog posts, and Scriptures for prayer you can subscribe below or in the sidebar on the right.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Image by Jose Antonio Alba from Pixabay.

2 thoughts on “The Pilgrimage to God’s Presence: His Strength, Our Weakness

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.