FROM BACA TO B’RACA…….Read Psalm 84

I hope you’ve taken the opportunity to read Psalm 84…it is just wonderful.  The word ‘blessing’ is used 3 times throughout this hymn of praise.  Historically, Psalm 84 was often sung by God’s  people travelling to Jerusalem, to the Temple, to worship the Lord.  And blessings come their way from His hand. The first use of the word ‘blessings’ comes  in verse 4– it’s the blessing of being in God’s Temple, His house, with Him, singing his praises and glories and wonders.  Just to be with Him, that would be the very best blessing of all.  But wait, there’s more.  With the Lord, there’s always more.  In verse 5 the author tells us of the blessings of strength and courage that comes from God who puts within our hearts a seeking after Him, a longing to find Him and be with Him–‘in whose heart are the the highways to Zion’.  It’s as if God paves the inner highways so that our hearts are led directly to Him.  The final use of ‘blessing’ is found in the concluding verse of Psalm 84 where people who trust in the Lord God of Israel, Yahweh Himself, they are the ones blessed beyond measure.  Blessing…blessing…blessings! Now, the word for blessing in Hebrew is b’raca.  That’s the word that starts off verse 5. But read on to verse 6.  These pilgrims are going through the Valley of Baca on their way to the Temple in Jerusalem.  The location of this valley is unknown, but probably refers to a place that is dry and hot and desolate at best.  Ever been there, at least symbolically?  Maybe you’re there now.  The Bible says that even there we can sing God’s praises, hold His hand by remembering His promises, and turn the Valley of Baca into B’Raca, a place of blessing , where the springs keep bubbling up water and nourishment continually!  I’ve discovered something about myself by reflecting on this verse from Psalm 84.  I really have.  I like going to the Valley of Baca.  I liked being called to ministry and work that was just on its last legs only to see what God could and would do.  I wanted to see Baca become B’Raca…from bleakness to blessing.  The 1st and 3rd churches I served were big and growing and established places.  I loved being there but honestly I was bored and always looking for some new challenge outside those ecclesiastical four walls.  I was restless.  Something just didn’t feel right, like I was treading water, looking for some bigger and better position.  I was always on the move.  Never satisfied or contented.  Anybody say an ‘amen’?  You with me?  Sound familiar in your life?  Maybe not.  But for me I discovered later in my minstry that I loved a challenge, being in a church that was one step from closing its doors.  A church in deep decline–in ‘the Valley of Baca’, so to speak.  That 2nd church in New Jersey had a large membership, over 1000, in the 1930’s and ’40’s.  But by 1975, when I was called to be its pastor,  it was down to less than 100.  My  4th church, in Aberdeen, Washington, had a thriving ministry of 300 plus members in the 1940’s and 50’s yet had declined  to 18 faithful members when we began ministry  in the year 2000.  The Valley of Baca, dry and desert and desolate and depressing.  Yet, the Psalmist says that it’s there that God’s people can make a difference– ‘they make it a place of springs, the early rain also covers it with pools.  They go from strength to strength…’  How satisfying and just plain fun to see the Holy Spirit work doing new things as we looked to Him, preached and taught only from the Bible, started giving to God’s causes beyind our church walls. People of all ages were coming to faith in Jesus Christ.  Members were growing in Him.  It was exciting to see what  God could and would do.  From Baca to B’Raca!  Must stop now…gone on way too long for this posting.  More next time…

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