Monday, August 11, 2008

The Valley Of Baca - Part 1

Psalm 84

Introduction: It matters little when this Psalm was written, or by whom; for our part it exhales to us a Davidic perfume, it smells of the mountain heather and the lone places of the wilderness, where King David must have often lodged during his many wars. This sacred verse is one of the choicest of the collection; it has a mild radiance about it, entitling it to be called The Pearl of Psalms. Since the twenty-third Psalm is the most popular, the one-hundred-and-third is the most joyful, the one-hundred-and-nineteenth is the most deeply experimental, the fifty-first the most mournful, this is one of the most sweet of the Psalms of peace.

You can see it starting in the very first verse. Then you travel to verse six and you find the valley of Baca. This valley is not a literal place that you can find on a map. It is a valley that everyone that lives or will ever live must cross. It does not matter whether you are saved or lost. You will go through the valley of tears and suffering one day. The word “Baca” means weeping. You may be living there now. Some people think that is thinking like a pessimist. I must remind them that type of thinking is nothing but reality living. If a person thinks that there is nothing but sunshine, they will die because there is no rain.

You cannot have a rainbow without two items:
That is sunshine and rain.

This valley is also called the valley of tears. Sufferers shed many tears. This is a Valley of Desolation, Despair and Distress. For you and me, The VALLEY OF BACA or "Valley of Tears and Suffering” can be ANY place where we face heartbreak or hardship in this life.

Let’s look at a few introductory remarks and then I am going to venture into a part of this part of life that I am asked many times. The question is “Why do Christians suffer?” I do not feel that I can speak on going through the valley of tears and suffering without thoroughly exploring this thought. It is on the mind of many people.

I found this illustration in my reading and research for this set of messages. A missionary’s three-year-old daughter died. For years the natives politely listened to the message of the Gospel, but no one ever got saved. After his baby girl's death the chief asked to listen to the message again and almost the whole village followed the chief in salvation. When asked, “Why did you wait until now?” "We knew Jesus was good enough to live by, but not until now did we know He was good enough to die by." It is part of my desire that we will show others that Jesus is good enough to live by but also to die by and suffer by.

Life is full of heartaches and disappointments. Life is full of tears.

Many preachers use a common text for funerals. It is Job 14:1-2 which says, “Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble. He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down: he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not.”

Life begins with crying. When the baby is born, we know it is doing okay when we hear him or her crying. I know that not all the babies that cry are normal or okay but most are. But the baby is not the only one crying. There are many tears of joy shed by the parents when the baby is born.

Life ends with crying. We mourn for those who die. I have joked with many people that my wife ought to be a professional mourner. If no one sheds a tear at the funeral home, she can even if she does not even know the person. She has a tender heart for the pain of others. That is one reason why she cannot work in the actual halls of the nursing home. I think back on the funerals that I have conducted over the years and with very few exceptions, I shed tears as I preach the funeral.

This Psalm shows the importance of the house of God. Psalm 84 details with the importance of the house of the Lord to the Christian. In a day of the deemphasizing of God’s house, the Bible clearly emphasizes God’s house.

Let me give five thoughts on this passage.

1. It is a place of great beauty and is well beloved.
Vs. 1. “How amiable are thy tabernacles, O LORD of hosts!”

No wonder the devil hates it and the Christian should love it. The word “amiable” means beloved. This is exactly how we ought to feel about the house of God. It should a beloved place for us.

2. It is a place of desire and worship.
Vs. 2. “My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the LORD: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.”

There is a passionate desire portrayed here. This is the place where we should be searching for the Lord. But many times people come to the house of God for a fashion show so to speak or a place to pick up contacts for business or socialize. It is not a place that people want to come to worship. Real Biblical worship takes desire. Godly desire wants to worship.

3. It is a place of nesting and sacrifice.
Vs. 3. “Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O LORD of hosts, my King, and my God.”

It is the most wonderful place to raise your children and to give to the Lord His due. A few years ago, we had a bird build her nest in one of our wreaths and her babies were born. She must have thought how great a place our church was to raise her babies.

4. It is a place of continuance and glory.
Vs. 4. “Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will be still praising thee. Selah.”

Those who are faithful to God's house continue to praise His wonderful name. Praise at the house of God should not be the strange sound but the normal one.

5. It is a place of blessing and strength.
Vs. 5. “Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; in whose heart are the ways of them.”

It is in the house of the Lord that we find strength to endure in the hard times.

In the next verse we see a change in this Psalm.

6. We see that we are like pilgrims that are passing through this valley.
Vs. 6. “Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well; the rain also filleth the pools.”

He has been talking about the goodness of the house of God and then he runs into a real dose of reality. It is of no small wonder that God introduces the Valley of Weeping with the importance of steadfastness in the house of the Lord.

There are two major thoughts about the valley that I want to give as this part of the introduction and then we are going to start our exploration of that question I asked earlier. “Why do Christians suffer?”

First of all, it is Temporary.
Vs. 6. “Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well; the rain also filleth the pools.”

We are just passing through the valley. We have not camped out. We are not giving up. We are just passing through the valley of Baca – the valley of tears and suffering. With all of life's tears, there is much joy.

Tears Are Temporal.

John 16:20 “Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.”

Psalms 30:5 “For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”

No matter what causes us to shed tears, it is only temporary. Nothing in this life is forever except your salvation. Your pain, problems and such will disappear the moment you close your eyes in death and you open them in eternity.

Our joy will be eternal.

Isaiah 65:19 “And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying.”

Revelation 21:4 “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”

Secondly, it can be a Blessing. Vs. 6.

God is going to make it a well. He is not making it a well in the Valley of Weeping, but make the Valley of Weeping a well. You Can Pass Through The Valley Of Weeping And Come Out Empty. Most people never see what the Lord is doing for them in this valley. You Can Pass Through The Valley Of Weeping And "Make It A Well." A well in the Middle East was a very precious commodity.

1st Thessalonians 5:18 “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

Ephesians 5:20 “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Philippians 4:6 “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”

So how can we make this valley a well?

You can make it a well by being faithful to God's house.

Vs. 4, 10. “Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will be still praising thee. Selah.” “For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.”

You can make it a well by exercising faith in God.

Vs. 12. “O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee.”

You can make it a well by continuing in God's service.

Vs. 5. “Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; in whose heart are the ways of them.”

This is part of the message on the valley of Baca. As I have said several times, it is the valley of tears and suffering. This leads us to the question I have asked several times. “Why do Christians suffer?” I will only introduce this thought this week and will continue the thought next time.

Over the years that I have been a pastor, I have been asked various questions. One question that I have never been asked is, “Where did Cain get his wife?” I have a good answer for that one. He got his wife from the same place I did - from his mother-in-law. But one question that I have heard over and over again that I feel very inadequate to answer is this one: “Why do Christians suffer?” Then one of the dear men I have in my life was asking me the same question one time. I had to answer as I have so many times before that I did not know. One of the things I have learned in the past years in being a pastor is that the answers that we need are found in the pages of this blessed book we call our Bible. Years ago, I would have not attempted to answer this question because I did not have the resources to do so. Today I have many great resources at my disposal that will help me.

I have learned some lessons in the ministry of being a pastor for the past fourteen years. One of them is this: I am not immune to suffering either. My family is not immune to suffering. One of the hardest parts of the ministry is seeing them suffer. I am not going to give you a sob story. That would be counterproductive to the messages. When my friend who had been serving God longer than I have been alive asked me this question, it sent me to hunting for some answers from the Lord. I thought about it, I researched it, I prayed about it and now I have a few answers from the Lord. I had to take a promise from God and found it to be true.

James 1:5 "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him."

I want to preach on the following subjects to try that question. I will be preaching on the causes of suffering (that is today's and next time’s message), the consequences of suffering, the construction by suffering, the completion of suffering, the critics of suffering and the compassion for sufferers.

Paul calls the suffering of Christians something that we have a hard time understanding in the book of Second Corinthians.

2nd Corinthians 4:17 "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory."

He calls them light afflictions. It does not seem that way to us. We think them to be great and hard. But the Lord called them light afflictions. One truth that I have discovered as I studied this subject is that suffering in the life of a child of God is as individualized as each individual. What may be a trial of suffering for me may be a minor inconvenience in your life.

If you have not suffered, hang on. One day you will. It is a universal fact that all men will or have suffered. What is suffering?

Before getting to the causes of suffering - and I know that I will not be able to give them all - we need to know what suffering is. Suffering is defined as a loss of position such as Adam’s fall. It is also pain of body. It is rejection. It is anxiety. It can be sickness. It may be persecution and injustice. Or it may be grief and disappointment. It might be pangs of conscience that can lead to repentance. It is punishment, such as a person who goes to hell.

Paul told us in both Romans and 2nd Corinthians that our suffering is for a short time. It may seem long to us but in the idea of eternity, it is but a speck of time.

If you want to get the key to suffering, you must start from the first place suffering is mentioned in the Bible. A law of Bible study is the law of first mention. The first time you find something mentioned in the Bible gives you the key to rest of the Bible most of the time.

Genesis 3:14-19 “And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”

Without trying to make this too simple, all your suffering is basically because sin entered in the world by Adam. God held Adam the most responsible for man’s downfall.

Conclusion: I want to end this message today with a few thoughts from next time’s message. What are some of the causes of our suffering? We suffer at times because of physical reasons. We suffer at times because of parental reasons. We suffered at times because poverty and persecuted reasons. We suffer at times because of personal reasons. At times we suffer because of practical reasons.

On the outside, you give God the glory, but inside you, you have lots of doubts and questions. This is normal. There are seven normal stages in which we can go when we are suffering. Many Christians get bogged down in the first four and five but don’t see the end with the sixth and seventh.

Let me give them quickly:

1. Shock (I cannot believe this is happening to me.)
2. Sorrowfully questioning God (Lord, why did you allow this happen?)
3. Anger (Lord, this is not right.)
4. Fear (Lord, will it get worse?)
5. Despair (I will never recover.) This is the stage of self-pity that many fall into.
6. Searching (Lord, what lesson or benefit do You have for me through this suffering?)
7. Understanding (Yes, Lord, now I can see!)

Where are you in these stages? If you are in stages one through five, you better get to stage six and seven so you can get some help from the Lord.

Pastor Mike Walls
Freedom Baptist Church Smithfield, NC
Isaiah 41:10
(Edited/proofread by Jerry Bouey - Used with permission.)