“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. 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.”
– Psalm 84:1-2, 5-6
Many are familiar with the phrase “how lovely is Thy dwelling place” out of Psalm 84. What’s fascinating to me about this psalm though, is where that lovely dwelling place is located. The lovely dwelling place, believe it or not, is in a dreadfully desolate and arid place where seemingly no life can exist. The Hebrew word for “tears” is “baka” so when the passage says “as they pass through the Valley of Baka” this means the lovely dwelling place is in a valley of tears; a weeping place, a place where those making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem passed through. Now let me ask you something; how can a dreadful valley of sadness and tears be so lovely? The answer comes to us in this passage and throughout Scripture; wherever God dwells, wherever God resides, wherever God is present,…….that place can be called lovely.
“So where does God dwell, or reside?” you may ask. The rich and varied places of God’s presence are everywhere. God can be found in the dark fearful nights of a storm. God can be found while running for our lives. God is present on high mountain peaks as well as the deep valleys of despair. At a table, at the cross, at a wedding party, at our trials, in the belly of a whale, in the cup, and within the bread; our God is with us, our God is present, our God is there. In the wilderness of loneliness, in the cave of chaos God resides. Wherever we find ourselves, God enters in. Wherever we are, there is God! The knowledge of God’s presence that safely hems us in is too wonderful to even comprehend Psalm 139 describes. “God’s dwelling place is among us” Revelation 21 concludes. “God will dwell with us……God himself will be with us and be our God” is the consistent message of Scripture.
“Even in the Valley of Baka where our tears seem to be our only prayers?” we question. Yes, even there! Not many of us have actually been to this historical valley in Israel but emotionally each one of us have traveled there. In our helplessness and hopelessness, in our fear and trembling; we have all been to the Valley of Baka. So, if your journey has found you in a valley of tears, know that God is there with you and for that reason it can be considered a lovely place. Joshua 1:9 puts it well; “be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”