Preached by Dr. Gene Scott on March 1, 1981
Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; in whose
heart are the ways of them. Who passing through the
valley of Baca make it a well; the rain also filleth the pools.
TODAY WE RETURN TO ONE OF THE cornerstone messages of this church, Psalm 84. We read, beginning at verse 5, “Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee.” Let’s look at that first word, “blessed.” When we hear the word “blessed,” we normally think of joyous experiences in our lives that are associated with specific times and circumstances. I grew up in a charismatic denomination, and I can tell you that the strength of the charismatics is also their weakness. They have learned the reality of a personal encounter with God by way of a blessed experience of the infilling of the Holy Spirit, but then they herald that very experience as a destination point. They create what I call a destination-oriented Christianity that moves from peak experience to peak experience. But the word “blessed” in this psalm does not refer to such a blessing. It describes a state of being, no qualities of which shall ever change.
Even though I have preached this message many times, I know I have not always lived with an awareness of such an unchanging blessing. But let every experience be a lie; God’s word is still true. “God is not a man, that He should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” Psalm 84 promises a state of blessing that does not vary: it is always there and always the same. God himself is behind this promise, and it is available to every person who seizes it. But it is not a blessing thrown out loosely to just anyone. Notice the Bible says, “Blessed is the man.” God’s word is always specific. Some preachers make God’s promises into an amorphous mass without any conditions attached, but God’s word specifies that this blessing is only available to a particular kind of man.
“Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; in whose heart are the ways of them. Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well.” Circle the word “passing.” That word distinguishes this man from all other men. The word “passing” tells us that he is on a journey. He is involved in constant movement and change. The man passing through has no stopping point where he might feel he has “arrived.” Paradoxically, God promises an unchanging blessing to the man who is in the process of continual change.
I know I am not the only one who sometimes hopes to attain some kind of permanent state that does not have so many hills and valleys. There are times I breathe a sigh of relief when one valley has passed, and a part of me hopes that I will never have to face another one. But written into God’s book is the concept of pilgrimage. We are pilgrims on a journey, aliens in a strange land, citizens of a heavenly kingdom. We are held by this fleshly tabernacle, yet we have the breath of eternity upon us. In the New Testament, the Christian journey is described as “the Way.” it is a process, and change has to be accepted as the norm. The mistake of those living in monasticism in the Middle Ages was that they wanted to rest in a state of permanence while they waited for some reward. But the Christian walk is a journey! John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress has been a guide to Christians down through the years, probably second only to the Bible itself, and its title says it all: Pilgrim’s Progress.
“Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee . . . Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well.” You will find in the margin of some Bibles that “Baca” means “mulberry trees.” Other translations say weeping,* and I am sure everyone knows that life takes us into valleys of weeping. We must not try to sketch a roadmap of life that bypasses those valleys of weeping. My Bible says blessed men go through valleys of weeping. I want this to be more than mere words for you. God does not look at life through rose-tinted glasses. He reaches down into the stuff of life, grabs a life, and promises it something: the state of being blessed. God says, “You can have a state of blessing that will never change, even when your journey leads you through valleys of weeping.” Not only will you have that state of blessing, but the promise is “blessed men go through.”
Faith as I teach it is very simple: you find a promise of God, you grab hold of it and you don’t let go. God’s word does not say that you will never have any valleys. God’s word says that you can have a state of blessing, no qualities of which ever change, through the valley. I am sure I have faced hundreds of valleys that I thought would not only kill me physically, but would also kill my faith and my spirit. Well, I am still here! I am a living testimony. Have you ever been in a valley and thought you would not make it through? But you made it!
Romans 5 says, “we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope.” Let’s look at each of these words, starting with “tribulation.” It is a cognate of the Latin word tribulum, which was an
instrument used for crushing wheat to separate the grain from the chaff. I like to call this
process “whackings.” I get “whacked” by God and I cry out, “It hurts! It’s going to kill me!” Then I get whacked again and say, “Please, no more!” But after a while I can say, “I’m still alive! I endured it.” Paul said we rejoice in tribulum because we know that tribulum produces patience, “and patience, experience; and experience, hope.” Patience is better translated “endurance.” Continued whackings, coupled with endurance, produce the reality of experience, or “triedness.”
What is the “tiredness” that Paul is talking about? The subject is faith. God’s task in leading the Christian is to bring him finally to a stage where nothing will shake his faith. You might ask me, “Are you there yet?” Lord, no! I am getting whacked, though. And when I am about to give up, I seem to find something to grab hold of. I have more endurance than I had last year, last month or even yesterday. The point is that blessed men go through. Triedness has matured when we can face whatever crisis is coming our way and say with hope, “We are going to make it; nay, we made it, in God.” Don’t forget it! You might say, “Well, I have been in my valley so long it seems like I am never going to get out.” God never promised how long or how short your valley would be. He did promise that if you trust Him, you will go through. Regardless of whatever soul-wrenching crisis or incomprehensible personal loss you are facing, the message is still the same: God is faithful. You know He is. It doesn’t matter how tough it looks, the promise is, “blessed men go through.”
“Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; in whose heart are the ways of them. Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well.” Literally, it says that the blessed man turns the valley into “a place of springs.” That means the valley itself becomes an opportunity. It becomes a place that can refresh others, because the blessed man went through that valley and transformed it. That is self-evident in its meaning, wonderful in its accomplishment and amazing in its possibility.
“The rain also filleth the pools.” Many of you will have an alternate translation in the margin of your Bible, “The rain also covereth the pools.” If you think about it for a moment, a pool by definition already contains water. You do not fill a pool, you drink from a pool; the water is already there. For many years I preached on this passage and expected God to come along with a miracle and transform every valley of weeping into a place of rejoicing. I kept thinking that if you would go through life as a “proper Christian,” you might have to dig a hole for the well, but God would come along with a sovereign outpouring of His Spirit and fill it up with water. But that is not what is promised in this psalm.
In the 1920s, John Dewey’s “progressive education” conquered America through the minds of the youth. Progressive education was built upon the philosophy of experimentalism, alternatively known as pragmatism. Truth and value were redefined: truth became what worked for you, to get you out of your problems, and value became that which satisfied your wants. Dr. Tozer, the Christian and Missionary Alliance prophet, recognized what a tragedy it was when the church was conquered by John Dewey’s pragmatism and did not even know it. The result was that the whole value system of the Bible was turned around. The Bible should be aimed towards eternity, and the purpose of man should be to serve God. But under the influence of progressive education, God became man’s servant, and eternal truths began to be evaluated in terms of what they did for man, here and now. And a host of so-called faith preachers, most of them unaware that they were captured by this carnal philosophy, set out upon the Christian world to teach a faith that was motivated and evaluated in terms of what it promised for you, here and now. But that is not what the Bible teaches. The value of faith is in the experience of faith itself, not in the seen results it may produce down here.
God is looking for faith. God promises an unchanging state of blessing to the man who passes through a valley and makes it a place of springs. The rain that covers the pools is an added blessing when it comes. When the rain does come it is not necessary to the traveler; it is just icing on the cake. The blessing guaranteed in this verse is that you will go through the valley and make it a place of springs.
What is the source of this blessing? “Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee.” The blessed man has a taproot into a source of strength and blessing that is not dependent upon, related to or affected by the valley. He can pass through and turn the valley into a place of springs because the blessing is not dependent upon the valley or the man. “Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee.” The blessing is dependent upon God Himself!
The blessing does not change because God does not change. God never said, “He that cometh unto Me will never go through valleys.” He did say, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you” and “I will be with you.” So whether you are in the valley or out of it, God is the source of your strength. No matter where you are or what your valley is, God wants you to keep your eyes focused on Him. It does not matter where your feet are. If the eyes of your soul and spirit are eyes of faith fastened on God, He has promised to be with you.
“Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; in whose heart are the ways of them.” In the King James Version, the words, “of them” are in italics. That means they were added by the translators, and they are not in the original text. It should read, “the ways of thee,” that is, “the ways of God.” Blessed men pass through valleys and can transform their valleys into places of flowing water. But the man who does that is the one whose strength is in God, and in whose heart are the ways of God.
God in the Old Testament laments the fact that His people, for the most part, only saw His actions. But Moses came to know His ways. How do you get to know God’s ways? His ways are revealed through His word. We see His ways right here in these verses. The blessed man places his strength in the One who has promised never to leave him. What are the ways of God? “O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer: give ear, O God of Jacob. Selah,” or “think of that.” Think of it for a moment. These are the ways of God. He is the Lord of hosts and He is the God of Jacob. Let’s look at the meaning of those names.
“LORD God of hosts” is a unique name. The King James uses “LORD” in capital letters to translate Yahweh or Jehovah, and “God” to translate Elohim. When the two names are put together, we have “Jehovah Elohim of hosts,” which speaks of God in His creative power, controlling everything. He controls the inanimate hosts of heaven; He made the stars fight for Deborah over the plains of Megiddo. He controls supernatural beings; Jesus said He could call legions of angels if He pleased and He cast the demons out of a man from the Gadarenes. The Lord also sets the boundaries, as He did in Ezekiel 38 when He said to Gog of the land of Magog, “I will turn you back, put hooks into your jaws, and bring you forth.” God controls the nations and He controls His people.
The God who controls everything and who spoke and this world was formed is listening to your prayer. He “gives ear” as the “God of Jacob.” The name Jacob means “heel-catcher” or “supplanter.” Jacob received that name because he came out of the womb grabbing the heel of his brother Esau, and throughout his whole life he was grabbing everything for himself. It took years for God to finally break him, tame him and mold him. After that wrestling match with the angel of God, Jacob walked with a limp for the rest of his life. But when Jacob finally admitted his weakness, his nature was changed and God gave him the new name Israel, which in Genesis 32 is interpreted as “a prince that has power with God.”
Now I might feel that God was a little out of reach if this verse said, “O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer: give ear, O God of Israel.” But it says, O LORD God of hosts . . . give ear, O God of Jacob.” That means that the Lord of hosts is also the God of Jacob. God is willing to listen to me with my faults, my shortcomings and my “Jacob nature.” What is the promise? “Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; in whose heart are the ways of thee.” Don’t ask me to explain it, but I thank God for it! The Lord God of hosts gives ear as the God of Jacob. That means you don’t have to be perfect to avail yourself of His strength. It is available in your weakness.
There comes a time in your valley when you have to make a decision. Are you going to sit down in the mud of the valley? Are you going to cover yourself with dust and ashes in the valley? Are you going to build a tent and camp out in bitterness in the valley? Or are you going to accept the fact that blessed men go through the valley? Pull yourself out of the mud, look up and ask the Lord God of hosts to hear you as the God of Jacob, weak though you may be.
The God of Jacob who will hear you is also “a sun and shield.” You have enough basic knowledge of the universe to immediately draw the analogy that God intends. The sun supplies energy. Without the sun there would be no life on this earth. The sun also controls our orbit and directs our path. God is the ultimate source of life, light and energy. When I am in my valley, my responsibility is to faithe every step of the journey and know that God is still directing my path.
I am honest enough to admit that there have been times when I have asked God, “Why did this happen to me?” I am sure if God were to answer He would say, “I never promised your journey would be easy and smooth. I have only promised where you will end up if you have faith!” He would probably say to me what He said to Job, “Were you there when My fingers carved out the mountains?” He might also say, “Who are thou, clay? Does the clay talk back to the Potter and say, “What are You doing to me?”
Remember that “the LORD God is a sun and shield.” While He leads and directs our path as the sun, He also provides protection as our shield. Nothing comes into the life of a Christian except what God allows. There are times when I have asked, “God, did You really let this happen?” And I can almost hear God’s reply, “Yes, I let this happen, but wait till I tell you what I could have let happen!” He knows that you can bear. In the book of Acts when Paul is in a storm at sea, the word of the Lord came when all hope was lost. Don’t ask me why He waited until then, but God is always on time. That is the rain that will cover the pools.
“The LORD will give grace and glory.” I have heard some preachers misquote Scripture saying, “God will not share His glory with anyone.” Yes, He will. What He will not share is the determination of who gets it. The Lord will give glory, but He is looking for faith! He gives us a hint of the basis of His allocation: “Blessed is the man who strength is in thee; in whose heart are the ways of thee.” Again, God’s ways are revealed in His word. Do you want a hint of the way God will give glory? Hebrews 11 gives us a glimpse of God dispensing glory as the heroes of faith are named.
Blessed men pass through valleys because their strength is in Him. In their heart they have come to understand God’s ways. God is not only the Lord of hosts but He is also the God of Jacob. He is a sun who controls our path, and a shield who protects us. Our task is to faithe to the last breath. His is to lead, not only to the last breath but through the last breath, into His glory.
“No good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.” You may have the word thing in italics, which again means it was added by the translators. What it should say is “no good will he withhold . . .” The ultimate definition of “good” is God. It means “no part of Himself will He withhold from them that walk uprightly.” How do you walk “uprightly” in the New Testament? You walk uprightly when you walk in Christ. How do you walk in Christ? You walk in Christ by faith.
“O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee.” The King James Version uses the word “trusteth,” but that word only deals with the mental aspect. A better word would be faitheth, which encompasses thought, action and confidence. The “man that faitheth” is involved in action. When you are in the valley of weeping, run to God who is your strength. What does God say about those who run to Him? “They go from strength to strength, every one of them in Zion appeareth before God.”
*Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance #1056
From the PULPIT, Vol. 10
Reprinted with permission from Pastor Melissa Scott
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