Friday, October 21, 2016

Maintaining the highways to Zion

Difficulty Hill - illustration from John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress
Illustration from John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 84:1-12

TO CHEW ON: "Blessed—happy, fortunate, to be envied—is the man whose strength is in You, in whose heart are the highways to Zion." Psalm 84:5 AMP

The writer of this psalm draws our attention to the delights of the House of God. For him it's a literal place, a building, the temple in Jerusalem.

He speaks in picturesque language of his envy of the sparrows that nest near the altar. He glosses over the difficulties of the journey to Jerusalem, telling how even the Valley of Baca* becomes a place of springs because of anticipation. He would be willing, he says, to do the lowliest job at the temple—be a mere doorkeeper—rather than live separated from God in the "tents of wickedness."

I doubt that these days we feel the attachment he felt to a church building or the place we meet for worship. In many cases the venue in which we gather isn't even used solely for church but might, for the rest of the week, serve as a home, classroom, theatre, hotel meeting room etc.

Which is why I love how the Amplified translation shifts our attention from the place we're going to how we set out to get there: "Blessed—happy, fortunate, to be envied is the man … in whose heart are the highways to Zion." For no matter where we worship, our meeting with God begins with an attitude and journey of the heart.

How can we make our hearts  "highways to Zion," not only as we prepare to meet together on Sunday, but every day? Embedded in this psalm are some of the practices of these pilgrims that we could perhaps adopt ourselves.

1. We can remember former meetings with God and dwell on their delights. The psalmist says, "My soul yearns, yes, even pines and is homesick for the courts of the Lord" − Psalm 84:1 AMP.

2. Singing is mentioned several times (Psalm 84:2,4): "Blessed … are those who dwell in Your house and Your presence; they will be singing Your praises all day long" - Psalm 84:4 AMP.

3. We can focus on our blessings, even in the midst of difficulties - Psalm 84:6.

4. We can trust. The Amplified Bible expands: "... blessed ... is the man who trusts in You, leaning on and believing in You, committing all and confidently looking to You and that without fear or misgiving" - Psalm 84:12 AMP.

We don't have to wait for a special day to go to a special place and experience the joy of God's presence. We can keep our heart highways to Zion maintained every day of the week!

PRAYER: Dear God, the psalmist's delight in experiencing Your presence here is contagious. Help me to feel the same pull to spend time with You. Amen.

*Baca is a type of balsam plant that can survive in dry conditions. So perhaps this valley is known as a particularly desolate, dry spot. The Amplified translates it: "Passing through the valley of weeping…"

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked AMP are taken from the Amplified® Bible. Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation Used by permission." (

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