There’s a psalm in my heart. Well, to be more accurate, bits and pieces of many psalms. I think I only know one psalm by heart—the 23rd, of course. But verses and phrases of many others come to mind as I go through my day. They help me remember the God who gives me life and whose kingdom (or sovereign reign) has already begun through the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. All that from a psalm. Not bad, eh?
The Psalms are the songs of the Hebrew people. My study Bible reminds me the Hebrew word for this book is Tehillim, which means “hymns” or “songs of praise.” That praise is directed toward the God whom we worship as Creator, Sustainer, Lover and Redeemer of all that exists. This praise of God is expressed in a wide variety of images that all point to the God “whose steadfast love endures forever” (Psalm 136, among others).
What’s the imagery of this sovereign God’s steadfast love that’s on my mind today? It’s the “place of springs.” It comes from Psalm 84, where we are given a picture of the joy of pilgrims who are on their way to worship God in the Jerusalem Temple. They are not just looking forward to the trip, as we would a vacation. They’re thirsty for God.
How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts.
My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.
These people know what we need to remember for our own spiritual journeys—God is our true home. That destination is beautiful, awesome, fantastical…(choose your own adjective and insert here). God is our goal. And the pilgrim’s journey there, to the house of God, is filled with joy and blessing. Listen:
Happy are those whose strength is in you,
in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
As they go through the valley of Baca they make it a place of springs;
the early rain also covers it with pools.
Do you hear what happens along the pilgrims’ way? Going through the valley of Baca, presumably a dry and inhospitable place, “they make it a place of springs.” No longer dry and unlivable, the springs and the rains make this bit of desert habitable, inviting, life sustaining. In another Psalm we read: “He turns a desert into pools of water, a parched land into springs of water. And there he lets the hungry live, and they establish a town to live in…” (Psalm 107:35-35).
For folks who live in the desert, water is life. No one can survive for very long without it. In this psalm, somehow the pilgrim journey to God (Zion) brings blessing to the earth. God has done this by God’s grace, but here’s the kicker: blessing comes through the journey of the faithful pilgrim whose heart is set on God.
I don’t know about you, but this gives me goosebumps. Let’s think of ourselves as the pilgrims in the psalm.
- We’re the ones whose hearts are set on God.
- We’re the ones who are yearning with every fiber of our being to worship and praise God in God’s home.
- We’re on the road with these thoughts on our minds and a fire for God in our hearts.
And along our pilgrim way, the people and the places we encounter are blessed through us—by words of grace and love; and, by acts of mercy and kindness that reflect the love we have for God. This is how God gives life to a dry land—through the people of God who have their eyes and hearts set on God.
Beloved, look for the dry places around you. See the friend or neighbor who needs to hear a good word instead of criticism, a helping hand rather than a clenched fist. Then be your pilgrim self. Bring springs of water, pools of rain to your friend, your neighbor, your street, your school, your church. Be a “spring-bringer.” And let the Living God be the source of your joy, your strength, and your hope.