The Vale of Tears
Psalm 84:5-7
Blessed is the man whose strength is in you; in whose heart are the ways of them.…

1. Some have said that Baca is a real place — bearing, down even to modern times, a somewhat similar designation — a plain now called Wady Baker, lying in Northern Palestine, on the direct route of the pilgrims who came up to the Passover Feasts. In explanation of the name, which certainly means "weeping," they tell the story of a Bedouin who, fleeing before his enemy, lost here his favourite dromedary, and fell into tears, not only because of his broken attachment, but because of his inevitable capture in the deprivation of his means of escape.

2. Others have said that the reference is to any valley of Baca-trees, or mulberries. These would be of frequent occurrence on any line of travel around Jerusalem, and would be sought for defence in the middle of the day, when the sun's rays were hottest, and for the encampment at night, when the company made a halt. And in order to explain the allusion in the name, they remind us of the fact that the mulberry-tree, whenever any one of its twigs or leaves is wounded, exudes from the cut copious drops of thick sap, falling like tears on the sward beneath.

3. Still others say that this language is wholly figurative. There may, or may not, be an indirect allusion to some locality or some familiar landscape; but the meaning is simply tropical. It is intended to present an image of human life. The old Latin Vulgate, and all the ancient versions, render the expression — in valle lachrymarum. There originated our common metaphor, when we call this world "a vale of tears."

I. EVERY TRUE CHRISTIAN MUST EXPECT TO HAVE HIS OWN PRIVATE "VALLEY OF BACA." No two believers can see or travel the same path. Every Christian has his personal path of experience. But even this shows the intelligence which is resident in our trials. Nothing happens; all is ordered. And one of our arguments to prove we are in the true way is found in the discovery that it leads through roughness and confusion. If it ever grows easy and luxurious, we may fear we have wandered. And this is the way along which our Saviour went before us. He was a "Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief."

II. EVERY TRUE CHRISTIAN MUST EXPECT "TO PASS THROUGH HIS VALLEY OF BACA." Jerusalem lay on the top of a hill. It was surrounded with mountains, traversed by ravines and gorges. Straight up over them the festival-pilgrims forced their advance. And these were the times when they sang their cheerfullest psalm — this one among them. There is no mountain without its valley. Our finest off-looks of experience are found when we have risen to the summit of the hardest passes, "And felt upon our foreheads bare the benedictions of the air." And by the grace of God rests have been allowed by the way. Notable seasons of remembrance have we all of halts for refreshment we have already enjoyed.

III. EVERY TRUE CHRISTIAN MUST EXPECT TO FIND A "WELL "IN EACH VALLEY OF BACA." In every sorrow there is some mitigation. Sometimes, again, trouble opens sluices of joy in our experience quite new. It was one of the incidents in the Crimean war, that a soldier lay famishing with thirst, and complaining bitterly, as a cannon-ball tore past him, that he was still left under fire. Meantime the missile of iron buried itself in the cliff-side behind him, splintered the rock, disclosed a spring, and sent close to his hot lips a full stream of water for his refreshment. Most of us have watched almost breathlessly as some tremendous providence shattered hope, or health, or comfort, or home, and yet found we were still alive afterwards, and indeed surrounded with blessings of which we never knew the existence before, and never felt the power till now.

IV. EVERY TRUE CHRISTIAN MAY FORCE EVEN THE VALLEY OF BACA TO BECOME HIS WELL. The moment any Christian in simple-hearted confidence commits himself to Divine providence, he discovers the absolutely limitless reach of that statement with which this wonderful old psalm closes: "The Lord God is a sun and shield," etc. This positive self-surrender is one of the conditions of forcing sorrow to minister comfort. It is compelling the weapon, which slays thousands of Philistines, to pour forth a fountain for our thirst. And the other condition is habitual repose on Divine wisdom. Trust in God cannot be exercised by fits and starts. It is not a thing of impulse, but of steady, every-day principle. With these two conditions met, any believer can turn his valleys of weeping into fountains of refreshment always.

V. EVERY TRUE CHRISTIAN WILL FIND HIS VALLEY OF BACA ENDING ON THE MOUNT OF GOD (ver. 7). Then he will understand it at last. It may not have been what he would have chosen; but its discipline was profitable, and now its end is peace — eternal, sacred, sure.

(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; in whose heart are the ways of them.

WEB: Blessed are those whose strength is in you; who have set their hearts on a pilgrimage.

The Pilgrims in the Valley of Baca
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