From the Desert to Refreshing Springs
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The Valley of Baca is mentioned in the Bible only once, in Psalm 84. Baca is rendered “weeping” in most translations: “What joy for those whose strength comes from the LORD, who have set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs. The autumn rains will clothe it with blessings.”1
The Hebrew word baca is related to bakah, which means “to weep.” Baca refers to a type of “weeping” tree; that is, one that drips resin or gum-like tears, such as a balsam, mulberry, or aspen tree. ...
The psalmist uses the Valley of Baca symbolically to illustrate a difficult and sorrowful path in life. The name of the valley indicates a dry, arid region since this is where these types of weeping trees tend to grow. As people traveled to Jerusalem to worship, they would pass through this weary, “weeping” place, but their journey was worth it in the end:
“Blessed 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.
They go from strength to strength;
each one appears before God in Zion.”2
In the same way, those who experience sorrow in this life—and who doesn’t?—can find strength in their faith in God. With the Lord held in His rightful place, we can find that the Valley of Baca becomes a very different place. The journey of a faithful Christian through times of hardship is a step-by-step expedition “from strength to strength.”
In Psalm 84, the Valley of Baca helps illustrate the privilege and longing of all those who follow the Lord’s path in pilgrimage to Zion. These followers possess an intense longing to worship the Lord: “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.”3 They begin the path of pilgrimage strengthened by God Himself and then remain steadfast in their hearts.4 They grow spiritually stronger as they continue to meet adversity with unshaken faith.5 As these sojourners find their strength in God, they are able to persevere through calamity, sorrow, and severe trials. And in the end, they find grace. Their Valley of Baca turns into springs of blessing and pools of refreshment.—From GotQuestions.com6
Everyone goes through the valley of weeping and mourning at some point. David described it as the “valley of Baca,” meaning weeping, lamentations—a vale of tears.7
The key is that we go through it, and as we do, we can, as the Bible puts it, “make it a well.” It can become a place of refreshing springs.
In the previous two verses, David states that those who are praising God find their strength in Him. In their hearts are the ways of those who, passing through this valley of tears, make it a well.8 We can tend to equate praising God with something we do when we feel warm and happy and content, but one thing that the men of faith have in common is that they continued to praise God through their valleys of Baca, their misery and suffering. They weren’t sitting around singing praise songs. They were in agony.
Sometimes they were enduring such intense suffering or despair that all they could do was cry out for the Lord’s mercy, but even that was praise, because it was acknowledging God’s sovereignty and their faith in His mercy and power to deliver.
Verse 6 in the original text then goes on to tell us a beautiful secret. According to Strong’s Concordance, the phrase that the King James translators translated as “the rain also filleth the pools” in the original Hebrew can also be translated as “The Teacher (referring to God, the Great Teacher) overshadows with blessings.” What a beautiful interpretation, and how fitting it is.
So, as we pass through this valley of tears and suffering and hardships, yet still praising Him, we can make that desolate valley of suffering into a spring of refreshing, and our Teacher overshadows us with blessings.
The water that becomes a fountain of refreshing can turn our journey of life—that would otherwise be gloomy and sad—into joy; turn our mourning into dancing, and give us comfort and beauty.9 And later when we’ve come through the valley, we can look back with gratitude, realizing that these things have given enrichment and enhancement to our lives. Our Great Teacher will have enveloped us with priceless blessings of spiritual growth and a deeper understanding of Himself, and a heart that comes to resemble His own more and more.—Maria Fontaine
The Valley of Baca is a place of suffering, sorrow, hardship. It’s a dry, dusty place, like a desert. Psalm 84 tells us that, when we have passed through such a place as Baca, we have the great privilege of turning the difficulty, the sorrow, or whatever the hardship is into a blessing.
I know someone who has been so afflicted. This man has been a friend of ours for many, many years. He once traveled with us in the Lord’s work and has since been greatly afflicted. But he never talks about his pain, and he has turned his valley of Baca into a great blessing; he has dug a well there.
In that way, the Christian life can become victorious over a dry, dusty place like Baca, and you can transform that whole valley into a beautiful place. You can also dig deep in your heart to find what brought about this trial that has come into your life, and see if God wants to say something special to you about it. Do some real digging. Dig a well there, and then dig in God’s Word until He reveals His precious truth to you in His wonderful promises.
Someone has said that a well doesn’t look so good beside a running stream. I sat by a little stream in Yosemite Park, and I don’t think a well would look so good or so refreshing—as far as taking a drink of the water is concerned—beside that bubbling, beautiful, clear stream. But you put a well out in a dry, dusty desert, and there the water will be mighty refreshing and look awfully good!
A Christian, in the time of sorrow and distress, can stand on the promises of God and be so faithful that others will notice their faith, and there in that hard, dry, dusty place, they will dig a well—that is, make it a place of refreshing. That is where the Christian faith looks inviting—when you become an overcomer in the place of difficulty.
A woman who called on me today was having terrible sorrows, but she sees only herself and her sorrow. She isn’t putting her eyes on the Lord. You remember Hagar lifted up her eyes and then it was that God showed her the water, and she saw a well of water and refreshed herself and her son.10
Some people just camp down in their sorrows. They sort of luxuriate in their martyrdom and just stay in the valley of weeping. We are not to stay in the valley and not just endure our troubles. That isn’t victory, just to endure; it’s to praise God and shout the victory and prove the promises, and so stand upon God’s Word that you get victory out of defeat! And when you overcome in that way, you’ll find divinely given living waters that spring up. God’s Word says the rain also fills the pools, and you go from strength to strength.
Father, we ask You to help these who are passing through a hard place, that defeat might be turned into victory, because they look not on themselves or their circumstances, but on the author and the finisher of our faith, the Lord Jesus Christ.11 We ask in His name, amen.—Virginia Brandt Berg
Published on Anchor August 2021. Read by John Laurence.
Music by John Listen.
1 Psalm 84:5–6 NLT.
2 Psalm 84:5–7 ESV.
3 Psalm 84:1–2.
4 Psalm 84:5.
5 Psalm 84:7.
7 Psalm 84:6.
8 Psalm 84:4–5.
9 Psalm 30:11.
10 Genesis 21:18–19.
11 Hebrews 12:2.