How lovely are Your dwelling places, O LORD of hosts!
This is a Psalm of the Pilgrim. You are a pilgrim. How are you doing on the road you are on in life?
The Pilgrim’s Progress from This World to That Which Is to Come is a Christian allegory written by John Bunyan and published in February, 1678. It is regarded as one of the most significant works of religious English literature, has been translated into more than 200 languages, and has never been out of print. Bunyan began his work while in the Bedfordshire county jail for violations of the Conventicle Act, which prohibited the holding of religious services outside the auspices of the established Church of England.
The book is written in two parts. Christian, an everyman character, is the protagonist of the allegory, which centers itself in his journey from his hometown, the “City of Destruction” (“this world”), to the “Celestial City” (“that which is to come”: Heaven) atop Mt. Zion. Christian is weighed down by a great burden, the knowledge of his sin, which he believed came from his reading “the book in his hand,” (the Bible). This burden, which would cause him to sink into Tophet (hell), is so unbearable that Christian must seek deliverance. The story continues with Christian meeting several people along the way including Help, Faithful, and Hopeful, finally achieving entrance to the Celestial City.
The Second Part of The Pilgrim’s Progress presents the pilgrimage of Christian’s wife, Christiana; their sons; and the maiden, Mercy. They visit the same stopping places that Christian visited, with some additions; but they take a longer time in order to accommodate marriage and childbirth for the four sons and their wives. The hero of the story is Greatheart, the servant of the Interpreter, who is a pilgrim’s guide to the Celestial City. He kills four giants and participates in the slaying of a monster that terrorizes the city of Vanity. It has been quite awhile since I have read it, and I challenge you to look it up and read it too.
The truth is that we are all pilgrims in this life. We are all on the same spiritual journey, trying to figure out truth from myth and fiction, reality from blind hope. We have found the truth, and so we continue steadfast in that direction, seeking to be all that we can be in Jesus. As we read this Psalm of the pilgrim we see four things that need to be part of our life.
Be where God is. Verses 1-4 speak of God’s presence, and the desire to be there where God is. Jesus said where 2 or 3 are gathered, the Spirit is there as well. It is not about being with the most people, but being with the right people. You need to be with others who are also seeking God in their life. There are many people in churches all over this city that are not really interested in meeting God – they are just doing the religion thing. I want the name Christian, but I don’t want it to change my life or lifestyle is their motto. What use is that? One of the things I love about where this church is, is that the people who come are coming to meet Jesus. I know you aren’t coming just for the music. You’re not coming just to get your “feel good” talk – you are coming because you want to be closer to Jesus. God knows, and He will continue to make Himself known to you.
Focused on God. Verses 5-7 speak of people whose life, whose heart, and whose strength is focussed on God. They have eternity in them, as we all do who are followers of Jesus. This Psalm says that everywhere the pilgrim goes he leaves blessing because Christ is in him. There used to be a commercial on TV set in the old west. A dusty old cowboy enters the saloon and walks to the bar. The sun is bright he is dusty and looks so dry. He goes to the bar, but instead of ordering a drink he says, “Give me a bag of potato chips.” If you thought he was dry before, you know he is as he eats the salty spuds. The commercial ends up being for Mountain Dew or some kind of pop – they want you to know it will solve the deepest thirst. In verse 6 the valley of Baca is a dry arid place. As the one passes through whose life is in Jesus, springs rise up and water that once barren place. The joy of your salvation can’t help but bring life to others around you.
Satisfied in God. Verses 8 – 10 speaks of the pilgrim who has found full satisfaction in Jesus. Of all the things you could have in life, from stuff to family and friends, to a relationship with Jesus, it is that relationship with Jesus that is the most fulfilling and satisfying. How do people live without Jesus? How does one go day in and day out with pressures and stress, without any hope in the future in this life or the next? When you get down to the barest minimum of life, don’t you want to know you were put here on earth for a purpose? Jesus is the answer for the world today; above Him there’s no other, jesus is the way.
Dependent upon God. Verses 11-12 speak to the pilgrim’s dependence upon God. Jesus said if we seek first His kingdom, all the stuff we need in life will be ours, because God is faithful and loved you enough to die for you. Who else has ever died for you? Maybe someone has made that ultimate sacrifice, but what are they doing for you now? God died for you and is alive today still working on your behalf. Throw yourself upon Him. Cast your cares upon Him for He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7). Go to Him when you are heavy laden and He will give you rest (Matthew 11:28). He has promised rest for your weary soul. Take those promises and claim them in prayer. God will not fail you.
So what kind of pilgrim are you? Are you in danger of falling by the way side? Seek God’s presence. Be focused on and satisfied in Him. Surrender yourself to Him, make Jesus your Lord and Savior, and your feet will be steady on the path.