THE VALLEY OF BACA

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THE VALLEY OF BACACopyright Š 2012 Robert B. Thompson. All Rights Reserved

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright Š 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion. (Psalms 84:5-7)

This promise is addressed to the victorious saints. Their strength is in God. This is a mark of maturity. It takes a while before we learn how to rest on the everlasting arms. Such conquerors always are on a pilgrimage. They continually are pressing on the upward way.

As a result they keep on being strengthened until the holy city, Zion, is their permanent home.

Before they attain to full residence in Zion, they go through many sorrows. Instead of bemoaning the fact that they are facing numerous problems, they keep looking to the Lord Jesus until they rise in resurrection life. Thus their Valley of Baca overflows so those hearing them also experience resurrection life.

For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. (II Corinthians 4:11,12)

The "autumn rains," or former rains, speak of the operation of the Holy Spirit among young Christians. So the victorious believers who are pressing forward in Christ have the help of the Spirit of God until they themselves become sources of eternal life for other people.

As we begin our journey in Christ the Autumn rain of the Spirit is our Helper and Comforter. This is the rain of Pentecost. The victorious saints, as they press forward in the Autumn rain, leave springs in the Valley from which the new believers can drink, in addition to the rain which is coming from above.

An example of these springs are the hymns written by the saints who had passed through the Valley before us. What blessing and instruction we have received from "What a Friend We Have in Jesus"; "There's Within My Heart a Melody."

Have you been guided and strengthened by the old hymns? Perhaps you too, as you endure your season of weeping, will emerge victorious, leaving springs of refreshing for those coming after you.

There are the autumn, the former rains. But there also are the spring rains that speak of maturity in Christ. Let me explain.

The Pentecostal, or autumn rains, come from above. But the spring, or latter rain, comes from within the victorious saint. We press forward in Christ until the Throne of God is established in our heart. Then the water of eternal life, that same Life that raised Christ from the dead and raises us from the dead, will flow from within us.

Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him. (John 7:38)

The Love Jesus spoke these words at the feast of Tabernacles. The reference is to the twelfth chapter of the Book of Isaiah.

"Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation." With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. (Isaiah 12:2,3)

As we press forward in Christ our soul experiences sorrow. But God's intention is that we change from being a living soul to being a life-giving spirit, a person who can bring eternal life to other people.

So it is written: "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. (I Corinthians 15:45)

This is what the Apostle Paul meant by attaining to the resurrection. It is the resurrection of our soul in advance of the resurrection of our body.

In order for us to become a tree of life for other people, we must pass through the Valley of Baca. These numerous pains and problems kill our soul. This death is necessary if our soul is to be resurrected as a life-giving spirit.

We can see this pattern in the Book of Ezekiel:

As the man went eastward with a measuring line in his hand, he measured off a thousand cubits and then led me through water that was ankle-deep. He measured off another thousand cubits and led me through water that was knee-deep. He measured off another thousand and led me through water that was up to the waist. He measured off another thousand, but now it was a river that I could not cross, because the water had risen and was deep enough to swim in—a river that no one could cross. (Ezekiel 47:3-5)

The "man" is moving "eastward," that is, toward the morning of the Day of the Lord. He passes through three judgments, reminding us of the sufferings of the Valley of Baca. He continues until the Holy Spirit has reached the level of his waist, signifying that the Spirit of God has control of his strength.

There is a final judgment that speaks of our entering the fullness of God. We now are living wholly in the Spirit and have become a source of eternal life in which other people can participate. We have changed from a living soul into a life-giving spirit.

Because Christ has come to fullness in us, we, like Him, are a tree of life. We can notice, in the passages in the forty-seventh chapter that follow the various levels of water, how we are able to minister to the spiritually dead of mankind. We are a tree of life because Christ, the great Tree of Life, has been formed in us.

When I arrived there, I saw a great number of trees on each side of the river. (Ezekiel 47:7)

After experiencing the water "deep enough to swim in," we are led back to the bank of the river. So it is true that when we enter the fullness of the Spirit we do not spend our time marveling at how spiritual we have become; rather, we are faced with the needs of the world.

He said to me, "This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, where it enters the Sea. When it empties into the Sea, the water there becomes fresh. Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish, because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live." (Ezekiel 47:8,9)

All around us are people who do not have the Life of Christ in them. God has called us out of the world that through us He might be able to bring His Life to His creatures.

The Book of Isaiah tells us of the time when the Glory of God rests on the Body of Christ, with the result that people from all over the world come to be blessed by their Creator.

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. (Isaiah 60:1-3)

Every true Christian has a desire that all people might experience the eternal life that is in Christ. To accomplish this, many Christian institutions spend millions of dollars and expend countless hours of labor to bring Christ to the nations.

Let me make a suggestion. The world is not going to believe that it is God who has sent Christ until the believers are one in Christ in God. Does it not make sense that our main effort should be in bringing God's people, those who are called to be saints (holy ones), to maturity in Christ?

The Gospel call must continue to go forth so that those whom God has elected to be members of His Church will be brought into God's family. But then our efforts should be to bring them to maturity instead of encouraging them to go out and bring in more babies.

We have churches full of spiritual babies that are not going from strength to strength so they might, in God's time, be able to bring eternal life to other people.

I believe that the head of man is on the Body of Christ today. We are using human reasoning instead of getting our directions from the Spirit of God.

God in His Word has promised that the day is coming when His Glory shall rest on His Church, and that the nations of the earth will come to that Glory. But this cannot be true while the members of His Church are spiritual infants.

Some have suggested that if we keep on adding people, discipleship will take care of itself. It will not. In order for people to grow in Christ they must be ministered to by the several gifts of the Spirit: wisdom, miracles, knowledge, languages, and so forth. There are to be apostles, teachers, and prophets as well as evangelists and pastors.

There are numerous passages in the New Testament that are seldom preached. Paul's exhortation for us to press on to attain to the resurrection is seldom if ever preached. The rest of God, of the fourth chapter of the Book of Revelation is not often emphasized. How often is the doctrine of eternal judgment set forth clearly?

If the whole New Testament is not being preached, how are the believers going to grow in Christ? They are being denied the testimony of the original Apostles and fed with the deductions and reasoning of today's preachers who themselves never were taught the whole counsel of God.

My opinion is that the believers are being fed candy, not strong meat that will bring them to the full stature of Christ.

What do I mean by candy? Lawless grace and escape by rapture. Or how to make a success of life in this world. How to be rich and famous. How to accomplish our own ends by positive thinking. How to use faith to accomplish our goals. How to live by spiritual principles rather than by a continual dialogue with the living Lord Jesus.

This is what I mean by "candy," and none of it, not even the exhortation to go out and "save a lost and dying world," will bring a believer to the unity of the faith and the full stature of Christ.

We must urge people to press forward into an increased knowledge of Christ; to take up their cross of deferred desire and follow Christ at all times, continually seeking His will and giving thanks for our blessings.

Learning about Christ will not bring about the desired result. We must come to know Christ Himself, committing every aspect of our thinking, speaking, and acting to Him. I refer to this as the eternal dialogue.

God's people must be taught the whole New Testament, particularly the writings of the Apostle Paul.

We now are moving toward the spiritual fulfillment of the last three of the major Jewish observances: the Blowing of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the feast of Tabernacles. These follow the spiritual fulfillment of the feast of Pentecost.

The Blowing of Trumpets speaks of the Lord Jesus coming to us to make war against His enemies, beginning with those enemies dwelling and acting in the personalities of the members of His Church.

The Day of Atonement operates as we confess the sins that have been shown to be in us, and to renounce them vigorously.

The feast of Tabernacles refers to the Father, the Son, and the Spirit dwelling in us.

The plan of redemption is moving us toward our becoming the eternal dwelling place of the fullness of God.

When we thus are one in Christ in God, the Holy Spirit will flow out of us toward everyone who is willing to receive Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.

We see, then, that there will be some believers who will survive the distresses of life, going from strength to strength until they appear before God in Mount Zion, which is the heavenly residence of the members of the Church of the Firstborn. These believers will compose the spirits of righteous people made perfect.

They will appear with Christ when He appears. They will work with Him at the task of installing the Kingdom of God on the earth.

It is wonderful that God sees fit to baptize us with His Spirit. The Holy Spirit helps us attain to the full stature of Christ.

But how much more wonderful it is to have God make His home in us. When that is true we shall serve as trees of life for all the people to whom God brings us.

And to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:19)

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. (Revelation 22:2,3)

When we are willing to follow Christ to the fullness of maturity, the people of the nations of the earth can come to us for healing.