Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. Psalm 84:5
The quarter acre between the back of Cades Baptist Church and the old Atlantic Coastline Railroad was shrouded in tall pines and thick with bushes and briers. But from the northeast corner, running diagonal and not always straight, to the middle of the western side, ran a well-worn path. It had been beaten into submission by four hooligans of whom I was one. The northeastern exit spilled into the backyard of the Young household where you could find one of the greatest drawing cards of boys ever made, a basketball goal. The western exit brought you to the most sacred of places for a young boy, a lonely stretch of railway. The smell of tar and diesel along with an endless supply of rocks was enough to bring tears to your eyes. I often met the other hooligans there when, for reasons I could never understand, I was not allowed to go ‘across the tracks’ for a spell. I think they call it ‘on restriction’ in these latter days.
In the course of time, the church cleared that little quarter acre and the path could no longer be seen, for everything was open under the canopy of those pine trees. The last time I passed through Cades, it appeared that this tiny piece of the holy land had come full circle. It was thick with vegetation and looked impossible to navigate. If I could take you there, I could show you where the path was, but not where it is. For it is no more. The only way we would know it is because the path is written in my heart and in my mind.
Psalm 84 is the record of a soul longing to return to the Temple of God. He would trade a thousand days anywhere for just one day in the courts of the Lord. He would swap the presidency of the universe for opening the door for another thirsty soul to enter that sacred place. His whole life was on edge until he could return and join the throng who were gathered and praising the Lord.
If the psalmist could take us by the hand today and lead us to the place of his heart’s desire, we would arrive in Jerusalem only to see where it was, not where it is. For it is no more. Perhaps the psalmist would be sad for a season at what had passed. But the truth of his own words would soon come back to him. Blessed are those “in whose heart are the highways to Zion.” God had given him something far richer than a temple in this world. God had cut a path in his heart.
No temple of this world is the final destiny of the children of God. His people gather in specially constructed buildings and make-do storefronts, in living rooms and rice paddies. But if the people of God lose every gathering place they know tomorrow, the path to God’s sacred place cannot be taken from them. It is written in their hearts and it leads straight to the heart of God. You can always recognize it. The entry is marked by a cross.
John 3:16. What a Savior!