David casts a glimpse here at those pilgrims who were taking their upward journey to worship God in Zion. He marks their road, and takes occasion to spiritualize it; for he says, "In whose heart," in whose experience, in whose soul, "are the ways" of these pilgrims Zionward.
What are these "ways?" It is this, that "passing through the valley of Baca, they make it a well." This valley of Baca appears to have been a very perilous pass, through which pilgrims journeyed toward Jerusalem; and on account of the difficulties, dangers, and sufferings that they met with, it was named "the valley of Baca," or "the valley of weeping," "the vale of tears."
But the Psalmist says, "Blessed is the man in whose heart are the ways of them, who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well." Here is the distinctive character of the true pilgrim. Not that he is journeying merely through the "valley of Baca;" not that his eyes are drowned in tears; not that his heart is filled with sorrows; not that his soul is cut with temptations; not that his mind is tried by suffering. But this is his distinctive feature—he "makes it a well." This the ungodly know nothing of; this the professing world, for the most part, are entirely unacquainted with; but this is the secret which "no fowl knoweth, and which the vulture's eye hath not seen."
One feature of the "valley of Baca" was, that the burning sun above, and the parched ground beneath, at the time of year when the pilgrims travelled, made the whole valley arid and dry. But "they made it a well." There were wells dug in this valley of Baca for the pilgrims to slake their thirst at. And David, looking at these wells dug for the pilgrims, applies them spiritually to the refreshment that the Lord's people meet with in their course Zionward. "Make it a well;" that is, there are from time to time sweet refreshments in this valley of tears; there are bubblings up of divine consolation; there are fountains of living waters, streams of heavenly pleasures.
I remember a friend of mine telling me, that once while journeying through one of the deserts in Asia, he and his companions came to a well; and their disappointment when they found the well was dry he said no language could depict; their grief and trouble when, after hours' travelling, they came at night to encamp by the well, and found that the sun had dried it up, were indeed most acute. As, therefore, none but pilgrims through the dry and parched valley could adequately feel the sweetness of the natural well; so none but spiritual pilgrims, afflicted, exercised, and harassed, can appreciate the sweetness of the "pure water of life" with which the Lord at times refreshes the soul.