I love the story of Deborah for a few months now. Morgan and I preached about her two years ago (you can listen in here), and Deborah has not fallen from my mind since. Is it weird to think about a Biblical woman this much? I hope not.
Deborah was a prophet and the leader of Israel during the time of the Judges. In a patriarchal society, in which women were not given many rights at all, Deborah rose to a kind of influence and leadership of unparalleled greatness. With Barak alongside her battling their oppressive enemies, she led Israel into forty years of peace.
She has gotten in my bones, you guys. Deborah arises in my life every time I think of her.
Deborah’s story began with her location. She sat under a palm tree, and the people came to her for justice. The palm tree was where her wisdom sorted out the unfairness of life and doled out righteous and caring solutions to people’s problems.
Location, location, location.
Ever since the pandemic narrowed the boundaries of our lives, we’ve all sat under our palm trees an awful lot. I tire of my own palm tree some days. I’ve become a tiny bit obsessed with Instagram videos and photos of South Africa, Italy, Switzerland, and remote islands.
I like to show these beautiful places to my husband and say, “If people can live THERE, why do we have to live HERE?”
He usually just shrugs and offers to do the dishes while I soak in a hot bath and think about the metaphorical palm tree we live under.
Palm trees, after all, are the places God has given us influence. They are places God has asked all of us to sit and let our gifts and talents be used to increase his love and truth in the world. In the pandemic, there we have access to fewer of them, but they’re still here.
Palm trees with friends.
Palm trees with drive-through/curbside workers.
Palm trees in our families.
Palm trees on social media.
Palm trees in our churches.
Palm trees at our kitchen tables, on our phones, in our schools.
To arise as Deborah did, we show up faithful in those places. We listen to God’s voice; love well; speak the truth; walk humbly; offer mercy.
That’s all easy to type, but it isn’t easy to do. The work we do under our palm trees is messy and vulnerable.
I once worked with a guy in Los Angeles who told me that palm trees weren’t native to the LA area. All the big palm trees lining our streets in Southern California were planted at the same time. He said they would probably all fall over at the same time.
These spiritual palm trees of ours are native, though. God has never stopped planting them over us. He made us for this work, to lead well and bring peace to his people. We don’t have to be afraid our palm trees will collapse or that we will fail to find a place God can use us.
I hope you show up under your palm tree today. I pray the Holy Spirit arises in you and you can’t help but offer the world a kind of mercy and justice that sets hearts ablaze with God’s love.
Somehow, all those thousands of years before Christ, Deborah knew God was a rescuer. She knew she was valuable and beloved, despite what her culture might have told her. Deborah was aware of our propensity for foolishness as humans, and that God sought one thing only: to set his people free and give them lasting peace. She knew he would do miracles to perform his will and all that was left was for his people to follow him faithfully.
So go ahead find your palm tree. All the world is waiting to see what God will do because you show up.
Let peace and justice reign forever and ever, amen.
P.S. Someday, I hope we all get to see Switzerland in person.