Flourish Like the Palm

Flourish Like the Palm

The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree, he will grow like a cedar in Lebanon” (Ps. 92:12).

It was another day in the life of the Israelites in the desert. They were hot, tired, and grouchy. They had quite a habit of murmuring and complaining against Moses and God when things didn’t go their way. Apparently, the miracles God performed on their behalf were easily forgotten. God had never failed them, yet they did not remember this when they encountered trouble. They were quick to complain.

At the Red Sea in Exodus 14, He delivered them from Pharaoh and his chariots. In Exodus 15, the Israelites sang one of the most holy, ancient songs in honor and glory to God’s name. However, they were quick to forget that most holy song when they came to the wilderness of Shur. After three days in the wilderness they could not find water. They grumbled against Moses, he called on the Lord, and He provided water. The Lord then led them to Marah, where there was water, but it was bitter and not drinkable. “So the people grumbled at Moses, saying, ‘What shall we drink?’ Then he cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree; and he threw it into the waters, and the waters became sweet” (Exod. 15: 24-25 NASB).

In all their wanderings God had never abandoned them, yet they quickly forgot all the wonders He performed for them. This is how the enemy attacks us still today. When we are suffering, he wants us to believe that God’s promises have failed, and that He won’t help us. But don’t be ignorant of the enemy’s schemes (2 Cor. 2:11). Even Jesus had to suffer—before the cross. He was sent into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. Jesus’ weapons were obedience to the leading of the Holy Spirit to go into the wilderness, and knowing God’s Word. He fought the devil with the truth of God’s promises. He defended Himself against the twisted version the devil used in his attempt to turn Jesus away from the Father. What we need to remember is that God does not always save us from trouble, but He saves us in the midst of trouble. This lesson is so important for us. When we have trials and suffering, let’s not be quick to complain as the Israelites did, but rather be quick to trust Him. God warns us not to complain as they did, saying, “That is why I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.’ So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’ See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God” (Heb. 3:10-12 NIV). When we trust Him, and abide in His Word—as Jesus did—He will give us rest from our enemies.

It was in the place of Israel’s deep need that He made a covenant with them, even though they grumbled at Him. He said, “If you will give earnest heed to the voice of the LORD your God, and do what is right in His sight, and give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians; for I, the LORD, am your healer” (Ex.15:26 NASB). He made a covenant with them, and revealed Himself to them as Jehovah Rophe, their healer. Though sometimes God may order His people to camp beside bitter waters, He will also bring them to a place of abundance; at Elim they had good water in abundance. The bitter waters were not the final destination for the Israelites, and we must remember that we too, are saved from destruction and delivered from our enemies. This should encourage us to not faint in our tribulations. It is in our trials that God reveals Himself to us as our healer and deliverer. 

Then they came to Elim where there were twelve springs of water and seventy date palms, and they camped there beside the waters” (Exod. 15:27 NASB)

I love this last verse in chapter fifteen. After the many trials and admonitions, He brought them to a place of rest, a beautiful grove with twelve springs and seventy date palms. They must have been ashamed for their murmuring when they arrived at Elim, because He abundantly provided for them. He led them to twelve springs—one for each tribe, and the seventy palms trees growing so richly showed them the blessing, growth, and fruitfulness that comes with abiding in Him. Though the place He brought them to was refreshing, He had much more in store for them. If they remained obedient and trusted Him to lead them to the Promised Land, a much grander rest awaited. 

 The language of twelve and seventy is purposefully written by the Holy Spirit in all His wisdom. The imagery and symbolism is amazing. Twelve speaks to the twelve tribes, and seventy is the number of the families of Jacob that went down to Egypt from Canaan. These were reminders of where they came from and where they were headed. These symbolic numbers are also in the New Testament. Jesus chose twelve disciples, and He sent out the seventy as His harbingers for the Gospel (Lk. 10:1).

Water and palm trees are both symbolic in Scripture. Water was used in the tabernacle in the wilderness for the priests to wash in the brazen laver, before they could minister before the Lord. This is symbolic of the believer being washed by the water of the Word (Eph. 5:26). Water is refreshing—Jesus offers Living Water to those who thirst (Jn. 4:14).

Palms are a symbol of victory and perseverance. Palm trees are known for their endurance in the heat and in storms. Their trunks are flexible enough to bend almost all the way over as though they will break, yet they withstand the worst of storms. Palm roots go very deep and dig below the surface to find water for nourishment. They were very important in the lives of the Hebrew people, who used every part of the tree. The fruit provided food and refreshment; the smaller leaves were used to make baskets and other household items, and the large ones were used for roofs and sides of houses. They were also used to build their booths during the Feast of Tabernacles (Lev. 23:40; Neh. 8:15). The trunk was a source of lumber and the seeds were used to feed their animals. With the palms, God supplied all their needs (Phil. 4:19) when He brought them to Elim.

Palms are also used in Scripture in worship to the Lord. King Solomon engraved the palm tree throughout his Temple (1 Kings 6:29-35), and they are frequently mentioned in Ezekiel’s vision (Ezek. 40-41). In John 12:13, the people worshiped Jesus and “took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him, and began to shout, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel’” (NASB). The palms are also significant in the book of Revelation where a multitude worship the Lord with palms: “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb’” (Rev. 7: 9-10 NASB). Water and palms are frequently used to represent covenant, refreshing, rest, and worship.

Significant mention of the palm tree is made in Judges chapters 4-5. Deborah, the only female judge mentioned in the times of the judges, sat under a palm tree to judge Israel. It was under the palm that the people received the Word of the Lord and wise counsel; “she was as exceptional as the palm tree in her land which was later named after her.”[1]

Deborah’s palm tree was located in Mt. Ephraim, and rested between Bethel and Ramah. Bethel was a city long associated with covenant; it means literally the “House of God.” Ramah was known as the “City of Weeping.” When God’s people cry out to Him, He hears them, and Yahweh, the covenant God, delivers them. This is His promise.

He led them to Elim to remind them of His covenant with them, and to give them rest. God promises the same to us. He does not promise that we will not suffer bitter waters, but He does promise that when we abide in Him, He will give us rest.

I pray that when you see the palm tree that you will remember God’s promise in Psalm 92:12, that when you abide in Him, you will persevere through hard times, find rest, and flourish like the palm.

[1]Gien Karsen, Her Name Is Woman, Book Two (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1977), 90.





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