Deborah Part 4: Under the Palm Tree
And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time. And she dwelt under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in mount Ephraim: and the children of Israel came up to her for judgment (Judges 4:4,5).
We have established that Deborah’s husband, Lapidoth, is a type of the Lord Jesus Christ making her a type of the Bride of Christ in the end times. This revelation leads us to believe there must be secrets concerning these last days hidden in these passages in Judges just waiting to be discovered. How thrilling it is to be alive and in Christ in this exciting age!
In these verses we will learn more about Deborah’s lifestyle and her relationship to the Lord. We will see that because of this relationship and her life of submission to Christ, she, as a type of the Bride of Christ in the end times, will be exalted into a place of spiritual revelation and experience beyond that of the greatest prophets or even the apostles. Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father” (John 14:12).
Out of our intimate relationship as His bride—because of being so in love with, submitted and yielded to Him—He will be able to move and minister through us in the power and authority He had when He walked among us. This high place will not come easily. It will require giving up our very lives, but, in return, we will find that He truly is our great reward!
Living under a palm tree immediately puts a picture in our minds of a somewhat tropical setting with a tall tree and perhaps a tent or cottage under it, but God’s primary purpose is not to describe the natural terrain to us. He has a spiritual message in all this. As we examine palm trees in Scripture, we will see that the palm tree reveals something about Deborah’s life.
Palm trees are highly regarded throughout the Bible. They were carved on the walls of Solomon’s temple along with figures of cherubim and open flowers. They were also carved on the doors of the temple and overlaid with Gold. We know that this physical temple was but a type or a shadow of a dwelling place for God that would be revealed in the New Testament. Now we are the dwelling place of God, so palm trees are something to be desired in our life.
Psalm 92 reveals that palm trees represent a life of righteousness that flourishes in God. The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those that be planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing; to show that the LORD is upright: he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him. What a wonderful Word of encouragement! When we are like the palm tree, people should be able to know something about God simply by observing our life.
The first biblical reference to palm trees is found in Exodus 15 regarding a place called Elim where the Israelites camped shortly after crossing the Red Sea. They had wandered in the wilderness of Shur for three days finding no water before stopping at a place called Marah. They couldn’t drink the waters of Marah because they were bitter, but the Lord had Moses cast a tree (a type of Christ) into the waters causing them to become sweet. Next they came to Elim where there were twelve wells of water and 70 palm trees, and they camped there.
Most Christians understand that crossing the Red Sea represents our initial salvation experience. The Israelites exuberant rejoicing over this miracle of deliverance from captivity is typical of our own jubilation immediately after the entrance of Christ into our life. Soon, however, our wilderness experience begins as we face the inevitable trials and disappointments of life. Our tendency is to become bitter and angry with God (Marah), but eventually God in His mercy allows us to experience the sweetness of Christ and we move on to Elim.
Apparently they did not stay long at Elim, as it is only briefly mentioned in Scripture. I see this as a type of oasis experience in the midst of the desert of life where God allows us a glimpse of a place we could be in God should we choose to pursue and obey Him. Most of us need a lot more of the desert trials before we come to a level of obedience to stay long in such a place.
The name “Elim” means “strength.” As we shall see, the twelve wells and 70 palm trees are a picture of spiritual strength. Proverbs 16:22 states, Understanding is a well of life to him that hath it. Surely the best way to find true understanding is by digging deeply into the living water of the Word. The 70 palm trees depict lives of perfect spiritual order carried out with all spiritual power and significance (70 as explained by E. W. Bullinger in Number in Scripture). Their roots go down deep enabling them to continuously draw the water of life from the wells. The number twelve speaks of the perfection of the rule of Christ in our lives. These trees of righteousness represent those who know and study the Word and then walk in it daily.
The branches of palm trees were used in building the booths that each Israelite was to dwell in during their celebration of the great yearly feast known as the feast of tabernacles. The Passover feast was a type of salvation, the feast of Pentecost represented the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and the feast of tabernacles is believed by many to be a type of entering into the fullness of Christ, the perfection of love, something yet to come in the life of the Church. Palm branches were brought forth by the people welcoming Jesus as King when he entered Jerusalem at the time of the feast of Passover (John 12).
By putting together all we have learned regarding palm trees, we can briefly summarize by saying they represent a flourishing life of righteousness, love and strength drawn from a deep and abiding relationship with Jesus. This relationship develops through a deep understanding of and obedience to His Word that prepares us to receive Him into our life as our Bridegroom and King.
As we submit our lives under the authority of King Jesus, trusting Him to meet our needs, we will be “in the secret place of the most high under the shadow of the Almighty”—a place we must be in order to be victorious over the forces of evil coming against the Church in these end times.
Christians are being persecuted in other lands; we’ve heard of it most recently in the Middle East. That same persecution is coming to America and is even here at this present time in its beginning stages; soon it will escalate exponentially. We will soon find ourselves ridiculed and despised to the point we will be the blame of all society’s ills!
This persecution and suffering will cleanse the church of all lukewarmness. We will embrace the holiness of Christ and all His ways, or we will leave the faith. We must become as Deborah—dwelling under the palm tree in total dependence on Jesus Christ and fully submitted to His will. As we do so, we will spiritually press into the fullness of Christ until we are eating only from the Tree of Life described in Revelation 22
And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him. And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads.
Between Ramah and Bethel
Jesus has a place of safety for His people in these end times—a very high place upon Mt. Ephraim between Ramah and Bethel. A scriptural examination of these places will reveal some exciting things for the church of the end times. Our spiritual understanding gradually unfolds as we examine the only two possible sources for revelation available to us: the meaning of the names and the biblical history of each one. As we study, we will see that Ramah and Bethel are opposites.
Ramah, in the Hebrew, means “a height (as a seat of idolatry).” This would suggest a place of pride, self-seeking and idol worship not unlike the world (and, sadly, much of the church), as we know it today. The history of Ramah reveals it to be a place of much bickering, fighting and unrest.
On the other hand, Bethel, meaning “house of God,” not only housed the Ark of the Covenant (the presence of God) at the time Deborah judged Israel, but also had a rich spiritual history. It was at Bethel that Jacob dreamed of a ladder that reached up to heaven with the angels of God ascending and descending upon it. Jacob proclaimed that place to be the house of God and the gateway to heaven. God appeared to Jacob at Bethel a second time and there changed his name from Jacob (a schemer and supplanted) to Israel (a prince with God). In later years Bethel became a place of idolatry (spiritual types never remain pure because of the fallen nature of man) but its inception reveals it to be a place of rich fellowship with God and a gateway to heaven.
Deborah, from her position on Mount Ephraim, would have had access to both Ramah (the world with all its pride and prejudice) and Bethel (an open heaven). I believe the Lord is saying to us here that He is going to lift His people up to a high place spiritually where they will still be on earth but will be able to experience an open heaven. Jesus said to Nathanael, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man” (John 1:51). It is only through a deep, abiding relationship with Jesus Christ that we will be able to experience an open heaven.
What is an open heaven? some may ask. A study of heaven reveals that heaven itself is not far away on some distant planet but all around us merely hidden from our sight. It opened briefly at the time of Jesus’ baptism when the Holy Spirit descended upon Him like a dove, and the voice of the Father spoke from heaven saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
Before we will be able to experience the privilege of seeing into the heavenlies, we must be pure in heart because we can only see according to what is in our own heart. Jesus said concerning Nathanael, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” Only when there is no guile (deceit) in us will we be permitted to gaze into that heavenly realm of which we are even now citizens, although our physical eyes and ears are unable to perceive it.
We have all been deceived to some degree about many issues. It takes time, relationship with Jesus and His people, and study of the Word to gradually reveal the lies we have believed about God, life and ourselves—lies that began forming as far back as infancy—for some even in the womb (the lie that I’m not wanted, for example. Our parents may not have wanted us, but God did—and still does!)
Andrew Jukes explains in his book, The New Man and Eternal Life, regarding Jesus’ promise to Nathanel of seeing into the open heaven:
The promise is, first, that man shall henceforth see his long-lost heavenly home. Is it then possible for us here to come to opened heavens? Is not heaven further than the sun; and is it not therefore simply incredible that we should see or hold communion with it? No—Christ’s words are true. We may through Him here enter heaven and enjoy God’s presence as really and fully as His saints of Old, from Adam in Paradise to John in Patmos. Heaven is not far off. Heaven is our home. Nothing but our flesh, with its fallen self-hood and unbelief, hinder our seeing the kingdom which is at hand. For what is heaven but the spirit-world of light, which is lost or shut to the natural man, only because by the fall the life of God is crushed, and spiritual sight and sense are gone, so that man though a spirit is content to live in earthly things, not indeed without cravings for a spirit-home, as every false religion and superstition testify, nor without ceaseless protests, in his yearnings, hopes and fears, nay even in his very dreams, that the outward world is not the only one. For indeed man is a spirit, in a house of clay, and therefore, though he knows it not, is an inhabitant of an inward, as well as of an outward, world. Outwardly indeed, as in the present body and its life, we are in a world lighted only by the sun of nature, but inwardly our spirits even now are in a spirit-world, which only is not opened to the natural man, because to open it to such would be to open the dark world, into which by sin we have fallen. But if by grace man is right with God,–if through Christ he is brought back in spirit from self-will and self-love to trust God,–the opening of the unseen only opens again the world of light and love, which is man’s proper home and true dwelling-place. What therefore will be manifested to each man at his death may be anticipated here, and entered into more or less, just as we live in Christ, and Christ in us. Opening heaven is but opening the inward spiritual world, which mercifully is shut to us till we are restored to peace with God through Christ Jesus.
In addition to Ramah and Bethel, the name “Mount Ephraim” also reveals the concept of our being citizens of earth with an open heaven. According to Holman’s Bible Dictionary, the name, Ephraim, means “two fruit lands” or “two pasture lands.” We will be in a spiritually elevated place living in two lands, earth and heaven, at the same time.
There is even more evidence that this is an end time truth. Both Ramah and Bethel were in Benjamin. Of Jacob’s twelve sons, Benjamin was born last. Rachel was barren while Leah and the maids brought forth ten sons. Then Rachel gave birth to Joseph who is probably the most perfect type of Christ in the entire Old Testament. Leah and the maids represent the law and the sons those who do not know Christ and continue to live under the law as apart from New Testament grace. Once Rachel had Joseph, there was never another son born “under the law.” Joseph’s little brother Benjamin is a type of the end time church that comes into the fullness of Christ. Thanks to our big brother Jesus, we have been born of grace (Rachel) and we receive abundantly more spiritual graces than all the others before us.
When the brothers went to see Joseph in Egypt, Benjamin was kept back at home. He was brought forth last and given special grace and blessing from his older brother. His portion at the table was five times greater than that of his brothers signifying the gifting and power that will be brought forth by the end time church. When the brothers were returning home from their visit with Joseph in Egypt, there came an accusation that one had stolen Joseph’s silver cup. It had been planted in Benjamin’s bag. The great church prepared for the return of Christ will also be required to drink of the cup of suffering even as He did (Bill Britton – His Unlimited Glory). It is only as we experience the deep suffering of the cross that we will be pure in heart—delivered of all guile, all deceit—that we might be transformed into His fullness.