"(Deborah) sat under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites came up to her for judgment."
Judges 4: 5
"It is not the possession of extraordinary gifts that makes extraordinary usefulness, but the dedication of what we have to the service of God."
Frederick William Robertson
Have I made the "service" of my life accessible to those who need my help and love the most?
"We may think God wants actions of a certain kind, but God wants people of a certain kind."
"So long as you can sweeten another's pain, life is not in vain."
When Jim and I were recovering from our car accident, for nearly two years, we had great difficulty driving. After 12 months in wheelchairs, when I could get around on my feet again, I had to use a walker or cane. Trying to keep up with the necessary "activities of daily living" was difficult, to put it mildly.
For several months, we had our dearest Claire, a lady we hired, who came at 6 a.m. and stayed until 6 p.m. Monday-Friday. But on the weekends, we were on our own.
One Saturday, our friends, David and Sharon and their three young adult sons, called to say, "We're coming to your house this afternoon." There were no if's or and's. They were on their way. And they came with food and energy and cleaning utensils. Before we could say a word, David had the hose out washing off our very dirty patio and cleaning the outdoor furniture. Anything and everything that needed to be done, they did! We were speechless, for this wasn't something they had to do, it was obviously something they wanted to do. Every time I think of that day, my eyes fill with tears because their act of love sprang from hearts that overflowed with Heaven's showers of blessings.
In our text for today, we find that God's daughter, Deborah, who was called by God to be the Judge of Israel at this particular time in history, "dwelt" under the palm tree of Deborah, as it was called. The word "dwelt" in the Hebrew means to "remain, continue and endure."
In our day when we live in a "here-today-gone-tomorrow" world, it really thrills my heart to more clearly understand what the Bible means when it says that Deborah dwelt under the palm. This wasn't some transient moment that she spent under the palm. This was a permanent position. In other words, Deborah was committed to the service of God and His people. She didn't watch the time clock, or in her case, the sun. Deborah placed God's service at the forefront of her life. She said, "I will endure here." What makes this so important is that a dedicated commitment by Deborah; her faithfulness in being where God wanted her to be each day; and her love for the people of Israel, gave confidence to all of the Israelites. This woman became the catalyst that unlocked the chains of repression by Sisera and his army.
And this lady was able to do what God wanted her to because when He called her, she "dwelt" or "endured" doing what He asked!
The great preacher John Wesley penned these words:
"Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can."
My favorite part of today's text is that palm tree was named after the place Deborah dwelt – the place where she endured in service for others.
Several months ago, my husband and I drove past the place where my grandpa had a medical clinic for over 40 years. While the building where his office was is long gone, along the street is a row of stately palm trees he planted over 60 years ago. As I looked at those trees, I thought of all the years of service he gave in that community, taking care of anybody and everybody as a family physician. Everyone loved, "Doc" and I can remember at his funeral, although it had been a few years after he retired from his medical practice, patient after patient walked by his casket, weeping for the doctor who cared for them. Many a time, when I was home for summer vacation from Nursing School and I would work relief for his office nurses while they were on vacation, Grandpa would take the invoice that was attached to the patient's chart and write: "No charge." Finally, I said to him, "How are you going to pay the bills if you do so much work for free?" He just gave me his little smile and said, "I've never gone hungry yet."
Today, when I see that row of palm trees, the first word that comes to mind is service. Like Deborah, my grandpa dwelt in the land. He endured. He was available. He was accessible. And God sent Him those who needed his help the most.
My favorite poet, Emily Dickinson, penned these words that are my prayer today:
"If I can stop one heart from breaking
I shall not live in vain.
If I can ease one life the aching
Or cool one pain
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again
I shall not live in vain."
As I was studying about Deborah and the tree that was called the "palm tree of Deborah," I got to thinking, "What if the street I live on was known as the 'street of Dorothy' because everyone knew that because I dwelt there, I made their life better? What a legacy we, as God's daughters, can leave wherever we are by dwelling and enduring in service for our God.
"Go, labour on; spend and be spent
Thy joy to do the Father's will;
It is the way the Master went;
Should not the servant tread
"My God, I am not my own but Yours,
Take me for Your own,
and help me in all things
to do Your holy will.
My God, I give myself to You,
in joy and sorrow,
in sickness and in health,
in success and in failure,
in life and in death,
in time and for eternity.
Make me and keep me Your own;
through Jesus Christ our Lord."