Fast forward from Moses; through the leadership of Joshua while entering the Promised Land, to a period we call the Judges. The children of Israel were faithful to their God, Jehovah, but then would lapse into sin and syncretism with other local religions. God would punish them and they would repent so God would send a “judge” or leader who spoke in God’s name and rescue the people but when the judge died, the people would lapse back into “doing what seemed right in their own eyes.” The book of Judges talks about these leaders and the conflicts of settling the Promised Land.
Deborah, a wife and prophet, was one of those leaders. She “held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went up to her to have their disputes decided.” How interesting. We do not settle our disputes under trees but in courts that look official. Later we will see Boaz settling the marriage to Ruth at the city gate where elders met. But for now the elders sit under a tree and they acknowledge the wisdom of a woman as a God appointed leader.
It is here that God speaks to Deborah about delivering the Israelites from Jabin, king of Canaan, whose army leader was Sisera. Many like this story for it portrays strong, God chosen female leaders … but we are pondering trees. Trees are like silent, impartial witnesses. We carve the initials of our loved one in their bark. We hang swings from their limbs. In the United States we have the story of the “Liberty Tree” that stood in Boston and was the rallying point for colonialists to protest the Stamp Act imposed by the British in 1765. The tree marked the start of the struggle that led to the Revolutionary War and American Independence. Deborah’s tree marks the start of the struggle for independence of the Israelites.
Perhaps you do not sit under a tree to sort your struggles out and seek God’s will. Perhaps you have “your chair” where you go to talk to God. Maybe you journal. I have been known to get in my car and drive or swim laps. We each have ways we handle our disputes, the struggles we are involved with. Violence is a decision that starts “under a tree” as we meditate on our wrongs. It is seldom a helpful solution – but perhaps sometimes necessary. Yes, we live in a fallen world. So what is your tree? Where do you turn when you feel cornered? The important part is not the tree but the search for God’s way in the situation you are involved in.
As you ponder the conflicts you are caught in today, may you find a “tree” to seek advice and God’s will. Blessings.