Jesus Is Our Palm Tree
Text: Revelation 7:9-17 Speaker: Pastor Matthew Ude Festival: Easter Passages: Revelation 7:9-17
Full Service Video
A Great Multitude from Every Nation (Listen)
9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
15 “Therefore they are before the throne of God,
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;
the sun shall not strike them,
nor any scorching heat.
17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Friday after we took Kaylee to her appointments in Madison, Vanessa and I stopped at Yellowstone Lake State Park. We were thinking perhaps we would go camping there for a few days later this summer. It was not a good day to think about camping. I generally like camping but standing out in the heat and humidity this last Friday and looking at that campsite, the thought of camping seemed miserable, especially when compared to our air-conditioned house.
In our text this morning we see Jesus as the good shepherd who leads his people through the hot wilderness into the His air-conditioned home of heaven.
In Revelation chapter 6 John has seen the first six seals being opened and there was a lot of bad things in those six seals. The first four were horses that caused death and inflation and war. The fifth was the souls of the martyred saints. The sixth was an earthquake which caused the sky to fall.
Looking at all that death and destruction, looking at that wilderness of suffering John might have wondered, “Who can make it through all this suffering? “
Yet in chapter seven we see a great multitude the Jesus has led through the wilderness and brought safely to heaven. Here is a great multitude which no one can number of every nation, and ethnicity, and speaking every language. It is not just Israelites, not just Germans, not just white people, but people from every culture and nation. The Good Shepherd has brought them out of the heat into paradise.
The Israelite people had three major festivals that God commanded them to celebrate. We are most familiar with the Passover, and most of us probably at least know the name of the second one, Pentecost. The third is probably the one we are least familiar with, the festival of booths.
This festival happened after the harvest had been gathered in, the Israelites would go to Jerusalem and make booths or tents, temporary structures made from living tree branches. They were to use branches that still had green leaves on them. Historians tell us how all of Jerusalem would turn green as people built these booths on house tops and in the streets and all-around Jerusalem.
The festival of booths was a festival giving thanks for the harvest, but it was also a giving of thanks to God that He had lead them through the wilderness and brought them to the promised land where they could grow and harvest their crops every year. It was a reminder of camping in the hot miserable wilderness and giving thanks to their Shepherd for bringing them out of the wilderness to the promised land.
It is not surprising than that Revelation chapter seven is filled with reference to the festival of booths. Or rather we should say that the festival of booths is filled with symbols of the reality that we see here in Revelation chapter seven. This is the real festival of booths. God’s people giving thanks that our Great Shepherd led them out of the wilderness, the great tribulation, and gave them rest and shade in paradise.
The Shepherd Give Us Shade
One of the similarities between Revelation Seven and the festival of booths is the use of palm branches symbolizing the shade which God gives His people.
If you are wandering in the desert and you see a palm tree, what does that mean for you? It means shade and water. It is probably the best thing you could hope to see in a desert, other than a Dairy Queen. Palm trees give shade from the sun, but even more aptly palm trees give shade in the wilderness.
After escaping from the Egyptians, the Israelites camped under 70 palm trees.
Exodus 15:27 Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve wells of water and seventy palm trees; so they camped there by the waters.
The palm trees gave them shade in the wilderness.
In Leviticus they are specifically commanded to use the palm trees when celebrating the festival of booths as a reminder of this shade the Lord gave them in the wilderness.
Leviticus 23:40 `And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days.
When Solomon built the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem he covered it, walls and doors with figures of palm trees. No doubt such decoration was a remind to the people that here at the temple is where you can find shade and rest.
And of course, when Jesus rode into Jerusalem they met Him with palm branches, thereby professing Him to be their King and the one who would give them shade and rest.
In our text the great multitude praise the Lamb with palm branches, proclaiming that He is the Good Shepherd who gives His people rest.
In verse 16 we read, “the sun will not strike them by day, nor any heat.”
Jesus is our Good Shepherd who gives us shade. He gives us shade now while we are still in the wilderness and will give us greater perfect shade when we finally make it to heaven.
One of the first things that we do when the sun is too hot is to seek whatever shade we can find. If we can we go into the AC house. If that isn’t available hopefully we can find a good shade tree or at least put a hat on. When things get too hot for us emotionally, mentally, or spiritually how important it is to seek shade in Jesus.
Just the other day I was talking to one of the members, about opening up his bible. Read Psalm 46 or Psalm 23 or the book of Philippians or some other favorite passage. Spend some time in prayer and meditation. These things will refresh your soul.
We know that yet we are often so reluctant to do that. Get a cover for your bible with a palm tree on it, to reminder you that here our Good Shepherd offers shade from the heat of this wilderness.
The Shepherd Gives Us Pure Water
Another similarity between our text and the festival of booths is the use of water.
Part of the festival of booths was the outpouring of the water. They would draw water from the pool of Siloam and they would pour it out into a silver basin. On the last day while they were pouring out the water they would read from Isaiah 12.
Isaiah 12:3-6 3 Therefore with joy you will draw water From the wells of salvation. 4 And in that day you will say: “Praise the LORD, call upon His name; Declare His deeds among the peoples, Make mention that His name is exalted. 5 Sing to the LORD, For He has done excellent things; This is known in all the earth. 6 Cry out and shout, O inhabitant of Zion, For great is the Holy One of Israel in your midst!”
It was during this day, possibly this very event that Jesus proclaimed:
John 7:37 37 On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.
Jesus is the Good Shepherd who pours out water for His people, as our text says “the Lamb will lead them to living waters.” Our Good Shepherd leads us to fresh clean living water.
Two things that I especially look for at a campsite are shade and water. There is a campground south of La Crosse where you can camp right on the Mississippi.
But of course, not all water is equal. Camping on the Mississippi is one thing, camping next to a stagnate pond that breeds mosquitoes is quite another.
Some water is clean and pure, some water is obviously filthy, and other water looks clean but has nasty unseen viruses swimming around in it. Once you have learned about some of the things that live in the rivers of Africa you don’t want to go anywhere near those rivers no matter how clean they look.
Words are like water, some words are obviously filthy and evil, but other words look good and clean yet have nasty viruses living in it. It is only God’s word which is pure and clean. This is why it is so important to be careful who you take advice from. A lot of people in the world give good sounding advice, even a lot of Christians give good sounding advice but do not realize the sinful viruses lurking under the surface.
Things like “it’s better to live together before marriage to see if you are compatible,” or “God wants you to be happy.” Such words sound good but are actually teaming with sin.
Jesus our Good Shepherd leads us only to pure clean water. As Jesus said in our Gospel reading “My sheep hear MY voice.”
The Shepherd Dwells Among Us
Another aspect of camping is who you go with. Going by yourself sounds dull and boring, although some might like it. Go with good friends or family and you’ll have a good time no matter how hot it gets. Imagine if J. R. R. Tolkien or J. K. Rowling came with and told stories over the campfire.
Here in our text the Lamb himself dwells in their midst.
When the Israelites were in the wilderness they lived in tents and the tabernacle of God was at the very center. This would have been replicated every year at the feast of booths when their tents were surrounding the temple in Jerusalem. God was in His temple in the midst of them. Here also the Lamb, their shepherd, dwells in the midst of them.
The Shepherd Leads His People
The elder asks the most important question of all time when he asks “who are these?”
Who are these who have rest and shade and clean pure water? Who are these who have Jesus as their Good Shepherd? Who are these in the midst of whom Jesus himself dwells?
They made it out of the wilderness of this life not by their own strength, or intelligence or good deeds. They made it through because the Good Shepherd was their guide and brought them through.
They became the sheep of the Good Shepherd, not because their lives were clean and pure, but because their robes were dipped in the blood of the Lamb.
These were sinners like us, men and women who committed murder and adultery and theft. Their lives were stained by greed and covetousness, yet now they are white because they turned to Jesus and were washed in His blood. He died for our sins and we are forgiven through Him.
He is the Good Shepherd who not only leads us to shade and living water, but even gave His life for the sheep. Amen