Last week, we discovered that the word sycamore actually means rebirth. We talked about how more fruit can be born in the lowlands than on the mountains and how we need to embrace our lowland experiences.
This week, I want us to talk about some things to be aware of when we are in the midst of a lowland experience. Some warnings, if you will.
Warning number one: Lowlands must be defeated just like the mountains.
In my own life, I realize that the mountains in my life must be conquered, but often I just try to survive a lowland experience. Who can think about conquering a land when you are barely breathing through it? But, in the Old Testament, Joshua left nothing undone. He led the children of Israel to have victory over every terrain. Joshua 11:15 says, “Just as the LORD had commanded Moses his servant, so Moses commanded Joshua, and so Joshua did; he left nothing undone of all that the LORD had commanded Moses. Thus Joshua took all the land: the hill country and all the Negev, all that land of Goshen, the lowland, the Arabah, the hill country of Israel and its lowland…” Joshua recognized that the lowlands were just as important to defeat as the highlands. We need to do the same.
Warning number two: There are real, actual enemies in our lowlands.
Joshua 9:1 and 2 says, “Now it came about when all the kings who were beyond the Jordan, in the hill country and in the lowlands and on all the coast of the Great Sea toward Lebanon, the Hittite and the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite, heard of it, that they gathered themselves together in one accord to fight with Joshua and with Israel.” What did all these kings hear about? They heard about Israel claiming the ground that the Lord had already given them. We must not be surprised when the kingdom of darkness notices our victories. If we start having victory in one area, every other area will likely feel like it’s getting hit with a two-by-four (spiritually speaking, of course). That’s the way our enemy works. The neat thing about this though is that many enemies are able to be defeated at once! Our God is definitely able to do that. He says in Matthew 19:26, “…With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
We must remember though that sometimes the enemy in our lowland experience is ourselves. Hebrews 12:10-11 says, “…He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” So, in looking at enemies in the lowlands, I must ask myself if my lowland experience is my own doing. If so, I John 1:9 assures us that when we confess, He forgives.
Real enemies are in our lowlands, but the Lord can defeat every, single one just as He did for the children of Israel. Be encouraged that our God is stronger than our enemies whether it’s one, or one hundred.
Warning number three: Don’t get stuck in the lowlands!
When we are in a lowland experience, we must keep making progress. Imperfect progress it may be (as Lysa Terkeurst calls it), but progress just the same. Psalm 78:47 says, “He destroyed their vines with hailstones and their sycamore trees with frost.” You remember from last week that sycamore trees were grown in the lowlands and here we see that God sent frost on the trees. Not good. This means that any fruit that was on the sycamore trees, any seeds, any sycamore figs were now rendered useless. We must remember that if we refuse to keep making progress in our lowlands, the fruit that was so hard fought for and won will eventually be killed with frost. Think about all the Christians you know who used to be active in a church body, but now grief, bitterness, unforgiveness, or anger has festered so deep that all we see now is a frosted over, hard shell of a Christian. It’s so sad, isn’t it? No one remembers the former fruit. They just see frost. Let’s not allow that to happen to us. Proverbs 4:25 and 26 says, “Let your eyes look directly ahead, and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you. Watch the path of your feet, and all your ways will be established.”
Frost is hard to cultivate on a moving object. Let’s keep moving, people!
Last Warning: Don’t despise what the lowlands represent.
The lowlands represent humility, subjection, rebirth and renewal for us. Let’s be honest, that just doesn’t sound like a great time. We want the mountain. We want the breeze blowing through our hair and on our faces. The lowlands sound like hard work. They sound like a fight. They sound like… submission.
Isaiah 9:9 and 10 tells us that the hearts of the people were arrogant. They wanted cedars in place of sycamores. They didn’t want a humble, fruitful tree. They wanted cedar trees instead. They wanted tall, straight, no weaknesses showing, imposing cedar trees. We have that tendency as well. We don’t actually say it out loud, but we do want people to notice us. We want them to notice our progress. We want people to see how strong we are, or at least, how strong we want to be. We just want a few honorable mentions. After all, sycamores are only mentioned 8 times in the Bible, but cedars are mentioned 75. Wouldn’t it be better to be a cedar?
Dangerous thinking, isn’t it? We need to allow God to remind us that all glory goes to Him. All honor should be placed on Him. We can’t make it one step without Him, so He deserves every single ounce of praise. Cedars were in the Temple, sycamores were not. We often find ourselves wanting just a spot in the Temple. We understand people come to worship God, but we wouldn’t mind if someone happened to “ooh” and “aww” over how strong we are, how majestic, how faithful. We don’t want the whole Temple, just one, little bitty spot. Surely God is okay with that? I assure you He is not. He deserves our complete focus. He deserves every fiber of our being to be in full on praise to Him.
So, let’s remember that our lowlands have to be defeated just like any other area of our lives. Let’s remember our enemies are real, but God can and will give us victory over those enemies. Let’s remember to keep moving and not get stuck in the lowlands and let’s get humble before God and not despise what our lowlands represent. I promise not to notice if you appear to be a sycamore, or a cedar. I promise to keep my eyes on the Lord and I pray you will do the same.