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The other day my husband and I were discussing the Biblical account of Zaccheus. You remember, he’s the “wee, little man” who climbed up in the sycamore tree to see Jesus (Luke 19). As we were talking, he told me about a discovery that he had made recently. He said that the name “sycamore” actually meant “rebirth”. So, when Zaccheus chose to climb that sycamore tree, he was actually choosing to be in a place where rebirth could occur. In those first steps to find Jesus, he was trying to draw nigh to God and we know from James 4:8 that when we draw nigh to God, He’ll draw nigh to us. He just can’t help Himself. It’s who He is.
This discussion led me to look up every time the word sycamore was used in the Bible. What I found was so neat! There are eight occurrences in the Bible regarding sycamore trees and almost every single one refers to where they were grown. They were grown in the land of Judah in a place called Shephelah. It just so happens that Shephelah is in the lowlands, actually it is the term used for the whole region of the lowlands. In First Kings 10:27, it says, “The king made silver as common as stones in Jerusalem, and he made cedars as plentiful as sycamore trees that are in the lowland.” Other references to where they are grown are in First Chronicles 27:28, Second Chronicles 1:15, and Second Chronicles 9:27. The fact that sycamores are grown in the lowlands reminded me that rebirth can only happen when we humble ourselves, when we are willing to seek God’s face in meekness and when we are willing be in the lowlands.
I think that Christians and non-christians alike don’t enjoy being in the lowlands of life. We would just rather not be anywhere that is not a mountain top experience. We all like to be riding high on life. The lowlands? No, thank you. We are fine on the mountain. When we do have a lowland experience, we want to run through it quickly, but we want to meander as slowly as possible when we are on the mountain.
In studying the geography of the lowlands I found that “the Shephelah was a zone of low, rolling foothills separating the high, rugged hill country of Judah from the flat, open coastal plain. The heavy runoff from the western slopes of the hill country flows into a series of six broad, shallow valleys furrowed into the soft limestone of the Shephelah, each of which is a focal point of rich, agricultural life. Historically, the Shephelah as a whole, and its six valleys in particular, has been a buffer zone between the hill country and the coast…” The Rose Then and Now Bible Map goes on to say that people in the Shephelah were more rural and conservative than on either side, but “the Shephelah, a true land between was desired by both.”
Even though the Shephelah was in the lowlands, it was desired because of the agriculture, because of the fruit it was capable of bearing. I pray that is how we begin to look at our lowlands, as places of rich fruit. The mountains are beautiful yes, but its climate is not conducive to growing much of anything. Have you ever seen huge fields of wheat, or a massive grove of fruit trees growing on the side of a mountain? Not usually. But, in the lowlands of the Shephelah there is rich agriculture. Everyone wanted the Shephelah region due to the yield that it was capable of producing. We should desire our lowlands as well knowing that in those places God can till and tend and grow fruit that we never dreamed possible. John 15:8 tells us, “By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.” If fruit is in the lowlands, that’s where we want to be. When we understand the ministry of the lowlands, we find that they are places of replenishment, of rekindling and a place to develop a deeper level of trust in the Lord. The lowlands can be tough, but they are places of rebirth where everything has the possibility of change. The lowlands provide a feeding of our soul that otherwise would be missed if we were only on the mountains.
An amazing example of fruit in the lowlands are the early Christians in the book of Acts. The word fruit, or fruitful, is only mentioned twice, but these words don’t even have the same meaning as the fruit we are after. The book of Acts doesn’t have to say the word fruit for it to be obvious that a massive harvest was being produced. The Christians in the book of Acts were definitely in the lowlands physically speaking. They were being ridiculed, thrown in jail, beaten and even killed for the cause of Christ, but the fruit they bore was remarkable. In fact, their lowland experience is still bearing fruit today. They took advantage of it and put it to work for the Kingdom of God. Let’s be willing to do the same.
Psalm 25:10 says, “All the paths of the LORD are lovingkindness and truth to those who keep His covenant and His testimonies.” Let’s take God at His Word and be thankful for every path that He leads us to. Let’s not run through our lowlands as quickly as possible, but absorb every moment, every lesson and every opportunity to bear fruit. Before you know it we will be headed to the mountain once again with a bag full of fruit, shallowness of soul gone forever and a richer trust in the Lord than we ever thought possible. So, let’s be thankful for the lowands!