Jentezen Franklin - Willows And Palms
I want to talk to you for just a few moments from Leviticus 23. If you've got it, verse 40. "And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the branches of leafy trees, willows of the brook; and you will rejoice", everybody say rejoice, "before the Lord your God for seven days". This scripture caught my attention because it is a strange instruction that God gave His people during one of the feasts, the feast of tabernacles. The high priest was to go into the presence of God with two things in his hands, one in one hand, one in the other.
God said, "When you come in during this feast to represent the people, high priest, I want you to have in one hand a palm branch. And in the other hand, I want you to have a willow". We would call it a weeping willow branch. "And I want you to come and rejoice before Me with both of these branches, one in one hand, one in the other hand, and I want you to rejoice before me". What a strange instruction. It shows us the mixture of life in these two branches because the palm tree represents prosperity. It represents victory. It represents success. It represents joy.
When I think of a palm tree, I think of sunshine, I think of happy days, I think of good times, I think of the beach. Come on. I think of spring break. I think of good things. I think of, you know, the happy times of life. That's why they were waving the palm branches, because in Jewish culture, back then, it represented victory, victory. And so it's powerful, good, wonderful, happy things that are happening. But then, on the other hand, you have the weeping willow branch which represents weeping. I mean, when you see a weeping willow tree, it looks like tears. It looks like it's flowing, it's crying, it's bent over. It represents distress and looks like weeping and sad times and trials and adversity.
And what's astonishing about this instruction is one represents health, one represents sickness; one represents prosperity, one represents destitute and struggling and need. And what I love about it is that's really how life is, that life is constantly either one of those limbs or the other. You're either having palm days at this particular season that I'm talking to you right now or you're having willow days where tears are flowing and things are tough and it's hard. And I just want to remind you that you're not going to have palm tree life, the palm tree life all the time. You've got to learn to worship with a willow and palm. Because whether you're in good times, bad times, palm days, or weeping willow days, here's the key, God is the same.
God does not change because we're in a different time. He's faithful. His goodness is all the time. His blessings are all the time. And He said, "Come in and rejoice before Me because I don't take My favor from you when you go through the bad times. You don't have any more of Me than you had when you were in the good times 'cause I'm not just a God of the good times and the hills and the mountains. I'm the God of the valleys and the tears and the weeping. I'm there all the time". Everybody praise Him just a moment for the willow and the palm. Hallelujah.
You know, God puts palm days in our life. Just sometimes it's just going good. I wonder how many of you are in palm days right now; just good things happening. You don't really have anything to complain about. That's right. See, some of y'all just barely raised your hand. I said how many of you are in palm days right now? Let me see. Look at there. How many of you are in palm days? Well, you're not supposed to be reserved in your palm days. You're not supposed to be quiet about it in your palm days. Man, life is so crazy that I've learned that when it's good and things are going good and the marriage is good and the children are good, my health is good and the church is good, I'm going to rejoice. Don't tell me to quiet down. We need to celebrate the good times.
When you're having palm days, be happy about it. Rejoice about it. And here's why, because Isaiah 15:7 said, "They who have abundance shall carry it away to the brook of the willows". That means that you can start out with a palm branch, but it's a matter of time before you get a willow. Isn't that a good picker upper today? It's the truth. This is life. This is the world we live in. And if you're only going to be happy and rejoice when you've got palm days, you're not going to be rejoicing a whole lot. But if you ever learn the secret of "I'll praise Him in the good times and in the bad times; in the willow days, in the palm days". God's good all the time. He said, "Come to Me. Come to Me".
There are two times when you're most vulnerable. Number one, when you've got nothing. Number two, when you've got everything. That's when you're most vulnerable. And just because you're having willow days, if you're having them and you're going through tears and sorrow and maybe your children or something's going on in your family, your home, your finances, your health seems to be, you know, fading from you and struggling physically. Just because you're going through willow days, this is a great lesson in this, it does not mean you're out of the will of God, and you're certainly not out of the presence of God.
Sometimes we equate, you know, happy days and blessings and successes and prosperity to being with God. But notice that God is trying to teach us that "you're with Me not just when good things are happening in your life but when doors shut and when you lose your job and when you get a bad doctor's report. I'm the same God. Come with all of it and rejoice that I'll never leave you and I'll never forsake you and I am faithful. I am faithful". Paul said, "You've got to learn to abound". He said, "I've learned to abound or I've learned to be abased".
I've learned to worship God on my palm days when I'm on top of the world and I've learned to worship God when I'm in my weeping willow days and it feels like my world's falling apart. Whatever state, if I'm in a palace or if I'm in a prison, it's okay. God is with me. So you can be in weeping days and just like that God can put a palm branch in your hand and say, "The storm is over. It's time to bounce back, little palm tree, and shine". And you know how those branches do in the sunshine. It's going to... see, the Bible says this about God. We count days as from morning to night, but that's not how God counts a day. Read it.
When He created the days, the Bible said He started with the night and He went to the day, and then He called it one day. In other words, God says, "It's not over until the sun shines". And God wants you to understand no matter how dark your night is, He will not leave you in the darkness. He will finish and you will finish in the sunshine. You'll go from a willow to a palm. He's going to be faithful to you. Everybody take a praise break. I don't care what you're going through, willows or palms, come on. Let me hear from the willows. Let me hear from the palms, people who are really blessed. Let me hear from you. There ought to be a lot of rejoicing. We ought not to have to have anybody pump us up. But He said, "Rejoice". Rejoice. Rejoice.
Philippians 4:4 says, Everybody say it big, say it fat, come on, get into it. Are you ready? "Rejoice in the Lord always. And again I say rejoice". Turn to somebody near you and say, "Whether you've got a willow or a palm today, the Bible commands you to rejoice in the Lord always. And again I say rejoice". God is with you. God is going to be good to you. He's good. He's faithful. When we get up with a headache, "Oh God, I've got a headache. It's a willow day". And we call 20 people before we get to the kitchen, "I got a headache".
We make a big deal about our willow days. But when we get up, Every one of you, pretty much, got up without a headache this morning. You didn't call anybody. You didn't call 'em and say, "I don't have a headache today". But you make a big deal about your willow days but you act like the palm days are no big deal. And that's why I'm preaching to you today that some of you, the only time God can get your attention is when you're in trouble, which explains why you stay in crisis after crisis. If you would ever learn that in the good times, that's when you really need to rejoice and come in with your palm branch and say, "Thanks, Lord. I got a promotion this week. Thanks, God. I've been blessed. Thanks, God. I sold a house this week. Lord, You've been good to me".
I don't really worry about the willowed people 'cause they're desperate. They're going to keep coming. They're going through trials. They're crying. They need, Every service, "Oh God, help me. Keep me alive". I worry about the palm people because we're not real good at being faithful to God in the palm days. What we do, in the palm days, we get in the boat that God blessed us with and go out on the lake on Sunday instead of coming with that success first. I mean, hitch it up and bring it in the parking lot and come and worship God and teach your family church matters, and then go celebrate. That's what I'm preaching. That's what I'm preaching. I like this little sermon.
See, I've learned, And you know, somebody said, "Is that all you've got today"? And see, I feel that sometimes from, "I can preach better than that". But I'm here and you're not. But here is my point. This is a palm day. But what you don't know that made me what I am is I went through willow days with this ministry where I didn't have a bunch of people and didn't have a lot of money and didn't have... But if you're faithful through the willow days, God'll give you the palm days and people will scratch their head and they don't know the other side of the story. But if you're faithful in the willows, God'll bring you to the palms.
Everybody take a shout opportunity right here and praise God. Praise Him right where you are. You've got a lot to praise Him for. You made a big deal about your willows; make a big deal about your blessings. Hallelujah. I hope you shout so much you get on your neighbor's nerves. I hope you shout so much, God's been too good for you for you to be silent. It's the truth. Bring it before the Lord, the good times and the bad times, the willows and the palms, and rejoice, the Bible said. Rejoice.
Psalms 34:1, Everybody say this. Ready? "I will bless the Lord at all times. His praise will continually be in my mouth". Psalms 103:4, "Bless the Lord, O my soul and all that is within me bless His holy name". "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits". "Who forgives your iniquities and heals all your diseases". Everybody take a praise break right there. It's the truth. Rejoice.
One more. Psalms 30:5, Psalms 30:5. You ready? Here we go. "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning". You know what he's saying? He's saying if you've got a weeping willow in your hand right now, don't give up in the night, don't quit in the night, don't throw in the towel because I promise you that God has a palm that's coming your way. Weeping may endure for the night, but joy, palms, are coming in the morning. Hallelujah. Hallelujah.
One more, Psalms 115:18, "But we will bless the Lord from this time forth and forever more. Praise the Lord". What does that mean? That means from this day forward, make a decision, make a choice. You're blessed. The goodness of God is still in your life. You're not out of the will of God 'cause you've gone through some tears and some trials. But from this day forward, I will bless the Lord. I will praise Him.
There was a preacher that I heard about,true story, that was dedicating his brand new building and he had a guy who was real fired up. It was a Pentecostal church, and this guy would really get fired up in the praise and just erupt in praise. And they had really trained him to not go berserk, you know, and he would get real excited. And by the way, I would rather have a fool on fire than a scholar on ice. I can deal with wildfire, but when you're dead, you're dead. Give me a little fire. I can calm 'em down a little bit. But he was dedicating his new building, this preacher was, and he had a bunch of dignitaries and big shots in the town were coming, mayor and all that kind of stuff, you know, and politicians and people like that.
And so he wanted it to be a good respectable service. And so he had the guy, he pulled him aside before the service and he said, "Now listen". He said, "We've got a lot of big shots coming and we want to make a good impression. We don't want you to freak 'em out or anything. I know you love the Lord, but could you keep your praise a little sedated? Could you keep it calm? As a matter of fact, if you will not act up and you will just sit there through the service and not really praise God like you normally do, I'll buy you a brand new pair of cowboy boots". This guy liked cowboy boots. He said, "Pastor, I'll do it. I'll do it for a new pair of boots". He said, "Well, you've got it. I'll buy you a new pair at the end of this service".
So they got to having the service and the music was going. Boy, the guy was sitting on the front row and they started singing some of his songs and he really liked it and he was tapping his toes, but he was suppressing that praise and not really getting into it; calming himself down. And he was doing good 'til the preacher got to preaching, halfway through his sermon. He quoted his favorite verse. And when he quoted his favorite verse, something hit that boy and he shot up on his feet and he said "Preacher, boots or no boots, I've got to praise the Lord".
Sometimes you need to tell the devil, "Boots or no boots, blessing or no blessing, house or no house, promotion or no promotion, whether I get it or I don't get it, I've got to praise the Lord". Willows or palms, give Him praise. That's the message today. And I'm saying to you that if you'll keep praising God in your weeping, in your willow days, it's a matter of time before your willow becomes a palm. God won't leave you in your darkness. But I found something that's going to bless you.
If you have your Bible, turn there with me to Revelation 7:9, Revelation 7:9. And this is what it says, "After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no man can number, of all nations, and tribes, and peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne in heaven before the Lamb, clothed with white robes", watch what they had. With what? "Palm branches in their hands". When I read that, I heard the Lord say, "Notice what's missing". In life, we have days always of both. But when we get to heaven, there'll be no more weeping, there'll be no more sorrow, there'll be no more sickness, there'll be no more dying, there'll be no more crying, there'll be no more diseases, there'll be no more trials.
Oh, you ought to get happy. All we'll have is good days, happy days, joyful days. We'll lay our burdens down forever. So I want you to get up on your feet and I want everybody... I don't care if you're a teenager, I don't care who you are, I don't care if you're a multimillionaire, I don't care if you drove up in a Mercedes or you rode a mule.I don't care. I want you to take in one hand your willows, the trials, the problems, the adversities and I want you to take in the other hand the blessings, your health, the goodness of God; you've got clothes, you've got food, you've got a house, you've got family. You're blessed.
And I want you to take both of 'em and I want you to rejoice for just a moment and say, "God, You're worthy of the praise. I thank You. I thank You. I praise You". Even while you're praising, God can turn your willow into a palm. So let me say this. So listen. Check this out. So the Lord impressed me. I'm careful when I say that but I really felt this, that we do make a bigger deal about our willow days than we do our palm days. And the Lord said, "I want you to give a different altar call this morning".
If you don't know Jesus as your Savior, He can turn your weeping into dancing. He can turn your sorrow into joy and turn your shame into praise. And this is your chance to receive Him. I promise you, He won't turn you away. This can be the greatest day of your life. I'm getting thrilled in my soul 'cause somebody's been through hell but God's going to use the bad stuff to make a good thing happen in your life. Only God can do that. You've been weeping long enough. It's time for the palm, the good times in your life, in your family.
"Pastor, pray for me. I need a change in my life". Right where you're standing, be bold as a lion. If you want Jesus to save you, we can't pull you down front, but if you'll acknowledge Him, His grace'll come. "Pastor, pray for me. I need a change in my life. I need to repent. I need to get right with God. Pray for me". If that's you, raise your hand boldly all over this room, high and lifted up; all over this room, high. That's awesome. Raise 'em high. Don't be ashamed. Don't be ashamed. Keep 'em up a moment. Keep 'em up. If you raised your hand, keep 'em up, all over this room. It's amazing. Raise them high. Raise them high. Keep your hand up. If you see someone with their hand raised, gently put your hand on their shoulder right now. Gently do that, just as an act of kindness and agreement. Gently put your hand on their shoulder. Pray these words. Are you ready?
Lord Jesus, I thank You for the cross. You came into Jerusalem and everybody was waving palm branches. Five days later, Your palm became a willow and You were hanging on a cross, bleeding for me. Your mother was weeping at the foot of the cross, and I thank You that You love me, that You wash me, that You are on my side. And I receive Your forgiveness. The blood of the cross washes all my sins. I am forgiven. And it looked bad, but then You turned that willow, three days later, into a palm when You rose from the dead. I believe, therefore I receive eternal life. In Jesus' name.