“He shall be like a tree planted by rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season…” -Psalm 1:3a
I have been digging deep into Psalms recently for my quiet time, using a commentary by Robert Plumer as a supplementary tool. Knowing that David was called a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22), I thought it would be beneficial for my walk to study the inspired writings of this great king of Israel. Day 1 began with verse 1 of Psalm 1, the first three verses of which have impacted me greatly:
Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
3 He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper. -Psalm 1:1-3
The Hebrew for the word “blessed” is plural, indicating the many blessings of the righteous man. But why is he blessed? And what are his blessings? We see right from the start that the righteous man is diametrically opposed to the ungodly– he refuses to walk in their counsel. Here, counsel denotes the principles, maxims, aims, and practices of the ungodly. Neither are the righteous to stand with sinners or sit with the scornful. In fact, we are to go the opposite way.
2 Corinthians 6:17a says, “Therefore, ‘Come out from them and be separate,’ says the Lord.”
2 Timothy 2:22: “Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.“
Hebrews 12:14: “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.”
Notice how our relationship to the “gray area” should be– rather than asking, “Is this wrong,” we should be asking, “Is this right?” We must switch our viewpoint. The righteous man in this passage has already done this. He knows that his allegiance is to the King of Kings, and he desires no part in sin. John Newton, the man who wrote the hymn Amazing Grace, put it this way:
“Worldly men will be true to their principles, and if we [Christians] were as true to ours, the visits between the two parties would be short and seldom.”
He is touching on the biblical principle of being in the world but not of it. No, this does not mean we can’t be around those who aren’t saved. No, this does not mean we should live only in our “holy huddles.” Rather, I think the Psalmist is making this point: calling ourselves Christians while living like the world produces no contrast. It is this hypocrisy that makes the church unpalatable to unbelievers. We’re to avoid sin at all costs.
So, we see one answer to why the righteous man is blessed– he runs from sin. Yet, we also see that the Scriptures are his delight! Isn’t that a rich word? He is constantly meditating in the word of God, thinking of His character and the principles He wants us to live by. His desire to think on the Lord comes easily because the Word is his delight. This brought to mind a line from an old hymn by Fanny Crosby: “I think of my blessed redeemer/ I think of Him all the day long/ I sing, for I cannot be silent/ His love is the theme of my song.”
The righteous man is blessed because he runs from sin. He is blessed because his thoughts, day and night, are on the Lord and His Word.
But what are his blessings?
“He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper” (v. 3).
This is where it gets exciting! Plumber’s commentary: “In hot eastern countries, trees flourish most by the side of water courses. When all around is burnt up with heat and drought, they [the trees] are fresh and green.” BAM! Visualize this verse. When I do, I see desert all around– sand is everywhere, and the sun is beating down in the middle of the afternoon. And yet, I also see a healthy, green tree right next to a flow of clear water that is rolling gently down stream. The tree is healthy and prosperous, despite its surroundings. It is producing fruit, and its leaves do not wither. Now, think of that picture as it applies to a Christian. He can produce spiritual fruit and stand firm in his faith despite the spiritual desert around him!
But how is this managed?
He is planted and plugged into his source! What is that source? It is water! Scripture frequently utilizes water as a type for spiritual life.
Isaiah 12:2-3: “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation. Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.”
Isaiah 55:1: “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.”
Jeremiah 2:13: “For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.”
John 4:14: “But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”
Revelation 21:17: “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ And let him that hears say, ‘Come.’ And let him who thirsts come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”
Do you see what David is saying? This tree is fresh and thriving in a desert climate because of the stream of water it is plugged in to. Similarly, the righteous man is able to thrive in a spiritual desert because he is drinking freely from the fountain of salvation, Jesus Christ…because he is meditating constantly on the Word of God.
So, why is the righteous man blessed? Because he avoids sin and meditates constantly on the Lord, and because he is is nourished from the streams of living water.
He’s a tree that thrives in the desert.