Imagine with me two trees. One is planted in a beautiful, lush valley alongside a massive river. Its roots sink deep into the rich soil, its core is ﬁlled with the sap of life, its height is magniﬁcent and brawny, and its branches are ﬁlled with healthy, delightful fruit. The second tree is planted in an arid desert where the sun beats down, sucking up every drop of water in the soil, providing no nourishment for its thirsting roots. The ground is scorched and cracked, leaving the tree drained of all sustenance. Its core is dry, its branches are broken, and its fruit is shriveled up. Now, which tree will stand when the storms come, when the winds rise and seek to tear it from its foundation? Which one will remain rooted and set in the ground where it is planted? At the moment of tempest, when the pressure comes and seeks to uproot that tree with its barraging force, the environment and soil in which the tree is rooted will determine its fate.
Three thousand years ago, David, the king of Israel, gives a similar picture to the one I just described. In Psalm 1 he says, “Blessed is the man that walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; And in His law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth its fruit in its season; its leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever it does shall prosper.” This is a wonderful picture to compare our lives with — a tree with fruit that is rooted in rich, river-fed soil. He describes and contrasts for us the things we must avoid and things we must do if we are to be blessed and rooted in that good soil. He ﬁrst addresses walking in the counsel of the ungodly. We can deﬁne the ungodly as the people of the world, the ﬂesh, or even the Enemy himself. It is to listen to and buy into the world’s systems, standards, and strategies as if what this world has to offer is true and right. He continues by saying, “…Nor stands in the way of sinners.” This is simply to live one’s life in the same way as the sinner. The subtle compromise of turning to the counsel of the ungodly and choosing to believe what they say then leads to living in the same way as a sinner. Why? Because they are believing what they are receiving from the ungodly! As all sin, it doesn’t stop there. David ﬁnishes this downward progression with, “Nor sits in the seat of the scornful.” Soon this receiving and believing of lies leads to abiding with the ungodly rather than the righteous. They think, speak, and act just like the unbeliever. They are now a practicing lover of sin.
This is where many men and women ﬁnd themselves deceived in our generation. They somehow think that they can believe what the world has to say about relationships, sex, marriage, family, fame, money, etc. and still be Christians. But by that very deﬁnition, they prove not to be. We could name an abundance of ideas, thoughts, actions, and motives taken from the world which many professing Christians have believed. They have taken the counsel of the ungodly, and have therefore chosen to be ungodly themselves! Furthermore, even the strongest Christians can ﬁnd themselves deceived if they begin to listen to and believe what the ungodly have to say. Don’t be deceived: you will do what you believe, and you will believe who or what you take counsel from.
The good news of this picture is that David’s focus isn’t on these attributes of an unhealthy tree, but instead he is centering on the attributes of a healthy tree – one that is planted ﬁrmly in good soil and prospers in all it does. He doesn’t go into the particulars of the barren soil, or even what an unhealthy tree would look like. Rather, he gives great detail on how we can be like this healthy tree, both warning us of dangerous obstacles and giving instructions for blessed living.
The strong tree is planted in the soil of God’s Spirit by participating in two things. The ﬁrst is delight. It is to take a high degree of pleasure in something. It is satisfaction of heart, mind, and soul. It is not dependent on situational fulﬁllment or a sudden burst of excitement, happiness, or joy. The person who will be blessed and planted in the rich soil of the Spirit will delight in the law of the Lord, which is the scriptures of our great God.
David spoke of this delight many times throughout the Psalms. “I delight to do thy will, O my God: Yea, thy law is within my heart” (Ps. 40:8 KJV). “Delight thyself also in the Lord; And he shall give thee the desires of thine heart” (Ps. 37:4 KJV). “Thy testimonies also are my delight and my counsellors” (Ps. 119:24 KJV). It was in this position and action of delighting in the Word of God that God’s law was planted within his heart and that he received the deep desires and longings of his soul.
With delight comes meditation, the second attribute of a blessed and strong tree. Meditation might sound strange, but it is a beautifully simple truth. A summary of the Hebrew word is basically to utter, muse, or ponder. It is to give serious thought to select information, and includes the possible implication of speaking in low tones reviewing the material. The English deﬁnition is similar in its meaning: “To dwell on anything in thought; to contemplate; to study; to turn or revolve any subject in the mind.”
Just as David spoke much of delight, we ﬁnd meditation scattered throughout his writings as well. “I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings” (Ps. 77:12 KJV). “O how love I thy law! It is my meditation all the day” (Ps. 119:97 KJV). “I remember the days of old; I meditate on all thy works; I muse on the work of thy hands” (Ps. 143:5 KJV). “Mine eyes prevent the night watches, That I might meditate in thy word” (Ps. 119:48 KJV). Meditation leads to the internalization of truth which will produce fruit. We ﬁnd this clearly stated in Josua 1:8 “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe (obey) to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success” (KJV). True meditation leads to obedience. When we think deeply about the truth of God’s Word, it propels us to obedient action. We can know details and facts about the scriptures by delighting in them, but unless those truths are established and rooted deep within the soul by a conscious, consistent, continual meditation, then our ﬂesh will over rule us –we will turn to self and the world for counsel instead of the living Word of God.
The reality is, we were created to worship. We will always be worshiping something. We will either worship God or other things as god. We can have a life of delight and plenty of meditation on the wrong things — this is called idolatry. This is why it is so important to note that the object of our delight and meditation must be the Law of the Lord – Jesus. He is the law of God, the direction of life, and the instruction in perfect righteousness and truth.
The Fruit of Trees
We see the concept of comparing our lives with trees throughout the scriptures. David tells us that “The righteous shall ﬂourish like the palm tree: He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon” (Ps. 92:12 KJV). and Solomon wisely notes that “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life” (Prov. 11:30 KJV). Ezekiel beckons us into his prophetic vision as he describes for us what he sees. We read, “And by the river upon the bank thereof, on this side and on that side, shall grow all trees for meat, whose leaf shall not fade, neither shall the fruit thereof be consumed: it shall bring forth new fruit according to his months, because their waters they issued out of the sanctuary: and the fruit thereof shall be for meat, and the leaf thereof for medicine” (Ezek. 47:12 KJV). Jesus clearly teaches us that this will be the distinguishing factor between the believer and the unbeliever. He says, “Ye shall know them by their fruits … Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit … Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matt. 7:16-20 KJV). Paul also tell us in Galatians of the fruit of the Spirit, alluding to a vine or tree.
These Scriptures plainly describe for us our lives as trees. We can see that true trees will be planted in the rich soil of God’s Word: Jesus. They will be fed by the river of God’s Spirit and they will bear very real, visible fruit! We see what happens to trees that ﬁnd their roots in the soil nourished by the river of life—they grow to be mighty and their fruit is used on the behalf of others. In the end, our fruit is not for us—it’s for Christ and, as His body, it’s for the world around us. We are built up and rooted as strong trees to bear fruit for the consumption of a lost and needy world.
So why Talk about Trees in a Magazine?
I remember well one of the things that ﬁrst attracted me to my wife: her seriousness about the things of God. She was rooted in the Lord. We were very young, and neither she nor I were mature in our relationship’s with Christ, but she was constantly turning to God for counsel and not the world around her. This was a beautiful attribute and it is one that continues to mark her life. Men who are pursuing God will be attracted to woman who are also serious about pursuing Him. Do not listen to the counsel of this world. Seek Christ with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Not only will you be a blessing to the man you will one day marry, but to all those who come in contact with your life. Now, may you be “Rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving” (Col. 2:7).