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 1:3)
This verse is one I treasure. I love the imagery, the promise, the comfort and the assurance. It’s a verse that never ceases to stir up thanksgiving and praise, and reminds me that I have a special, God-defined place in Him. It seems to rise above the often foolish assumptions and presumptions of the world and defines a space that is individual to me and to every believer, a space where the full life of Christ is revealed. It is the life intended for each one who is reborn through Christ, and it is a beautiful portrait of simple faith and the results God releases through building our faith in releationship with Him.
Bearing spiritual fruit according to His purpose requires that we must be first planted by and rooted in God.
The word ‘planted’ has significance. It speaks of preparation, of care, of nurture and personal attention. It’s a strong word suggesting permanence. As Christians, we are not simply placed but planted and made secure, with the promise and purpose of being rooted. We can’t really separate the two. In order to be effectively planted, something must have developed roots. In order to develop roots, someting must have first been planted. Each process is dependent on the other. If one is neglected, the other will suffer the effect. Separately, they don’t determine growth. Together, they are the dynamic partnership that brings forth fruit.
Planted also assumes favorable conditions. No gardener is going to plant anything where he knows it has little to no chance of survival, or where the conditions are so bad that it might survive but will certainly never ever reach its full potential. So often, as we encounter the storms and battering winds of life, we forget that these same principles apply in our planting. It is usually the strongest plants, those which, being firmly rooted, have endured and emerged with a new vigour. They have been tried and tested, and will inevitably bring forth the best fruit. The intention behind the planting is always bearing spiritual fruit.
Each one of us is securely planted in the Word – in Jesus Himself. Nothing can separate us, no one can snatch us out of His hand. The problem is never that our planting is haphazard or hasty or badly done. It’s that we lose sight of it. The branches suddenly seem very far from the roots and the stem. It feels so difficult to reach the life-giving, strengthening sap, and we convince ourselves that – in this situation at least – God is far away and His grace out of reach. When the winds are howling and the storm is lashing, and the part of us that is exposed to the battering of circumstance and the world is under a constant barrage, it’s easy to forget that we are planted and rooted – securely and beyond any shaking – in the Rock.
Better still, we are planted beside the rivers of water. We are planted in a place of peace, a place of refreshing, a place of constant revival. When I read this verse, I always picture the river flowing from the throne of God, the eternal source of life and sustaining power for all those who thirst for Him. We are planted where our roots reach the living water that is supernaturally imbued by the Holy Spirit with the will and purpose of God. We are planted at the source of a life of spiritual abundance so endless that our weaknesses and limitations are no hindrance to the work of God.
Being rooted and fed in Christ and the Holy Spirit, there is only one thing left. It isn’t something we have to think about, decide on, plan or implement. It isn’t something we dream about and then work out how to achieve it. The simple truth is that it requires no effort or striving on our part at all. It is, quite simply, the inevitable result of one planted by God – we shall bring forth fruit in it’s season.
It’s worth remembering that fruit is God’s prerogative entirely. He decides the what and when, and then, when we are ready according to His plan and purposes, the fruit comes. It’s also worth noting that fruit has three very specific characteristics.
Firstly, it is not simply ‘decorative.’ It’s neither there to make the tree look good, nor to make it feel good. In fact, bearing fruit takes up the bulk of the tree’s nutrients and ‘energy,’ the things it would ordinarily use to grow and develop itself more. It’s as if the rest of the tree and its entire growth is harnessed and channeled for the single purpose of bearing fruit.
Secondly, fruit is external. It is of no use to the tree at all. It has absolutely no ‘self-purpose.’ It is intended for the use of others. It will be picked or it will fall and rot. It will either be feasted on or it will be trampled underfoot. The purpose is, fundamentally, to feed others, not the tree itself. This is often a very difficult principle for us to take hold of, because we are human and have a basic need for affirmation and validation. Many people struggle to accept that ‘our’ fruit is not our fruit at all, and that God will use what we bear to feed others. We simple forget that the Gardener will always feed, nurture and care for His precious orchard. The worldly attitude of self-sufficiency pushes us towards the attitude of pride in our own accomplishments and dilute the truth that we are dependent on God and subject to Him.
Finally, fruit is intended for reproduction. Every single fruit contains the seeds – the potential – for more trees. The flesh is for nourishment and the seed is for reproduction. Even the fruit that falls from the tree contains the power of reproduction. The flesh may rot and miss its purpose, being rejected by those to whom it is given, but the seeds may still take root. We can be assured that every single seed that germinates will be planted and firmly rooted by God. That is is ultimate purpose – to make disciples of Jesus, to create mirrors of Jesus throughout the world, so that He can manifest Himself and bring those seek Him into His kingdom.
Verses one and two give us a clear understanding of God’s planting process – a process which begins the moment we surrender to the Gardener’s hand:
First, we ‘walk not in the counsel of the ungodly.’ We listen only to the Word. Our minds are renewed, and we live according to God’s ways. Our attitude is changed from seeking man to seeking God. Then, we come to the place where choose not to stand ‘in the way of sinners.’ There is a separation, a spiritual understanding that we stay apart from the acceptable behaviour of the world and seek after His righteousness. This is the place where we see that standing by and being silent makes us accessories to the sin. It’s leaving the broad road for the narrow one.
The third thing is that we avoid the ‘seats of the scornful.’ I don’t think any of us realise how powerfully pride continues to work in all of us. It’s that insidious little voice that pushes free will into conflict with the will of God. How easy it is to be scornful – whether it be of things we feel are too restrictive, or of others because they’re either too spiritual or not spiritual enough. We can scorn those with problems, deciding on some level that they don’t deserve grace because of who and what they are. The power of this phrase is recognition of our real place, which should be total humility and surrender.
God’s planting becomes a delight in Him. It’s the place where He begins to fill our thoughts, and we find that nothing seems as good, as bright, as beautiful if He is not in it. We begin to live for Him. We desire to spend time with Him, to worship Him and hear His voice. Obedience becomes a joy rather than an onerous command. Finally, His law – His Word, His will, His ways – become ours. They become a part of us. We meditate on them day and night, and they become the core of everything we say, think or do – our wisdom, our measure, our purpose, because they daily root us and grow us deeper in Him.
These are God’s optimum conditions for His trees. We may need differnet fertiliser to the tree beside us. We may need a little more water, or sunshine in the morning or the afternoon, but God already knows. He created the tree, after all, and He knows the fruit, and exactly how to get there. Our part is to allow ourselves to be planted where and how he chooses, and leave the when to Him. It’s a simple, joyful response to the life of God within us.
And we have this wonderful assurance: ‘And he shall be…’ Four incredible little words. God’s ‘shall’ has no ‘perhaps’ attached to it. His ‘shall’ is His final intended purpose. It’s not a suggestion, a hope or even vague imagining. Spiritually, it is already yea and amen. What God speaks will be. Bearing spiritual fruit – manifesting His life – is always His purpose, and He will makes sure it happens All we need to do is to let Him grow us into it.
Gracious Father, thank You that Your love and care for us is perfect in everyway. Thank You for the absolute assurance that You already know every tiny detail. Help us to surrender to Your sovereign work in our lives, to yield to Your teaching and pruning, so that we may be strengthened and rooted only in You.