In the last post in this study of Psalm 1, we looked at what it means to delight in the Lord’s instruction and to meditate on it. Now, let’s move on to verse three:
He is like a tree planted beside streams of water that bears fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.
The third verse of the first Psalm describes the benefits of a person who avoids sin and ungodly ways by delighting in the Lord’s instruction. Let’s take them one at a time.
Like a tree…
Stop right there. People who are blessed by God because they walk in His ways aren’t like a blade of grass. Or a sunflower. Or a bush.
They are like a tree. They aren’t easily cut, broken, or torn up. They are strong, resisting all but the most destructive of winds.
…planted besides streams of water…
Such a believer is not like just any tree, but one who has a constant source of hydration. You can take that figuratively on two levels. First, a tree that never thirsts doesn’t have to struggle to grow or stay alive. Thus, a believer who is blessed because they follow hard after God thrives spiritually.
The second level is remembering that in the Bible, water often symbolizes the Holy Spirit. Someone who meditates on the good things of God and endeavors to walk the straight and narrow path is going to receive a constant refreshing from the presence of God’s Spirit, a stream of water bringing wisdom, peace, joy, and strength.
…that bears fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.
A tree receiving plenty of water can bear plenty of ripe, juicy fruit at just the right time.
That’s key: just the right time. In its season. You can’t pick apples from an apple tree in April; the thing hasn’t gone past the blossoming stage yet! A lot of people get frustrated because they think they should be able to do this, that, or the other thing to help build the Kingdom, when in fact they’re still in their pre-fruit-bearing years. Or in the time of budding.
Remember that when you are faithful in a little, then you are made responsible for much. Be content to be blessed and filled with the Holy Spirit as you focus on the small things God has given you to do right now. Your time to bear fruit will come eventually.
In the meantime, your leaf will not wither. What do leaves do for a plant? They interact with the sun in order to produce chlorophyll, which in turn feeds the plant. So even if you’re not in a fruit-bearing season, if you are the kind of believer described in verses one and two of Psalm 1, you can count on a continual nourishment of both spirit and soul, nourishment that is essential to the production of fruit.
Whatever he does prospers.
Westerners get excited when they read this verse. “All I have to do is obey God, and I’ll be rich!” Therein lies the problem of much, perhaps most, preaching in the Western world today: preachers take Bible verses out of the context in which they were originally written, and paste them into modern societal values.
Yes, God does prosper financially. But it rains on the just and the unjust alike [Matthew 5:45].
Oops. Speaking of Scriptures that preachers interpret in the light of modern Western society. Rain is not a bad thing in this verse. It was written thousands of years ago in the Middle East. In that area of the world, farmers get excited about rain. Rain is a good thing. A very good thing. It represents – bum-bah-dah-dum! – prosperity!
In other words, non-believers can (and do!) prosper financially – and in many other ways – as much as believers can. Just take a look around you. There are plenty of non-believers who are much healthier for their age than believers, others who are much wealthier.
So we need to interpret “prosper” in this verse in a different light than what we’re used to: to bear fruit. If you need to lose fifty pounds, and you change your diet and begin an exercise routine, then eventually lose fifty pounds, you’ve prospered. Your self-discipline has born fruit. If you decide to learn to play the piano, then eventually use the skill to entertain others, the skill has born fruit. The fruit in both examples has nothing to do with earning money.
If we walk close to God, listening for and obeying His instructions to us, His desires become our desires. We won’t go around making plans and trying out different ventures that are contrary to His will for our lives, and therefore fall on our face. Instead, we’ll allow Him to lead us into His best plans for our lives. Thus will whatever we put our hands to prosper – bear fruit – because we’ll be putting our hands to the things that God also has His hands on!
Of course, there is also the spiritual kind of prosperity, bringing joy and peace and a sense of security. Whatever people who are running hard after God do, prospers them in spiritual blessings. Sure, they may develop wealth doing the thing God calls them to, but more importantly, they will find joy and fulfillment as they carry out that calling, that purpose.
Perhaps most importantly of all, the thing prospers by having a positive impact on others. In the life of a believer whose heart is ever toward the Lord, financial and material wealth should be considered a bonus, not the end goal.
Your next step
If you’ve been hitting brick wall after brick wall while attempting to carry out a particular task or reach a particular goal, it could be that you’ve made the mistake of making your plans and asking God to bless them, instead of seeking Him for the plans He has for you. God doesn’t desire for His children to walk in constant frustration. Frustration cannot abide in the same vessel as joy and peace, the major markers of prosperity.
Stop what you’re doing and spend time alone with the Lord. Repent for plowing forward without seeking His will, then ask for direction and guidance. Give it time; chances are high you won’t get an immediate answer or instant clarity. It may take several days or longer for you to figure out His path for you.
And as options come to you, see if meditating on them brings you joy and peace. Push aside the ideas that don’t; pray further about those that do.
Humble yourself before God, choose His ways, and whatever you end up doing will bring lasting joy, a sense of fulfillment, and bear much fruit for the world around you.