Like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. (Ps. 1:3)
David begins this Psalm by announcing that God makes us like trees, planted solidly, bearing fruit. A planted tree is one that is put into the ground for the express purpose of growth. A gardener might plant a strictly “ornamental” tree – not expecting that it will do anything but “look good” where it is planted. He may have planted the ornamental tree in order to provide shade, but not because it has the ability to produce fruit that will provide for the family it shades. When we are “planted” by God into his family, he plants us with the plan that we will reproduce that which he is doing within us – we call that fruit.
Fruit is a product of growth – but it is also a reward of growth. As the gardener tends the tree, he is attentive to the outcomes of his tending. He turns the soil, adds special fertilizers, prunes the suckers, and shapes the growth of the tree. In turn, he looks for fruit as a result of all this action on his part. He may not see the roots of the tree once it is planted, but he knows all the action he is investing will affect the roots and bring about the growth he desires to see. To be planted means that we have been placed in a specific position or into specific relationships – with the intention of becoming stable in our placement. The gardener of our lives never places us haphazardly in his garden – he has purposed for us to be placed where we can get what is needed in order for us to bear the fruit he desires to see yielded.
David describes us as trees planted by the stream – made firm, made stable, set on a firm base. By the stream, there is rich soil, a moist environment that is perfect for growth. The stream is visited often by those that need the refreshing of the stream to maintain their own strength. The action of the stream brings continual renewal of the soil – providing opportunity for new growth. It is a soil that is produced by the forces of the ever-flowing water. At the sides of streams, we can observe all kinds of “debris” that seems to have washed into the stream. It is that very debris, once exposed to the action of the stream, that will be “broken down” into nutrients rich enough to produce delicate and delightful fruits. God plants us at the stream, making us stable, so that we will not easily be uprooted. Fertile soil is that which makes it easier for us to put our roots deeply into – anchoring us firmly.
As we grow, we are both bearing fruit and providing shelter. Our life becomes ordered, no longer moved hither and yon by each passing “breeze” in life. We are anchored, flexing with the breezes, but not torn apart or uprooted because our planting has been sure. Where we are placed, we become a shelter for others looking for rest. When we are growing, we produce that which others find attractive and even refreshing.
We are planted first to yield fruit and second to produce a shelter by which others can find what they are seeking. To yield means that we produce something that is rewarding. God expects that we will return his investment – he looks for the reward of fruit. Notice that David describes the fruit that will be yielded in our times of growth as coming in due season. The fruit is never too early – as that would be missing all the nutrients produced by the growth season – producing bitter fruit. The fruit is never too late – lingering long on the branches without any enjoyment in its partaking – as that would produce dry, tasteless fruit. Fruit produced at the appropriate season means that it is produced when the circumstances are right for its production. They may not seem like pleasant circumstances – a little strong wind at times, some hot sun at others, maybe even a little dryness that seems to sap and wilt. The circumstances that produce growth may not be pleasant, but they will produce the fruit if the tree is planted and tended during those seasons. The gardener of our lives always ensures that there is activity at the roots of our lives – providing the nutrients that carry life to our core and produce fruit.
The tree produces leaves – a sign of life. The leaves are not the end product – the fruit is. Yet, the leaves play an important part in the growth of that tree. They are not withered, as the Psalmist points out. They don’t become dry, shriveled and without vitality. The leaves of one that is planted purposefully by the stream will be full and vital – all because of where the tree has been planted and is being tended. Withered leaves are incapable of action – they soon drop to the ground and the winds of circumstances blow them to and fro. Full leaves, produced by the tender care of the gardeners touch are able to withstand the winds, providing continual shelter in the shadow of their growth.
The closing thoughts today center on the promise of a tree planted by streams of living water: It prospers and it is watched over. It prospers, becoming strong and flourishing, productive in its growth. It succeeds and thrives – enjoying vigorous growth that is capable of producing sweet fruit in season. It never stands by the stream alone – there is a watchful eye and a skilled hand tending its growth. Let us be as trees planted by streams of living water – bringing forth fruit in season.