I went to put the trash down to the curb the other day, surprised to find the side yard filled with all kinds of "upstart" Palo Verde trees! As a matter of fact, in a space of about 30 X 6 feet, I plucked up over 150 upstarts - and this was after I decided to start counting! Now, these little upstarts were not there a few days before - as I had been in the side yard and did not observe them there. It is entirely possible the little seeds were germinating in the crags of the rocks which make up this patch of earth in my yard, but I did not see 2-8 inch little seedlings! Arizona monsoon winds had likely brought a significant number of the seeds into my rock patch - unknown to me. Then, with a little rain, a lot of sun, and a little "inattention" by me - poof! I have over 150 bright, shiny green seedlings!
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; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. 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 NKJV)
Okay, you may not appreciate the significance of my 150+ seedlings, but if you know the story of me letting 5 of these upstarts grow into full-grown trees a few years back, you would understand my immediate reaction to pluck these little guys from the earth as quickly as I could! These trees are killers! They produce thorns which penetrate the soles of your flip flops, needles which shed in massive quantities, layering your yard in a blanket of yellow, and have a tendency to grow out of control in no time at all! Not to mention, the side yard is this small patch of gravel - so, if they were allowed to grow, their constant scraping of needle sharp branches across the side of the house and the roof shingles really does great damage to the structural integrity of the house!
Now, in contrast, our passage suggests to us the difference between being an "opportunistic upstart" of a tree and one planted "on purpose". As our psalmist starts, he lays out the condition: "Blessed is the man who walks..." We might do well to consider these opening words as "Happy is the man..." Most of us don't use the word "blessed" too much these days. In fact, we are more likely to say it in terms of "I am so blessed", but I wonder if we really know what it means! The term means happy, fortunate, prosperous, and enviable. So, those who choose to walk NOT in the ways of the ungodly, but to walk in the path God leads them down, will experience a degree of fortune, prosperity and happiness far beyond our imagining. The condition is in how we choose to walk. We make the choice - both paths are laid out before us - but it all comes down to the steps we take, and the company we choose to keep in the journey!
I want us to turn to the third verse. "He shall be like a tree planted...." This is most significant because it suggests an intentional act, not a haphazard or accidental upstart. In other words, when we CHOOSE to follow the path God lays out - obedient to his commands and resting in his promises - we are PURPOSEFULLY PLANTED. We don't find ourselves growing in Christ just by accident - like the upstarts in my side yard. We don't just find a "likely spot" and start to set down roots - thinking we will grow into strong and healthy "trees". It is the "purposeful planting" process which brings us into the place of being right where we need to be in order to realize the growth potential we each have.
Now, those upstarts in my side yard had growth potential, but the growth they would produce would not be welcomed! In fact, in time, they would come to be "cursed". I had to work hard to finally kill the one which took root - but not before they developed a root structure that made it nearly impossible to kill them! Taking root does not always suggest we will produce the fruit which God embraces. It is where we take root which matters! In taking root by the river of his care, we find our "fruit" comes in its season. We prosper - we enjoy the fortune of being planted on purpose - and this makes us very enviable indeed!
Let me just say - no upstart growth in our life is ever without the Lord's notice. In fact, he often points out the upstart growth because he knows if it is left unattended, it has huge potential to destroy the integrity of his creation! Those first ideas of being angry with someone over a slight on their part can lead to deep roots which produce the upstart tree of bitterness in our lives - so he reminds us to deal with the anger before the sun goes down! Don't let it take root! Just like those tiny upstarts in my side yard which I plucked up before they could get much of a root to them, he asks us to rid ourselves of these upstarts which produce only destructive patterns in our lives.
This may seem like a simplistic way to view of our pathway to obedience, but it is in the simple things where we get tripped up the easiest, isn't it? Maybe it is because we don't give these things our attention. If I ignored those little upstarts in the yard, I'd have a fully rooted seedling in a matter of less than a couple of weeks! It is amazing how fast sin can take root and come into fullness of growth without our even noticing! We must be constantly vigilant to not allow these upstarts to take root. The difference between the good growth in our lives and the things which should never take root is in the "purposeful planting" process. Obedience requires us constantly being aware of what God is asking us to do and doing it. On the other hand, when we allow "opportunistic" sins to take root, we can find ourselves spending a whole lot of time trying to rid ourselves of their destructive growth!