Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“The steps of a good man and woman are directed and established by the Lord – He busies Himself with our every step. Though (she) falls, (she) shall not be utterly cast down, for the Lord grasps her hand in support and upholds her.”
Psalm 37: 23, 24
“If anything occurs to hinder my work, anything goes contrary to my prayers and projects, He has ordained it so on purpose; because He knows that too much success would make me proud; too much ease would make me sensual; and He would teach me that the road to heaven is not success, but labor and devotion.”
God Over All
“One adequate support
For the calamites of mortal life
Exists, - one only: an assured belief
That the procession of our fate, however
sad or disturbed, is ordered by a
Being of infinite benevolence and power,
whose everlasting purposes embrace.
All accidents, converting them to good.”
Today’s Study Text:
“And he (she) shall be like a tree firmly planted by the streams of water, ready to bring forth the fruit in its season; its leaf also shall not fade or wither, and everything he (she) does shall prosper and come to maturity.”
Psalm 1: 3
“A Well-Planted Tree”
Psalm 1 Part 9
“You will find something more in woods than in books. Trees and stones will teach you what you cannot learn from masters.”
Bernard of Clairvaux
What has the natural beauty of earth taught me about my heavenly Father?
What lessons can I take away from Psalm 1: 3 “And (she) shall be like a tree”?
“For the beauty of the earth,
For the beauty of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies;
Father, unto Thee we raise
This our sacrifice of praise.”
F. S. Pierpoint
“For he (she) shall be like a tree planted by the waters that spreads out its roots by the river; and it shall not see and fear when heat comes; but its leaf shall be green. It shall not be anxious and full of care in the year of drought, nor shall it cease yielding fruit.”
Jeremiah 17: 8
In 1913, what critics called a “simple” poem was published. Written by the young Joyce Kilmer, this now famous poem entitled “Trees” may well be very familiar to anyone who loves poetry. I want to share this brief poem as it so echoes the reflections of the Psalmist who penned our study text for today found in Psalm 1: 3.
“I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is pressed
Against the earth’s sweet-flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain,
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.”
It matters not to me that there are those who find the poem “Trees” rather simplistic for the message contained in this brief work holds within it the grandeur of a world of lush beauty which we humans are frequently too preoccupied to even notice.
As we continue our journey through the very first Psalm in a book which embodies 150 individual “chapters,” we find that not only is the topic of good and evil explored in depth, but that the reference to the natural world takes center stage as well.
Psalm 1: 3 turns our thoughts in the direction of nature – specifically trees. I’ve chosen to use the Amplified Bible as it helped me broaden by personal understanding of the connection between a tall, sturdy tree and a tall, sturdy God-fearing individual. “And he (she) shall be like a tree.”
I’ve been fortunate to live in places where I got to enjoy tall trees either in our yard or on my grandparent’s ranch. These were trees of such height that I could climb up in them and sit out on a sturdy branch, perched high above the world below. As I think back to the times when I climbed up the trunk of a tree, gaining access to the higher branches, I have found that there were certain words which have come to my mind. I’m not alone in my thoughts for I also came upon a description of trees penned by author Dale Ralph Davis which coincided quite nicely with my own perspective: “The righteous man (or woman) is ‘like a tree.’ The text fleshes out the analogy. The righteous man has stability (‘planted’), vitality (‘by streams of water’), productivity (‘gives its fruit’), durability (‘does not wither’), and prosperity (‘all that he does prospers’).” It is these five qualities which we are going to spend time looking at this week, beginning with the fact that the Psalmist makes a point of telling us where a flourishing tree is planted.
As I prepared this series of devotionals on Psalm 1, I looked up at a picture on one of the tables right outside my closet writing room. The picture happened to be a photograph taken from a hill above the valley floor at my grandparent’s canyon ranch. This photo was taken just as the pecan trees were being planted. I recalled that because the level farmland where the trees were planted was so close to a healthy year-round creek, my dad had informed me that the irrigation system didn’t have to have as many sprinklers for as the trees grew, their downward roots were fed water from the moist earth encountered only 3 or 4 feet from the topsoil. Even a young person like myself could easily see that those pecan trees were some of the healthiest I’d ever come upon. I remember other ranchers in the canyon coming by to take a look at grandpa’s pecan grove. It was truly a sight to behold and the trees beauty was borne in the moist earth where the trees were planted in the first place.
The theme of where we are planted is one that reappears in more places than Psalm 1. Just a few chapters over in Psalm 92, we find these instructive words: “The uncompromisingly righteous shall flourish like the palm tree (be long-lived, stately, upright, useful and fruitful); they shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon (majestic, stable, durable and incorruptible). Planted in the house of the Lord, they flourish in the courts of our God.”
Interesting isn’t it that the Psalmist tells us about a flourishing palm and cedar – but what he points to is the fact that these trees thrived because of where they were planted. And it wasn’t on the path of the ungodly, or standing by sinners or flopping down in a seat or forest full of mockers.
Several days ago, my husband Jim and I were discussing choices in life which can turn out to make a significant difference in the direction our lives take. Somehow our conversation got onto the topic of Abraham and Lot and the problem they ran into when, through the blessing of God, their flocks and herds became so large that there was not room for them to settle down and “plant” themselves in the same place. As author Ben Patterson relates this story in his wonderful book, Waiting, “There was not enough land to feed Abram and his family and Lot and his family. Abram could pull rank on Lot and flex his muscles and get a better deal (that is from outward appearances!). Instead he told Lot to take what he wanted and he would take what was left. His future well-being was in God’s hands, not his own, so he would settle down and wait to see what God would do…Abram didn’t have to worry about what would happen if Lot got the good land and he didn’t because he knew his future well-being was in God’s hands, not his own.” The problem in thinking like Lot is that he didn’t appear to take into consideration where he chose to plant his family. And what tragic consequences followed. When we don’t take time to consider the soil that our roots will be growing in, we may find that not only can’t we flourish, we won’t be able to grow at all. If we want to become stabile – we must be planted so we will thrive. Let us never forget that where we are planted is key.
And he…and she shall be like a tree – planted. In the grand words of Mary Carolyn Davis:
“Forests are made for weary men,
That they may find their soul again.
And little leaves are hung on trees
To whisper of old memories.
And trails with cedar shadows black
Are placed there just to lead us back
Past all the pitfalls of success
To (childhood’s) faith and happiness.
For from the city’s craft and fraud,
O Forest, lead me back to God.”
I Need Not Shout
“I need not shout my faith. Thrice eloquent
Are quiet trees and the green listening sod,
Hushed are the stars, whose power is never spent;|
The hills are mute; yet how they speak of God!”
Charles Hanson Towne
“And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day.”
Genesis 3: 8
“At cool of day, with God I walk
My garden’s grateful shade;
I hear his voice among the trees,
And I am not afraid.
He speaks to me in every wind,
He smiles from every star;
He is not deaf to me, nor blind
Nor absent, nor afar.
His hand that shuts the flowers to sleep,
Each in its dewy fold,
Is strong my feeble life to keep,
And competent to hold.
The powers below and powers above,
Are subject to His care
I cannot wander from His love
Who loves me everywhere.
Thus dowered, and guarded thus, with Him
I walk this peaceful shade;
I hear His voice among the trees,
And I am not afraid.”
Caroline Atherton Mason
In The Garden
“Men go to their garden for pleasure;
Go, thou, to thy garden for prayer;
The Lord walks in the cool of the evening
With those who seek sanctuary there.”
(An inscription on a plaque in an old garden wall in England).
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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