Psalm 1:3 – “He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.”
In studying this Psalm, we have seen what the blessed person does not do (v. 1). We have also seen what the righteous person does do (v.2). Instead of being enamored with the wisdom of the world, the blessed person delights in the Word of God. It holds his attention. It is a light to the feet (Psa
119:110). And it is always on his mind. “He meditates on it day and night” (1:2).
I can see the effects of meditation on the Word in my own life. When I am regularly reading, meditating, and praying through Scripture, I find that I am more heavenly minded. But when I neglect Scripture, I am more prone to focus on the things on earth (cf. Col 3:1-2). Being a pastor now, with Sunday coming quickly every week, I am in Scripture most of the day. That is one of the benefits of always preparing sermons, blogs, devotionals, etc. But I have not been a pastor for long. Before full-time ministry (especially in seminary!), I found it very difficult to keep my attention on Scripture. Our lives tend to be so busy. Time with God gets crowded out by so many trivial things. And it is to our detriment. Whenever I take time from a busy schedule to meditate and pray through the Scriptures, I always see benefit.
When I was first preparing sermons, I used to find myself spinning my wheels. Sometimes I would get nowhere for hours! Then I would realize that I was doing this all in my own strength. I was not meditating on the Scriptures. I was not praying through the Scriptures. Over the years, I have learned that those two are essential for sermon preparation. It is essential for life too!
What does the life of the blessed person who meditates on Scripture day and night look like? This psalm compares the blessed person to a tree. And not some dead and unkept tree. He is like a tree that has been transplanted. It is cared for. It is loved. The owner found it, and transplanted it next to channels of waters so that it would flourish. The abundant waters cause the tree to bring forth fruit in its time. Notice, the tree does not always bear fruit. There are regular periods when there is no fruit produced. But it always comes in its time. Even though there is not always fruit, there are always leaves. And they do not wither.
What does the symbolism mean? The blessed person is the tree which has been transplanted. God found us and transplanted us to His orchard where the streams of His Word flow. We are made to flourish there from the nourishment of the Word. And fruit is produced in its time. “He is not a freak. There are times for fruit-bearing just as there are times for growth and times for rest. So long as we are abiding in the Spirit we need not worry about the fruit. It will come in its season” (Phillips, 20). And we will never wither away spiritually. If we remain in the Word, constantly nourished by its waters, our spirit will always thrive. “If a tree is alive and being watered, it will show the proper growth; likewise if true believers are in the word, they will produce righteousness” (Ross, 190).
To elucidate this further, the psalmist gives us the final phrase of verse three. This is called emblematic parallelism (Ross, 190). The symbolic (or emblematic) language in the first half is now explained by a parallel statement. It is well-known that parallelism is an integral part of Hebrew poetry, and there are many kinds of parallelism. The psalmist explains the symbolic language by stating, “and all that he does prospers.” This is the reality intended by the simile of the tree. “This is not a blanket statement promising unlimited success; the context itself restricts the application. If the righteous meditate in God’s word, they will live in obedience to it—and doing that is what will succeed” (Ross, 191).
When we are nourished by the Scriptures, we will not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the path of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers (cf. v. 1). Instead, we will delight in the words of God, and we will be blessed and made to prosper. There will be times of pruning. And that hurts. But it is for our good. Our Father always works everything for good to those who love Him (Rom 8:29).