Like a Tree Planted by the Waters

by Anita Wansley
May 24, 2009

Between our kitchen and living room we have a doorway with a 2 inch wooden threshold on the floor. When the kids have a drink or a snack, especially those messy ones like frozen yogurt I tell them to stay in the kitchen. They have all tested that line. One of them took to sitting on that wooden strip, another liked to have her toes on it but her body in the kitchen. Sam, of course, looks at me, and boldly steps over the line. After being reprimanded he will stand right on the line and tell me, “no, I in the kitchen”

We all have experience with lines in life. We’ve drawn lines in the sand. We’ve drawn imaginary lines in bedrooms shared with siblings. We’ve seen the line and crossed over and then maybe sat on the line for awhile.

Today the scripture is Psalms 1. This first Psalm is an introduction to the rest of the Psalms and it starts right off by drawing a line. The line is between the wicked and the righteous. It shows the blessedness of the righteous and the misery of the wicked. It is based on covenant relationship with God. Either you are a friend or enemy of God. Now before we quickly pat ourselves on the back let’s look at scripture and evaluate where we stand… which side of the line… right on it… maybe just a few toes over it.

Verse 1: “Blessed is the man (or woman) who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of scoffers”

Let’s look at the wicked side of the line. Walk in the counsel of the wicked, stand in the way of sinners, sit in the seat of scoffers. Sounds rather harsh. I think that when I read the Psalms and hear the word wicked I conjure up some imagine of criminals in jail or some really heathen group of people, or the people who are just really bad. I then arrogantly think I am not one of them. Well, here are some definitions that I found in Believers Church commentary:

    Scoffers: those who ridicule God and his people

Good gracious, I’m not this! But wait, let’s look deeper. Scoffer also means to be indifferent, hearing and then ignoring. So in essence we all scoff at the word of the Lord when we fail to obey it and order our lives by it.

    Wicked: often viewed as those who accuse the innocent, afflict the lowly, undermine the trust of the faithful, enemy of God.

No way this applies to me… I am not on this side of the line. But wait, wicked can also mean those who are guided and controlled by their own desires, emotions, impulses of the mind and flesh rather than by the word and the Holy Spirit. That sure applies to a lot of us every day!

    Sinners: The Layman’s Commentary states that sinners means those who miss life’s goal habitually.

Oh, dear, my toes just went over.

In Matthew 5:21 Jesus says “you have heard it said Do not murder, but I tell you anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgement.

Okay, I may not have murdered anyone but being angry and missing life’s goal habitually… yeah, that makes me a sinner. My anger has gotten me into trouble and hurt people. Even though I came forward to confess my anger during revivals this year, I have successfully lost it many times and now recently taught my son some choice words that he should not have in his vocabulary.

If the nouns in this verse didn’t convict us let’s look at the verbs. There is a progression in the words that really describe how we can so easily fall to the way of the wicked.

    Walk… .go along with or follow. We start out just walking along side those ideas that tempt us, or we just walk with those people who pull us toward the things that aren’t pleasing to God. We are just walking. We are just following along.Then we Stand… stop, to be firm, confirmed in the way of the wicked, habit. We didn’t just walk on past but we decided to stop. We decide that what we are doing is okay. We decided to make a choice. We stop and stand there in our sin and become okay with it.

    Then we finally Sit… dwell, abide, settled, content with. Now we are not turning back. This reminds me of what I say to my kids some nights when I am dog tired and just sat down. They beckon me to get this or do that and I have been known to say, “Nope! Mama has her bouhougis planted”. We are now comfortable with the sin that has entangled us and we have settled… it is a part of us.

Verse 2 “But his delight is in the law of the Lord and on his law he meditates day and night.”

Now here is the other side. The righteous delight in the law of the Lord and mediate on it day and night. Wow! The law is not a frustration, but rather a source of freedom. The Hebrews looked on Torah as a guide to life, a God given structure and order that was freeing! The righteous know the absolute importance of scripture. They have experienced that God’s word through His Holy Spirit of Truth brings about changed character, stability, and produces fruit.

Can we look at God’s instruction, God’s word as a source of freedom? God’s word is Truth in a world of chaos. God’s word is map in a world of confusion. God’s word and His law speak life in a world of destruction.

God’s word and our delight in it are what separates the wicked and the righteous. When we delight in God’s word and have it as the core of our life our way is different. We are on the other side of the line.

We are to not only delight in the law of the Lord but to meditate on it day and night. One source suggested the Hebrew word for meditate means to mutter or mumble. In other words, the righteous keep God’s law always on their lips. Their minds are constantly producing thoughts of God’s way.

The passage goes on to tell more about the righteous who choose the way of the word of the Lord:

Verse 3 “He is like a tree planted by streams of water which yield its fruits in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.”

This is a profound word picture. It is a picture that sent me searching in the internet about trees and roots. I have learned more about trees and their root systems in the last week than I did in any science class. Here is what I learned that I believe brings even more meaning to this verse

Roots: Most trees don’t have a huge taproot going down as deep as the tree is high. Rather trees have a root system that spread out at least as far as the drip line (the line that comes down from the widest branches) or as far as the tree is high. These roots are within a couple of inches from the top of the soil. They need oxygen and if they go down too far then the oxygen is too limited.

This root structure is true in the big live oaks around here. This proved to be a problem after Hurricane Katrina. I found an article written by Bonnie Coblentz for Mississippi State department of Agriculture. In it she wrote about the live oaks that survived the hurricane but then later died when machinery came in to clean up debris and ran over the root system so close to the ground.

These trees like us so many times survive the big stuff but are damaged by the smaller things. Maybe we can withstand the temptation of adultery but struggle with lust. Maybe we can withstand the temptation to murder someone but can lose our temper. Maybe we can withstand the temptation to rob a bank, but covet what others have.

In this verse the tree is planted by the water. In Hebrew the verb planted really refers to being transplanted. We are like a tree transplanted from one environment and rooted in another. By God’s grace we can be uprooted from the side of the wicked and lovingly transplanted into his way of righteousness.

The last part of this verse says that whatever he does prospers. This could mean two things. If a person has God’s word as his or her core we consult it and use it as a guide for decisions and choices we make. God’s word is wisdom… it can make life go better and we prosper. It could also mean fulfilling the purpose for which it was created. God created the tree to produce fruit. God created us to be in relationship with Him and follow his word. We will prosper when we fulfill what we were created to do.

Now we go back to the other side of the line in Verse 4.

Verse 4: “Not so with the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away.”

Chaff is the seed covering and debris separated from the grain during threshing. It has no substance and blows away. I have a memory of Grandma and me and my sisters outside on their farm and we had board that we held on both sides and shook back and forth letting the chaff blow away. Not a good destination for the wicked. They are useless and God deals with them with ease.

In verse 5 this is reiterated: “Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgement, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.”

The wicked will not stand in the final judgement but rather they will be cast out. It is simple. In the end there is no hope for those who choose to walk away from God… in the end there is a consequence.

The last verse summarizes the whole passage.

Verse 6: “For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.”

The Lord watches over the way of the righteous. He gives us love and care. He is a presence wherever we are. He knows our path, our way. We have this amazing promise that the Lord is with us watching over us in our lives. We matter to God and He cares for those who choose to walk towards him.

So where are you in reference to this line between the wicked and the righteous? Fern has often quoted in our Sunday school class that we are either walking towards God or away form God. Which are you doing in your life right now? Are you a tree planted by the water, drinking in the living water, letting your roots grow a foundation in God’s word, producing fruit, fulfilling what you were created for? Or are you stepping your toes over the line to the ways of the wicked? Are you habitually missing life’s goal? Are you hearing God’s word and yet refusing to follow or too busy to follow or too caught up in your old ways to follow? Do we even know God’s word? We most likely aren’t totally righteous or wicked. But we must reflect on where we stand. If our toes keep crossing the line then our roots are getting damaged. We stand the chance of dying in our relationship with our creator.

Today we are going to end with a healing service. Maybe this is a time to confess the sin that has pulled you over the line. Maybe this is a time to confess that God’s word hasn’t been the core of your being. Maybe today is the time to ask God to transplant you from the place of sin, sorrow, sickness, scoffing, to a place beside the water so you can prosper. Maybe today your roots feel damaged, bulldozed and you need God’s healing touch. Let the Spirit of Truth speak to you. Listen to what God is telling you. God watches over us, he already knows your ways. Take a step towards God and righteousness. Let His healing touch wash over you and turn you toward a solid place of His righteousness.

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