THAT PERSON IS LIKE A TREE PLANTED BY STREAMS OF WATER…
Photo by Deb Nystrom. Flickr.com
I’ve been reading Psalm 1 as we go into this new year.BUY THIS IS THAT
1 Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night.
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.
The image of the tree planted and fruitful by streams of water is an image to appreciate and aspire to. It appears in the Bible at other times, too, representing trusting, good and wise living in the Kingdom of Heaven. I like it because in this season of uncertainty and confusion, its solidity and bounty are really appealing. Rather than the feelings of being storm-tossed, robbed and spiritually thirsty, it celebrates what it means to live a blessed life.
The first couple of verses describe the life of a soul that manages to avoid activities that are easy to adopt when pressure comes. Walking in step with the wicked is literally a taking of advice from the opposite of God and his word. It is very easy to fall into step with thinking that isn’t from Jesus but has persuasion and enough traction with those around to adopt as truth. I find myself very easily walking a route that is set by whoever around me has the most convincing voice – I am more easily shaped by my culture than shaping it.
Standing in the path or way of sinners is what happens when we join those who live below the beautiful and good standards that Jesus shows belong to the new humanity. There is an inertia about this standing, in the middle of a road, neither going forward or backwards but losing any movement because of shame, hopelessness and a loss of vision. I find that I quickly lose momentum when I see my failures and weaknesses and I stand, helpless and energy-less when those around could do with me being grace filled, forgiven and actively faithful.
And then there is the easy comfort of sitting back and scoffing – generally at those who take a lead – whether that is national leaders, employers or even church leaders. When everything around is difficult to navigate and hard to know what’s best, the natural default is to become annoyed at the ones who we have trusted to help us. Sitting is an appropriate posture for this – it is much easier to sit and criticise than to sensibly and insightfully bring observation accompanied with enthusiasm to bring about change and a future. I find myself joining in with so many others when the difficulty of leaders making good decisions in the pandemic leads me to sit back, shake my head, point my finger, and make critical comments rather than helpful critiques.
So, I am drawn to a way of being that is blessed by not being like this, but is elegant, strong, attractive and life giving. The tree does not feed from those loud voices around but from a stream of life that often runs hidden and deep. This is what it means to truly live. I need to put down my roots into the river of the Holy Spirit; worship and pray, read the bible with an open and expectant heart, and exercise the gifts of the Spirit that are given to me. This is what it means to follow Jesus, who is the true tree of life.
Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians picks up on these three activities of walking, standing, and sitting and turns them around so we can do them in holiness and power. We walk in good works with humility, gentleness, patience, tolerance, and love. We stand firm even in the presence of opposition, clothed in the armour of God and giving ourselves in prayer. We sit in heavenly places, at rest in our souls, and able to reign with Christ by bringing his rule to bear, rather than the broken chaos of our jumbled thoughts.
This year, I want to go deeper and let those living waters cause me to be fruitful. And I want to keep a check on my walking, standing, and sitting life so that my personal pilgrimage is good for others as well as myself.