The Psalms are truly beautiful. In them we find 150 creative poems (actually songs) of varying lengths and topics inspired by the great Creative One Himself. In regards to the Psalms, theologian Tremper Longman says:
‘Poems appeal to the whole person in a way that prose [narrative] does not. The point is that poetry appeals more directly to the whole person than prose does. It stimulates our imaginations, arouses our emotions, feeds our intellects and addresses our wills.’ (How To Read the Psalms)
Or, the famous C.S. Lewis stated it this way:
‘I think poetic language often expresses emotion not for its own sake but in order to inform us about the object which aroused the emotion.’ (“The Language of Religion” in The Seeing Eye)
It is true that we find every kind of emotion being poured forth by David and the other authors in the Psalms (yes, there were other authors, for David only wrote about half of the Psalms).
Opening to the the very first psalm we find what theologians have termed a ‘wisdom psalm’. It almost seems like it belongs with Proverbs. Here are the words from the anonymous psalmist:
1 Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
3 He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
4 The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the LORD knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.
As I read these words this morning, words I have read hundreds of times, one phrase particularly jumped out at me from verse 3 – ‘its leaf does not wither’.
That phrase has never spoken much to me previously. I had underlined other phrases in verse 3 before, but never this one. Yet, today, God wanted to communicate something to me.
The full teaching of verse 3 compares the righteous to a tree, one that is firmly planted by streams of water, yields fruit in season and its leaf does not wither. That is the imagery coming forth from Psalm 1. And as I pondered that phrase, ‘its leaf does not wither,’ one I had never given much thought to in my 12 years as a Christian, I got a taste of the refreshing of God.
Life gets busy, right? Right when we check a few things off the list we find that we can add another handful right back on that same list. You know what I’m talking about. We have work and we have family, and that keeps us busy enough without all the other things that could be weighing on us such as part-time studies on the side, activities with our church community, small group one night a week, a second part-time job to help ends meet financially, shuttling the kids to and from their activities, and so much more.
Life gets busy and we get……tired. Yeah, that’s it, and we know it all too well. The super-spiritual will probably not ever want to recognise they are tired, for as the Psalms also say:
He [God] will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. (Psalm 121:3-4)
And if God never sleeps, then we should at least learn to get by with as little rest as possible, right? We have a lot to accomplish, all in the name of Jesus. There is too much to do for God!
While there are actually some people who hold to such a philosophy, I don’t think it is the heart of God. Sure, God never sleeps nor slumber, but only when we have reached the status of Divine Creator ourselves can we, then, try and live life in such a way. And we know that will never happen, so why would we ever embrace such a lifestyle? In the age to come, it is possible that we might not ever need rest, but I wonder about this since Adam and Eve probably needed rest before the Fall. But anyways, back to the point…
‘Its leaf does not wither.’
Why do we feel as if we are withering all the time? I think we could safely assume it is because we are so busy and we keep running ourselves into the ground until we have nothing left. That seems to be the motto of the American life, maybe all of western life in general, and even throughout the world.
But God has called His people, His new creations, to be people that are like a tree planted by streams of water. And we know what water represents in the Scriptures – refreshing from God’s Spirit (see John 7:37-39; Isaiah 41:17-18). And we are to be people who yield fruit, with our leaves not withering, and we are even to prosper in all that we do – see the end of Psalm 1:3, though I do not believe this encompasses an overtly prosperity gospel.
Interestingly, it is John that gives this description about the new Jerusalem, the Bride of Christ:
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. (Revelation 22:1-2)
Verse 2 sounds very, very similar to Psalm 1:3. Hmmm?
Consider that this imagery teaches that our leaves are to provide healing for the nations. But how can we do this when we can’t even keep our leaves from withering? It does become difficult, doesn’t it? Everyone shake their heads up and down. And the weary and withered only end up living lives of frustration and bitterness, as I can testify to this.
But the point is not that we beat ourselves up for, once again, running on fumes and lacking refreshment from God. The point is that we be encouraged that God has called His people to be ones with leaves that do not wither, even having leaves that provide healing for others. It’s actually quite beautiful. It’s quite Christlike.
Therefore, let us be encouraged to refresh ourselves in God, for He does have an abundance of water to provide restoration for our souls. Let us repent (change our mind to think like Him) and let us embrace the words of Psalm 1:2: ‘His delight is in the instruction of the LORD and on his law he meditates day and night.’ Let us sit before the Lord, go on a walk in a park, or consider some other activity that will help us engage with God and His words without so many distractions. And this might mean you never open up your leather-bound Bible because His presence is so real you actually hear Him speak.
This is the call of the ones whose leaves are to not wither. And even as we draw near, we know it is only grace upon grace upon grace that is drawing us in to the Father’s bosom. So let us come…come and be refreshed in Him.