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, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord , and who meditates on his law day and night. 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. Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction. – Psalm 1:1-6
This passage is the first water reference in the book of Psalms. Apparently the original Hebrew word used to refer to this collection of songs was Tehillim meaning “Praises”. My sense is that this collection of poetry, songs, and instructions was used like many modern Christian churches use a hymnal, or in the case of some churches a computer projector. There is apparently still quite a bit of debate among scholars about the origin, age, attribution of the Psalms. Perhaps echoes of some of the past water imagery used in the bible will shed some light on this….we shall see.
I anticipate that the Psalms will be a bit like a calm lake reflecting the majesty and beauty of nearby mountains. The Psalms reflect God’s glory, power, and majesty as the post-exilic Israelites knew and experienced it — just like modern Christian songs of praise reflect our love and understanding of God as followers of “the way”.
The water imagery in this passage is familiar. Several previous passages have contained similar word pictures of God’s followers planting themselves by the river, the one river, and sinking their roots deep into the bank so they can reach the water. This verse provides some additional reasons why this is a good idea, namely that doing so will allow us to 1) yield fruit in season; 2) have leaves that do not wither; and 3) be prosperous in whatever we do.
I take the statement to “yield fruit in season” to mean — have the ability to do what God needs us to do when He needs us to do it. That means being in tune with what God is doing so we know when our “fruit” is “in season”. This also implies that there are times when we should withhold our “fruit” when the season is not right for our fruit. This is a welcome message for someone like me who tends to operate in full on or full off mode. This passage gives us permission to simply rest by the river during some “seasons”.
I think all of us feel like our leaves are withering at times when life bears down on us like the hot sun on a summer day. This passage assures us that if we remain planted by the stream God will provide the living water we need to not only not wither, but to grow strong and big amid life’s challenges. We will have the deep roots to remain fruitful during dry spiritual times that seem to be part of the natural spiritual cycle.
Lastly, we will be prosperous in whatever we do. I do not take this to mean monetary wealth, but rather spiritual wealth and depth. Prosperous means healthy roots, stems, stalks, leaves, and fruit (in season) — a healthy productive plant….not a sickly tree with a pile of “fruit” in the garage.
Prayer: God help me to know when to bear fruit and when to simply rest by the river.