Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the way of the sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper. (Psalm 1:1–3—NKJV)

With the lengthening of daylight and the warming of the sun’s rays we begin to look for signs of spring! Signs of spring are not just the arrival of the catalogs in the mailbox. The swelling of the buds on the trees lets you know that the new season is just around the corner. There may be other life-signs that come earlier (like the daffodils showing up somewhere off in a protected corner) but the big one is when you lift up your eyes to the heights of the trees or when you see hints of red on a far off, tree-covered hill, you know that a new season is dawning.

I believe that the use of the fruitful tree to illustrate a believer’s life is rich with thought-provoking meaning for every Christian today. A tree is symbolic of permanence, multiplied seasons of fruitfulness, hidden and visible growth, shelter, sturdy products, and lasting beauty. It is quite natural to consider various traits of Christians that have a strong correspondence to the plethora of trees that are around us.

I suppose it was for a biology class that I acquired Peterson’s Field Guide to Trees and Shrubs. It was a grand collection of distinguishing characteristics of North American plants. It differentiated between plants and trees based upon leaf, bark, silhouette, habitat, and fruit. The wealth of information of created diversity causes a Christian to stand in awe of the infinite wisdom of God. I have often thumbed through it in order to find the identity of an unknown tree.

The tree in our psalm is one which is favored in its location and in its type. It is not merely for decoration. It is fruitful, meaning that it produces a product true to its nature that benefits others, duplicates itself, and enhances its value. It is an evergreen which does not drop its leaves for others to clean up after, but retains its living activity throughout the year. It does not go dormant. It is planted intentionally (transplanted, if you will) beside “rivers” of water, such as an irrigation ditch, which provides a steady flow of nutrients that keeps the tree healthy and productive. As it prospers, so do all those around it.

It occurs to me that some “Christians” are like the pine tree and the dogwood in that they seem to come into their own at Christmas and Easter, while the rest of the year they are seldom seen because they tend to blend in with the rest of the forest. Some Christians never quite attain the status of a tree for they tend to resemble the tumbleweed which roves from place to place without leaving a lasting mark. Other Christians tend to resemble the cottonwood tree or the catalpa tree in that they are “litter-bugs” and require a lot of clean-up. Some tend to resemble the southern pine with its shallow roots and short life-span while others closely resemble the poplar tree with its brittle and soft wood despite its great size.

Not all similarities are negative. Some dear Christians most closely resemble a bristlecone pine that has bested the tests of time while growing in a very difficult place. If you have been privileged to get to know someone who stands out among believers, you may think of him as similar to a giant redwood. Other faithful Christians resemble the sugar maple which has a beauty all its own, in each season, and yet yields a sweet taste to all who know them. Do not forget the mighty oak, under whose branches wildlife gather for food and shelter, or the treasured fruit tree that is carefully tended by the Master Gardener producing fruit to His taste.

Proverbs 11:30 reads, “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise.” Psalm 92:12–15 declares, “The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree, he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those who are planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing, to declare the LORD is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him (Psalm 52:8).” Isaiah 61:3 enjoins, “…that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.” What sort of tree are you in the Lord’s garden? Work and grow in concert with your Creator. Trust and obey.