People are like trees

Today's reading: Psalm 1

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.
4 Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff
that the wind blows away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

6 For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

Today's Psalm reminds us that the righteous will be blessed. They will be like a tree that lives next to a stream - a tree that is well-watered, healthy and vibrant. By 'healthy' I do not necessarily mean in a physical sense. There are many believers who are not physically healthy, nor are they financially secure. Some people will tell you that these believers are not real if they lack health and finances, but that is simply not true. Jesus did not have riches when he lived on earth, so why should we expect to have them? There are also believers out there who are gravely ill and who are a blessing to others because the roots of their hearts extend down into that fresh flowing stream of faith. They have used their illness as a way to get close to God and it shows. They can't help but spill God's goodness out onto others. I think'healthy' in this sense refers to one's spiritual health.

Psalm 1 reminds us that the wicked - or those who choose not to walk with God - will be punished. This is a common theme in the Psalms, perhaps because the writers of these poems were often oppressed by more powerful people. These people may seem triumphant for a time, but Psalm 1 tells us that they will one day blow away like dust, or chaff, in the wind. Their ways will eventually lead to destruction.

The longer I live, the more I see that this last principle is true. People who disobey God on a regular basis do not thrive. They may appear okay for a while and they may be happy for a time, but eventually, without the help of the Holy Spirit, life and the choices they make beat them down. They may grow depressed or bitter. Old habits may catch up with them. They blame others for their problems. People either hang around them to get something from them or they may have driven everyone away. At the core, they are not happy.

Those who do obey God on a regular basis, may have difficult times, but they are able to rise above them. They may struggle with depression but they are not self-centered. They may suffer terribly but their attitude is generally positive. At the core of their being they are contented people. Their roots, like our tree in the scripture, are rooted in fertile, well-watered soil.

The reason I have used the phrase "on a regular basis" in regards to obedience and disobedience is because these acts have to be cultivated regularly in order for a person to be known righteous or wicked. In order to be like the righteous person the Psalm describes, one must accept Jesus and then practice righteousness. Of course salvation is not by works, but how can we please God if we are not faithful? God sees us as righteous once we accept Christ, but there is a lot of work that needs to take place on the inside. Once we are healthy on the inside it shows on the outside.

Just like a tree is identified by careful examination of its leaves, trunk, bark, etc., a person can be recognized as righteous or wicked by careful examination. That fits with what Jesus said in Matthew 7:

"By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. "

Thus, a righteous person is known by what he or she does and a wicked person is known by the same. Of course it is not good to judge someone just because he or she commits one sinful or righteous act. We must get to know people first.

Mike and I like to take nature photographs; however, we have found that it is not so simple to distinguish one tree or plant from another. It takes careful examination. For this reason we have bought books that describe and picture the flowers, trees and shrubs that are common in Colorado and the southwest. As a result, we've learned a few things about what we're photographing. We've also learned that we were not identifying some plants correctly.

This is true of people too. Someone who may look righteous, may be disparately wicked in his or her heart and vice versa. As the old saying goes, we can't judge a book by its cover.

As I've been studying and reflecting on the Psalms in my journal I've been amazed at what thoughts they provoke. I hope you enjoyed reading some of my thoughts on Psalm 1. What are some of yours?