Like a Tree
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

God has been leading our own hearts to meditate together in a portion of Psalm 1, and I want to share some of those things with you. If you have your Bible open at Psalm 1, you will recognize it as a most familiar passage of Scripture, one which nearly everybody who has done any memorizing of the Word of God has committed to memory in the whole or at least in part. You may think of it as such a familiar passage of Scripture that it has no particular message for us at this hour, but I believe that it does. Notice:

Psalm 1:

1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
4 The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.
5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
6 For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.

I would like for you to think with me, particularly about verse 3. Notice the words again:

Psalm 1:

3 And he [that is, the godly man, the Christian man, the born-again man] shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

You might keep a marker there as I ask you to turn with me to the book of Jeremiah, chapter 17, and notice a like verse to this one at which we have been looking, so very much like it that one might think the one man was quoting from the other. Yet there is enough difference that it might be well for us to consider the two verses together. We read from verse 7:

Jeremiah 17:

7 Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is.
8 For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.

Make Like a Tree

These two verses of Scripture to which I invite your attention provides the basis for a theme that I would like for us to consider, which is found in three words—“like a tree.”

I have suggested to you any number of times how impressed I am with colloquialisms, slang, jive talk—whatever expression you want to use—and how sometimes scripturally it makes a point. We used to hear so-called beatniks say, “Make like a tree, Man.” You have some idea of what he is talking about. I say this reverently: It is scriptural. I say this reverently: Make like a tree, Man, if you want to be the kind of Christian God would have you be. I want you to use this very simple message which God has given me as an examination for your individual hearts and ask the Spirit of God to use the message contained in these two verses to speak to your heart.

The Planted Seed

If we are going to make like a tree, let me suggest four words that will describe all of the subject matter in these two verses. One of them is planted ; another is productive; another is pleasing; another is prosperous . Notice in Psalm 1, verse 3:

Psalm 1:

3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water…

I want you to notice that word planted with me for a moment because it is an interesting word. The word itself conveys a theological truth which many of us are prone to neglect, for this word planted comes from the Hebrew word shathal , which really means “to transplant,” and there is a difference, you know. It is one thing to plant a seed; it is another thing to transplant a seedling. It is one thing to plant a seed; it is another thing to transplant a plant.

Let me say to you that when you were born into this world, the seed was planted; and the Scripture says that every individual born into this world has his name written in the Book of Life, which indicates that God intended for him to grow in this particular world. Everybody within the sound of my voice and everybody in the whole world was a seed God planted and which He expected to live.

Turn with me, please, to the book of Colossians, chapter 1, as I remind you that it is necessary for every individual to be more than planted. It is necessary for every individual to be more than a seed sown. In Colossians, chapter 1, we have brought to our attention an illustration of what we are talking about when we say it is necessary not to be planted, but to be transplanted, for in Colossians, chapter 1, verse 12, you will notice the Apostle Paul saying:

Colossians 1:

12 Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:
13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:

For effective meaning, you could just as well use the word transplanted in relation to the word translated , for Paul reminds us in his letter to the Colossians that every individual born into the world was planted in the garden of the Devil, and it was necessary for God to transplant him into the garden of God. That is the reason I say that this word planted is very important because if you are still growing in the garden of the Devil, you are not one of God's plants. God will have to transplant you into His kingdom. If you are going to make like a tree, you are going to have to begin by being transplanted. I ask you: Have you been transplanted? Are you still growing in the garden of the Devil or have you been transplanted? What is your answer? Perhaps your answer is in the affirmative, and if it is, I would like to ask you another question: Who transplanted you? It is important not only to be transplanted; it is exceedingly important for the right person to transplant you. If you transplant yourself, it won't be a lasting thing.

Turn, please, to the Gospel according to Matthew, and notice particularly the words of the Lord Jesus Christ in chapter 15. The Lord Jesus Christ had been saying some meaty things and the Pharisees didn't like it. His disciples got worried just like a lot of people do in the average fellowship today. If you bear down too hard on the truth, somebody will come along and say, “You are going to offend somebody before this thing is over. You are going to make somebody mad before you are through.”

That is what they said to the Lord Jesus Christ, and His answer is found in verse 13:

Matthew 15:

13 But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.

“The background of that verse is the reason these Pharisees don't like what I am saying. It is the reason they are not able to receive what I am saying. They never have been born again. God didn't plant them in the first place, even though they are Pharisees, even though they have a religious name, even though they are a member of a religious organization. God didn't plant them. I want to remind you,” Jesus said,“that every plant which My Father didn't plant will be rooted up.”

Go back to the book of Psalms, and notice Psalm 104, as I ask you: Who planted you? If you have been transplanted, did you do it yourself? What do I mean by that? Did you decide that the garden in which you were growing was not a very good garden and you would do something about it? You turned over a new leaf, you cleaned yourself up, you trimmed the branches, you watered the ground, and you hope everything is all right. You will be rooted up one of these days if you were the planter. It won't last. It can't last. Jesus said that it couldn't. Who did the planting? If you are back at Psalm 104, notice verse 16:

Psalm 104:

16 The trees of the LORD are full of sap; the cedars of Lebanon, which he hath planted;

So you see, even though there is nothing in our immediate text in Psalm 1 to indicate who planted the tree that was planted by the waters, He reminds you that it cold not have been a mortal man or it wouldn't still be planted there. We would suggest to you that it must have been the Lord Himself who planted that tree by the rivers of waters because in Psalm 104, we notice that the trees which the Lord plants are full of sap, full of life. There is something different than dead wood.

There is an awful lot of dead wood in Christendom today. There is an awful lot of dead wood mixed in the assembly of the saints. I am not going to pass judgment; I am only asking, “Are you a tree that the Lord planted or are you one that man planted?” If you are one that the Lord planted, then you are full of sap. That leads me to the second word that I gave you. The tree in Psalm 1 is not only planted, it is planted by the rivers of water and it bringeth forth good fruit in its season.

The Productive Tree

Keep in mind what we read in Jeremiah, chapter 17. Not only did we say that he brings forth his fruit in his season, but we learned in this verse that the tree of the Lord's planting shall not cease from yielding fruit. We learned that its fruit will be such that will be good for the purpose God intended. So if we take both of these verses and put them together, I might suggest to you, in relation to the word productive , that there are three things said about it. First, there is the certainty of fruit-bearing. If the Lord planted the tree, then it is going to bear fruit. That is what Jeremiah said when he said, “Neither shall it cease from yielding fruit.”

Let's fix it in our minds. Though it may upset some of us and rob some more of us our assurance, let us fix in our minds that the tree which the Lord plants yields fruit because that is what God's Word says. God's Word said that it will not cease from yielding fruit. I would say to you that if you are a tree and you feel that you are of the Lord's planting, and there is no fruit produced in your life, it would be good for you to re-examine your values and your relationship to God because here is the plain teaching of the Word—the certainty of bearing fruit. It will not cease to yield fruit.

I could give you numerous passages of Scripture which would verify what I have just said to you—that God has chosen us and He has ordained that we should bring forth fruit and that that fruit should remain.

The first thing that I want you to notice about the productivity that we have in mind is the certainty of bearing fruit. It is going to be there if you are a tree which the Lord has planted.

Fruit-Bearing is Seasonal

I want you to notice the second thing, and that is that not only will there be a certainty of fruit-bearing, but (listen carefully to this because this is something that a lot of folk miss) the fruit-bearing will be seasonal. Keep that in mind. It will be seasonal. Before you sit in judgment too much on somebody upon whose tree you haven't seen any fruit, you keep in mind that the fruit is seasonal. You don't expect peaches until peach season. Remember that. You don't expect to pick pecans off of a pecan tree until it is the season for the pecans to mature and get ready to be knocked off with a long stick. Before you get too critical, remember that the fruit-bearing is seasonal. Before you lose the assurance of your salvation and say, “You said if I was a tree planted by the Lord, I would bear fruit, and I am not bearing any.” Before you lose your assurance of your salvation, let me remind you that the fruit-bearing is seasonal, and sometimes the frost can ruin the crop. It doesn't mean you are not a tree. It doesn't mean that you cannot bear fruit, and it doesn't mean that you never have borne fruit; but it does mean that the frost has come and there is no crop this year.

Christian, let me ask you: Has there been a crop this year? I am using the phrase this year in a very liberal fashion. I am not talking about any particular year necessarily. I may be talking about this week. Has there been a crop this year? Has there been? Do you look into your life today and say with shame, “No, there hasn't been a crop. The frost got it.”? Has the crop been as large as it should have been? What is your answer? Are you saying to me, “No, I am afraid it hasn't been as large as it should have been.” You know there is a drought going on.

You see, I want you to realize that fruit is seasonal, and before you sit in judgment and say, “They are not saved; they are not a Christian; I don't see any fruit in their lives,” maybe you had better ask God to give you a little discretion. Maybe you had better ask God to give you a little training in spiritual horticulture, and you might decide they are out of fellowship instead of lost, and maybe the frost nipped the buds instead of the tree never having been planted by the Lord, and maybe they are too far from the water to do much good because that is the third thing I want to say to you about the matter of this fruit-bearing in relation to productivity.

The Secret of Fruit-Bearing

Not only is there a certainty of fruit bearing; not only will the fruit bearing be seasonal, but Beloved, there is a secret of fruit-bearing, and oh, how accurate this was in the land in which the Scripture finds its roots because it was a dry and a thirsty land. We think we endure droughts here in West Texas, but they are nothing to be compared to what they were over there, and God used the figure of speech to give us the secret of productivity. Look at it there in verse 3:

Psalm 1:

3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

Notice the phrase, “…planted by the rivers of water…” When God plants you, Beloved, He plants you by the rivers of water. If you are inexperienced, you might plant not by the rivers of water, but just where you would like to have a tree. Nothing is going to happen, but when God plants, He always plants by the rivers of water.

Though time will not permit us to examine the Scripture to verify what I am saying to you in detail, I want to suggest to you that the rivers of water or the streams —that is the real Hebrew word for rivers —are always a typical illustration of the Holy Spirit. I would remind you that when God plants the tree that will bloom forth the fruit, He plants the tree in relation to the Holy Spirit. He plants it beside the streams of water.

Someone may say, “But you don't understand. The place where I am, I know God planted me, but the place is a desert place.” I am going to remind you, on the authority of the Word of God, that though that may be true, God is able to make streams in the desert. You see, you don't have an argument. If God planted you, He planted you by the rivers of water. Perchance you are saying, “Why is it that there is no fruit in my life? Why is it that the fruit is seasonal? Why is it that the fruit sometimes is so meager?”

Remember, I asked you to look at Jeremiah, chapter 17, along with Psalm 1:3. Jeremiah said that the tree was not only planted by the rivers of water, but that the tree spreads forth its roots toward the stream. Beloved, that is the difference. That is the difference between a born-again believer who is doing nothing but living, and a born-again believer who is producing fruit. The difference is: The born-again believer who is producing fruit is pressing forth his roots toward the stream. He is reaching out, in the language of our text, and he is sucking in all of the benefits of the water that he can.

When God saved you, Beloved, by promise, the Holy Spirit came to live in your heart. If you are a born-again believer today, the Holy Spirit is living in your hearts. You are planted by the river, in the words of our text, but how many of you are trying to do in your own strength and failing miserably to do what the Holy Spirit could do just like that if you would give Him the chance? How many of you in the energy of the flesh are trying to produce fruit which the Holy Spirit would gladly produce if you would suck in enough of the water through the roots which God has put out toward the river?

Though you are planted by the river, have you got all the roots of the tree in a little ball at the base of it, all matted up and twisted so that no real life is getting through or are you reaching out with those roots to the river to get all that God has for you?

The Pleasing Tree

I said there were four words to describe this text. Closely related to the productivity of the tree is the word pleasing . Look at Psalm 1, verse 3 again:

Psalm 1:

3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

Notice the statement: “…his leaf also shall not wither…” Not only will this tree planted by the water produce fruit, but its leaf is not going to wither. That is the reason I have chosen the word pleasing because Jeremiah said, “His leaf shall always be green.”

Why do you suppose there are leaves on a tree? There are several scientific statements that we could make, but they have no particular spiritual application so we pass over them and say that one of the reasons there are leaves on a tree is for the sake of beauty. That is the reason some trees do not produce fruit. They weren't meant to produce fruit. They were meant to be beautiful. They were meant to break the barrenness and the ugliness of the landscape. Have you ever seen anything as unsightly as a tree whose leaves have withered? Now, wait a minute. I didn't say the tree whose leaves had turned to a beautiful gold and brown or some of the other beautiful fall colors that add beauty to the landscape. You know, there is a beauty that is related to the young sapling and there is a beauty that is related to the tree majestic in its splendor whose leaves are beginning to turn.

There is something thrilling about a young spiritual experience, but there is something thrilling about the maturity of spiritual experience. One of the things that grieves my heart, if you will permit me a little aside, is this business of turning the old saints out to pasture, this business of taking the saints of God who have learned to live, and just about the time they can convey some of that spiritual maturity to us, we retire them because this is the age of youth and everything has got to be done young or it can't be done. We are missing a lot.

Beloved, trees have leaves for the sake of beauty and that is the reason I use this word pleasing because I want to remind you that even though a tree produces fruit, it sometimes can become unlovely. Nobody likes to look at it, and I want to remind you that even though some Christians are very, very busy, so that they are doing, doing, doing, and everybody can talk about their productivity, they are so unpleasant and so unsightly and so unattractive—I am thinking primarily now about the material and the physical as much as I am the spiritual—that nobody wants them around. I want to remind you that this tree that is planted by the rivers of water is a tree who has its leaf which does not wither. It remains a beautiful green, and it is always attractive. Do you know why? Because it is planted by the rivers of water, because it is reaching out its roots to the river.

I am not talking about soul-winning. I am not talking about productivity. I am not talking about fruitfulness. If the Holy Spirit has control of your life, you are going to be a pleasing and a pleasant individual. If somebody is living in such a fashion that you feel that nobody likes you, nobody wants you around, before you begin to talk about them, investigate your relationship to the Holy Spirit. Maybe you are not reaching out your roots toward the river. Maybe you are not sucking in enough of the Person and the power of the Holy Spirit to make you a beautiful character, one that is attractive to other people and one whom folk want to be around.

Let me suggest to you that there is nothing so unattractive and so obnoxious as a Christian who is operating in the flesh, and there is nothing so attractive as a Christian who is operating under the direction of the Holy Spirit.

The Prosperous Tree

That leads me to the last word that I want to leave with you. The last one is prosperous, and I read here in Psalm 1, verse 3:

Psalm 1:

3 …and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

This speaks of health. The trees are full of sap. I remember reading in the passage in Jeremiah that this tree that was planted by the rivers of water shall not see when the heat cometh. This tree, planted by the rivers of water, shall not be careful in the years of drought; it shall not be anxious in the year of drought.

It is wonderful not to be able to notice the heat physically. It is wonderful for everybody around you to be burning up and you not even notice it. Let me move that over into a spiritual realm, Beloved, and say that it is beautiful to be so in touch with the river that when the heat is on, spiritually speaking, and everybody else is perspiring, spiritually speaking, and some people are having heat strokes, spiritually speaking, your roots are out toward the river in such a fashion that you don't even notice it.

Keep in mind what I am saying. It isn't that the heat isn't on; it is that you don't notice it because you are close enough to the river. You might see a Christian who is always singing. Everything seems to be perfect and you say to them, “Nothing ever happens to you, does it?” They might say, “The Lord is awfully good,” and not go into details. Then you might say to someone who knows them, “You know so-and-so? Nothing ever happens to him, does it?” “Well, that is what you think. Let me tell you what happened.” Then they begin to tell you all the things that have happened and you say, “They don't seem to notice it.” No, they don't. They don't notice when the heat is on because their roots are out toward the river.

Remember that. May I suggest to you that the tree which is planted by the water and its roots are out toward the river doesn't get anxious when the drought comes. You have lived in West Texas long enough to know that we have concern about drought. Newcomers who don't know what droughts are get really concerned when the dry spell comes. Then they will talk to somebody who has lived here a long time and knows how to live in a country like this, and they will find somebody who isn't anxious.

Beloved, let me say to you, if you are going to make like a tree, the kind of tree you are, whether your roots are all balled up within themselves, or whether they are reaching out toward the river by which you are planted will be determined by the anxiety that you manifest when you hear the drought is coming.

Conclusion

I have said to you many times that things are going to get worse, and they are. I am not a calamity howler, but I am not a born optimist and never was. I am practical, and according to the Word of God, things are going to get worse, and you don't need to expect for them to get any better. What are you doing? Are you scared to death? Are you all balled up in a bundle of nerves like roots at the bottom of the tree or are you relaxed enough to reach out toward the river and suck in all of the water that you need to keep your leaf green and to keep the fruit producing when God wants it produced and to keep the whole picture of the tree exactly like God wants it?


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