Like a Palm Tree
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bible to the book of Psalms. We want to call your attention to Psalm 92, with special emphasis upon one truth which we wish to present for your meditation. Notice verse 1:

Psalm 92:

1 It is a good thing to give thanks unto the LORD, and to sing praises unto thy name, O most high:
2 To shew forth thy lovingkindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night,
3 Upon an instrument of ten strings, and upon the psaltery; upon the harp with a solemn sound.
4 For thou, LORD, hast made me glad through thy work: I will triumph in the works of thy hands.
5 O LORD, how great are thy works! and thy thoughts are very deep.
6 A brutish man knoweth not; neither doth a fool understand this.
7 When the wicked spring as the grass, and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish; it is that they shall be destroyed for ever:
8 But thou, LORD, art most high for evermore.
9 For, lo, thine enemies, O LORD, for, lo, thine enemies shall perish; all the workers of iniquity shall be scattered.
10 But my horn shalt thou exalt like the horn of an unicorn: I shall be anointed with fresh oil.
11 Mine eye also shall see my desire on mine enemies, and mine ears shall hear my desire of the wicked that rise up against me.
12 The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
13 Those that be planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God.
14 They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing;
15 To shew that the LORD is upright: he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.

I would like for us to notice particularly the truth which is found in verses 12-14:

Psalm 92:

12 The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
13 Those that be planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God.
14 They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing;
15 To shew that the LORD is upright…

These verses which we have re-emphasized constitute the basis for a very simple message, so simple that those of you who think deep might be prone to consider it as not worthy of our meditation; but the Bible is full of parables, metaphors, and types which God uses to illustrate spiritual truths. One type which He uses very frequently is the tree. There are over forty-one different illustrations of the tree in the Word of God. Twelve of them are found in the book of Psalms, and we have been led of the Lord to call to your attention two of them already as they illustrate spiritual truths or as they illustrate the spiritual condition that is possible for every human being.

You will recall the first one of which we reminded you: The Christian shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water that bringeth forth its fruit in due season; its leaf shall also not wither and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. Thus did David speak in a general fashion of the life of which every child of God is possessed so that he is able to live in the midst of all kind of drought.

Then we called to your attention an illustration which emphasizes in a specific fashion the relationship of the tree to the believer, for the Psalmist in Psalm 52, verse 8, said:

Psalm 52:

8 But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God: I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever.

We emphasized to you that the believer was not only planted in order to live, but the believer was planted in order to be a blessing to every other believer in the house of God. There can be no better illustration of that than a green olive tree in the house of God.

The tree which we offer for your meditation is a palm tree. The first time that palm trees are mentioned in the Bible, in Exodus, chapter 15, we are told that the children of Israel, after a weary journey through the wilderness, came to Elim, which was a place of twelve wells and seventy palm trees. There, in that place of refreshment, they found the victory and the strength which they needed to go on and fulfill the task which God would have them do.

In the very last place that palm trees are mentioned in the Bible—Revelation, chapter 7—our eyes are turned to a great host of people, some from every tribe and kindred tongue and nation in the world, who are standing in the presence of God. John, the observer, in the book of Revelation, was asked by the angel, “Who are these people? Where did they come from?” The angel that responded when John did not have the answer, said: “These are people who have come out of great tribulation. They have won the victory.” The significant thing about this group of people is that they had palms in their hands, and they were waving the palms of victory, indicating that the battle had been fought and the victory had been won.

If you are a close student of the Word of God, you will agree with me that every time palm branches or palm trees are mentioned in the Scripture, they are related to victory. For example, when Solomon built the temple and he gave the artisan instructions as to how the interior decorating ought to be done, he said, “I want on every wall a palm tree carved out of cedar wood. I want on the two main gates of the temple, hewn in brass overlaid with gold, a palm tree. I want in the very entrance of the oracle from whence the voice of God Himself will come a palm tree. I want it emphasized that these are palms of victory.”

When Ezekiel was describing the temple that is to be built at even a later date, as far as we are concerned, he followed the very same instructions ordering those who were to build the temple once again to be sure that the palm trees were an integral part of the interior decoration that the truth related to the palm tree might be forever remembered among the people of God.

Fatness of the Palm Tree

The figure of the palm tree, then, is appropriate as an illustration of a spiritual believer, and it is appropriate as an illustration (listen carefully now) of what every Christian ought to be. As we meditate upon the palm tree, looking back at our original text, I would like for you to notice the fatness of the palm tree. In this day of obsession related to slimness, where it is popular to be in such a state that they don't know whether you are a boy or a girl or a man or a woman, the idea of fatness is obnoxious, but the Bible says that fatness has its merits for in Psalm 92, verse 14, we read:

Psalm 92:

14 They shall still bring forth fruit in old age;[notice particularly now] they shall be fat and flourishing;

I want you to think about the fatness of the palm tree because it does convey a very important idea of what every Christian ought to be. Fatness meant then what it means now. It refers to riches and to wealth and to prosperity, but this particular word fat is a very interesting one. It comes from the Hebrew word dashen , and if you were to follow the meaning of this word through to its final analysis, you would find a very beautiful story back of it.

Turn to Psalm 20, as I tell you the story back of this word. You are familiar with the fact that in the New Testament before the Lord Jesus Christ came, there were various animal sacrifices demanded of God in order that man might approach Him. These animals sacrifices were all pictures of the ultimate sacrifice who was to come, the Lord Jesus Christ. One of the things that was required in relation to the animal sacrifices was not only the slaughter of the animal, but the consumption by fire—particularly the consumption by fire of the fat of the animal.

The reason that the emphasis was placed upon the fat of the animal was that the fat of the animal was interpreted by the scholars of that day as representing the most important part of the animal, the vital part, the rich part of it, the most valuable part. The whole idea was that God should have what is best, and so the animal was slain. It was consumed by fire, and the priest took a little shovel and gathered up the ashes of the fat. This word that is translated fat here is a word that is describing the action of the priest as they gathered up the fat of the animal.

If you are interested in etymology, you know that words get their meanings by usage and so this word that is translated fat came to be translated by the word accept , and that is the reason I have asked you to turn to Psalm 20. Notice these words:

Psalm 20:

1 The LORD hear thee in the day of trouble; the name of the God of Jacob defend thee;
2 Send thee help from the sanctuary, and strengthen thee out of Zion;
3 Remember all thy offerings, and accept thy burnt sacrifice; Selah.

Notice the word accept there in verse 3. It is the translation of the Hebrew word dashen that I mentioned to you a moment ago. When I am talking about the fatness of the olive tree, Beloved, I am not talking to you about the shape and the size; when I am talking to you about the fatness of the olive tree, I am not talking to you about its richness or its poorness; I am talking to you about the fact that it has been accepted in the presence of God because a sacrifice has been made which has met the suitable requirements of the demands of God.

Pause with me in your thinking for just a moment to ask your own heart a very personal question: Are you an olive tree? Are you a palm tree? Are you a tree planted by the rivers of water or, more importantantly still, are you the palm tree who is fat today because the price for your sin has been paid in full and you have been delivered and God has accepted the sacrifice of His Son as the atonement for your sin?

Palm Tree Transplanted to the House of God

Go back to Psalm 92 and notice something else that is related to the fatness of the olive tree, for I read that not only is this palm tree fat and flourishing, but I read in verse 13 that it is planted in the house of the Lord. We are familiar with this word planted because we have noticed it before. It comes from the Hebrew word shathal , which really means “to be transplanted.” You see, trees don't grow naturally in the house of the Lord any more than a tree would grow naturally in any building. If a tree grows in a building, somebody is going to have to bring it in and plant it. Trees don't grow naturally in the house of the Lord.

You and I don't grow naturally in God's house. That is the reason that we don't feel like going a lot of times. That is the reason it is such an effort for some of us to come. That is the reason if we have our “druthers,” a lot of times we take our “druthers” and stay at home. There is no point in being silly. There is no point in being hypocritical about it. People ordinarily, normally, naturally don't like to go to church. They weren't made that way, but when God regenerates an individual, and He transplants him, then he is able to be planted in the house of the Lord; and may I remind you that nobody has any right to be growing in the house of the Lord than those who have been planted there by God Himself, for it is not the planting of man. We have already learned that individuals planted by man shall be rooted up because the Bible says, “They which are the planting of man and not the planting of God shall be rooted up.”

Stop and search your heart. Ask yourself a very pointed question: Am I in the house of the Lord? What kind of planting is it? Is it a planting that can be described as the fatness of the palm tree or is it a planting that may be described purely and simply on the basis of what man might have done?

Palm Tree to be a Flourishing Tree

There is something else about this palm tree that I would like for you to notice. We have noticed the fatness of it, and I would like for you to notice the flourishing of the palm tree as well. Three times over in this paragraph it is stated that the palm tree will be a flourishing tree. Notice verse 12:

Psalm 92:

12 The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
13 Those that be planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God.
14 They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing;

These three statements do not represent meaningless repetition. They do not represent just a lot of empty words that fill up space; they represent activity related to a palm tree that is fat.

The first thing that I would like to call to your attention is this first word flourish . These three words are all spelled the same way in our English text, but they are not all spelled the same way in the original text from which this verse comes. For example, this first word flourish comes from the Hebrew word parach , and it speaks of a spontaneous growth. It speaks of something just springing up just as in verse 7 of this same Psalm grass springs up. It speaks not only of springing up, but it speaks of blossoming abundantly. For example, in Isaiah, chapter 35, verse 2, there is a promise given that someday when the Lord Jesus Christ returns to this earth the dry desert will blossom abundantly as the rose. That phrase, blossom abundantly, is the same word translated “flourish” here, so we are talking about a flourishing palm tree.

We would like to remind you that we are not talking about something that barely makes it. We are not talking about something that barely gets by. We are talking about something that is abundant, that is luxurious in its growth. If you look down at verse 14 you will find the other word flourish . It comes from a different Hebrew word meaning “continuous growth.” It is not something that springs up and is abundant and is dead overnight, but something that springs up and is abundant and goes on and on and on, so that in Elim where there were seventy palm trees and everything else was dead and dying about it, the palm trees stood tall and straight with luxuriant growth and production of fruit.

There is something else I want you to notice about this word flourishing , and that is in the very middle of the paragraph. Look at verse 13:

Psalm 92:

13 Those that be planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God.

This word flourish is not interesting to us at the moment from an etymological standpoint, but it is interesting to us at the moment because of where the tree is going to do the flourishing. Did you notice what we read here? The tree was planted in the house of God, but it was doing its flourishing in the courts of the Lord. You say, “Isn't that the same thing?” No. If you are familiar with the Old Testament temple, you will know that the inner sanctuary was called the house of God, and the courts of the Lord was the outside. It was the yard so-to-speak. Nobody but the most high priest could come into the inner sanctuary—the house of God—but the ordinary folk, even the folk who were not Jews, even the folk who were not followers of God could come into the courts of the Lord on the outside.

Are you following me? A fat palm tree, a flourishing palm tree, is one who has its roots in the house of God and its branches should reach out to the courtyard on the outside. The roots are in the house of God, but its branches and its fruit provide that which is needed by those who are on the outside.

I love this illustration of the child of God today. I love this illustration of what a Christian ought to be. A Christian ought to be an individual whose roots are in the very heart of God, so close to God that you can't get any closer, but you ought not to be so close to God that nobody can get close to you. That is the sad thing. Some individuals try to live so close to God that they shut themselves off from everyone else and, as someone else pointed out, they are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good, and God has no use for them at all.

Beloved, make sure your roots are in the house of God, but be sure your branches are flourishing out into the courtyards where people who need what you have to offer are able to come and bask under the branches of the palm tree with great delight.

Fruit-Bearing of the Palm Tree

One last thing I would say to you, and that is related to the fruit-bearing of this palm tree. We talked about its fatness. We have talked about its flourishing, and now we want to say a word to you about its fruit-bearing. Of course, we have already touched on it because a fat, flourishing tree has to bear fruit. It follows, but here is the thought I want to leave with you. It is found in verse 14:

Psalm 92:

14 They shall still bring forth fruit in old age…

They never get too old to bear. Palm trees which are planted in the house of God, palm trees which are fat and flourishing will bear fruit in old age. I am not interested, primarily, in emphasis upon old age from this standpoint of its literal meaning, but I am interested in the fact of the continuity of fruit-bearing which is suggested in the text before us. It is a sad thing that Christians don't always continue. Christians don't always keep on keeping on.

Once again will you shut everything out of your mind except your own thoughts and a suggestion or two that I would like to make? Check up on your life. How does this Sunday compare with this Sunday a year ago? You say, “Oh, it is just the same. I was in church.” Yes, I know that, but I mean the year in between. If I were to give you the opportunity to speak out, would some of you be able to say, “I want you to know that this past year has been a blessed year. I have known Christ as my Savior and things have been far different than they have ever been,” or someone else may speak out and say, “I want you to know that this past year has been a glorious year. I have come back to the Lord and away from my own sinfulness and selfishness, and this year has been a marvelous year.”

I wish I didn't have to give other folk an opportunity to speak because if I did, someone else might have to say, “To be perfectly honest with you, this has been a miserable year. I have turned my back on God. I turned my back on Christ. I have turned my back on everything that I have ever been taught. I have turned my back on everything that common sense tells me is right, and I have pulled out the stops and I have gone the limit. Even though I have kept a smile on my face, I am dying on the inside. I am miserable today, miserable because Christ is not all and in all, miserable because I am not continuing in fruit bearing.” You know the condition of your own heart.

Real Purpose of Planting of the Palm Tree

I want to close with one word that is found in this Psalm—the real purpose of the planting of the palm tree. Glance at it with me again in the latter part of verse 14:

Psalm 92:

14 …they shall be fat and flourishing [in order];
15 To shew that the LORD is upright…

The only reason that God prospers palm trees, spiritually speaking, is to show that the Lord is upright. I like the Amplified Version of this particular verse because it translates it: “Fat and flourishing palm trees are living memorials to show that the Lord is upright and faithful to His promise, living memorials to show that the Lord is faithful and upright to His promise.” Are you a living memorial, a living memorial of what the grace of God can do in a life that is wholly yielded to Him?


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