(Photo taken in Frozen Head State Park, Tennessee.)
First published July 2010. Edited.
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: he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.
J. Vernon McGee had a few useful sayings. One of them was something to the effect that “It’s not how a man starts his life that counts. It’s how he ends it.”
The above verses support that thinking. The righteous are compared to trees, and are said to be planted in the house of the Lord. We might say today that they are planted in the Lord’s ways and word since we no longer have a geographical “holy place” (John 4:21-24) and are in fact the “house of God” ourselves (1 Cor. 3:16, 1 Peter 2:5).
This is not a literal thought – we aren’t excused for being literally fat in our old age if we’re still “bearing fruit”. (For one thing, if you make the fat literal you will need to make the fruit literal and that could get a bit awkward at some point.) The idea is of trees that are big, healthy and fruitful even to a ripe, old age. Thinking of trees in old age we think of trees that are large in girth, perhaps tall; and healthy trees will still be bearing fruit. Perhaps it is a big, old pecan tree that is still producing nuts or a huge avocado tree that is still bearing fruit.
The reason that these “trees” are still fruitful is because they have their roots in the right place – the place of growth, as it were. A couple other passages of scripture come to mind.
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.
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.
When we keep ourselves in the love of God (Jude 1:21), and, thus, in the source of the water of life, we should exhibit this flourishing fruitfulness into old age. Our “trunk”, as it were, will not become decayed. There will not be dry rot, nor hollow centers as some old trees develop. And, there will be a continuation of the fruitfulness – spiritually. I think of a very old, gnarled apple tree on an old semi-abandon farm where the roots are still in good soil; and the tree, though broken and twisted by the hardships of life, with what strength it has left is producing apples – fruit.
I’m also reminded of this verse, Hebrews 13:7 Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.
It's how we end that counts. And, there is a very important reason for ending well. As our starting passage says, To shew that the LORD is upright: he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him. Psalm 92:15
In the end, it’s all about glorifying the LORD!