v 3 They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
bearing fruit each season.
Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.
It is December, and in the last few days the trees have been stripped bare of leaves by some strong winds. Until that happened they had been covered with beautiful foliage, and there were plenty of berries too. Some people pay good money to go on holiday to see these late autumn colours. We are fortunate in having so much on our doorsteps.
The writer of today’s psalm had clearly seen this kind of beauty, but applies it to explain how the lives of some folk exhibit the same beauty.
The natural beauty of trees springs from where they are planted. In arid surroundings they soon wither and fruit is sparse. Plant them in good soil with the right amount of moisture and you find both growth and fruitfulness abound. It is, the writer says, exactly the same with people. Plant them in the right place and they will flourish. I suspect this more than a social observation. He is not writing about social conditions such as housing and a good income (important though these are to the human condition). He is driving at the values and spiritual content of their lives when he writes
‘Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers.
But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night.’
Their lives are planted in God – they draw their spiritual sustenance from God rather than from any unspiritual surroundings. They have learned to shut out the worldly advice and unhealthy values of the prevalent culture in order to focus on a godly lifestyle. As a result, their lives have become both beautiful and fruitful.
That is the kind of life that I want for myself, particularly the fruitful element. It is all very well and good to have a beautiful life, but the issue of fruitfulness should occupy our thoughts today. So what is fruitfulness? It seems to be the ability to satisfy and bless other people. A tree does not have fruit for its own benefit (except in the matter of producing seed to reproduce itself), but the fruit is to be of benefit to others. That is for food to enable others to sustain their life. An apple tree blesses and satisfies me by giving me apples. I want my life to bring that kind of blessing to other people.