In the bible we found so many parables especially that used by Jesus Christ to deliver His teaching. Also before Jesus came down to the world, God has been using many parables that given through His prophets. If we look carefully God uses many elements of nature as a parable. This time I am interested to talk about a parable in the book of Psalm namely the parable of a palm tree and cedar of Lebanon
The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; (Psalm 92:12 NIV)
The interesting thing from this parable is The Psalmist compares the righteous with the shoots that appear in the palm trees, and lush like a cedar in Lebanon. To capture the meaning and essence of this parable, let us first look at the character of both of these trees. First, let’s have a look on the palm tree. For the wanderers who walk in the dry and barren desert, it is uplifting thing if they see a palm tree. Why? Because if they meet the palm tree, so it means soon they will meet an oasis or water spring. There will be no a palm tree if there is no water spring around the tree.
How does the palm tree can grow in the barren and dry desert? When the seeds of palm are planted, the fibrous roots will penetrate the ground to find and absorb the water. Even though the roots of palm tree do not penetrate too deep to the ground but each fiber of the roots will spread and gripping the ground so strong. That is why the palm tree could become a strong tree. The palm tree will be deeply rooted although not too deep.
This is the meaning and essence that The Psalmist wants to convey. Deeply rooted! The righteous shall have strong roots. The righteous will be able to stand strong in the midst various obstacles, remain strong even though hit by powerful desert storm, and be able to continue to grow and produce fruit. I likened the problems and obstacles such as the dry, barren and scorching desert but the palm tree remain able to grow through deeply roots and know where put their hope. And the God’s word clearly says:
“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:7-8 NIV)
Palm trees are able to grow in the middle of a barren desert because they know where to find water. So it is with us, we will be able to live even though in the middle of struggles and hard life if we know where to obtain the “Living water” furthermore, when Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well:
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water… Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:10, 13-14 NIV)
Besides having a deeply rooted character, Like a palm tree which is full of nutrients and invigorating, the righteous supposed to be a refresher for the “barren and dry “environment , become an oasis in the desert, and be blessing that bring joy to others. In the other word, be the light and salt as the message of Jesus himself. (Matthew 5:13-16 NIV)
Now let’s take a look to the second tree, Cedars of Lebanon. Cedars are known to be very strong and not easily weathered. Getting older instead of being fragile, even the wood is getting stronger. The tree is also known to have a strong resistance to weather changes. No wonder at the time, cedars is often used for palace’s pillars and even the temple courts. In the book of Kings we can get a picture of this cedar tree. When Solomon built his palace, he mostly uses this cedar trees from Lebanon.
He built the Palace of the Forest of Lebanon a hundred cubits long, fifty wide and thirty high, with four rows of cedar columns supporting trimmed cedar beams. It was roofed with cedar above the beams that rested on the columns—forty-five beams, fifteen to a row. (1 Kings 7:2-3 NIV)
So, the meaning of cedars parables are, we are as the righteous is expected to be strong person who can act as a pillar for the life of our fellow, and for the God’s glory. We have to become a strong person who not easily wavers in facing the severity of the life’s problems, not easily fragile facing the heavy storm of life. We have to still standing strong despite many world temptations trying to strike us.
Based on the character of both of these trees we can see clearly that the Psalmist does not arbitrarily take a parable. There is a strong intent behind this parable. Palm trees and cedar symbolizes us as the righteous that live in Christ. We expected to have characters like both of those trees. Deeply rooted, able to overcome obstacles, continue growing, able to live in the midst of difficulties, able to bear fruit and become fresheners that bring joy to the people around us, then also be able to become a strong pole in life.
When I read and ponder this parable, there are questions crossed in my mind. What about us now? As Christ followers, have we deeply rooted like palm tree and know where we have to get living spring water? Have we thrive and bear much fruit that gives joy and blessing to many people around us? Or whether in fact our life become like a dry and barren desert? Have we become a strong poles like cedars wood, growing with incredible strength? Or otherwise we are still easily wavering buffeted by wind, always unsteady and even someone else sustain us?
I strongly believe that we all have deep longing to always growing strong, bear much fruit, and can be a blessing to others. We also long to be a strong pillar who could sustain someone other. How we can grow, and bear fruit? Very clear God’s word says:
Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. (John 15:4 NIV)
Then Jesus continued:
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5 NIV)
Let’s pay attention to the verses above. Until three times Jesus the Lord mentions “remain in me” This means it is very clear to us that always remain in Him is the most important thing we have to do. To be fruitful and be a blessing to others, we have to live and deeply rooted in Christ.
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.(Colossians 2:6-7 NIV)
Without it, all just be in vain. That is what will bring us to the living water, water that will be given by Jesus which will not be able to make us thirst forever, become the water spring in Him who constantly welling up to eternal life.
But whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”(John 4:14 NIV)
And when we bear much fruits we will glorify God.
This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:8 NIV)
For how long we can bear fruits? If we refer to the nature laws, our capabilities will have decrease such as our eyesight, hearing, brain and mind, and so on. Our physical condition cannot resist the natural law in line with our ages. But it does not mean we have stop to bear fruits. How come? God has declared this long, long time ago:
Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. (Isaiah 46:4 NIV)
Our strength is limited and will decline, but we must remember that the power of God will never decrease. And God says ready to carry, bear and saved us up even though our hair graying. This is God’s promise. That is clear, God still has a plan even when we are old and weak, and God still wants to use us regardless of age and ability.
My dear friends, let’s us encourage and pray one and another to always make effort and learning to have characters like palm and cedar tree by always live in God and the Holy Spirit. Always walks in the truth of God’s word and His will. Always maintain intimacy of our relationship with God. If our spiritual life begins dry and barren, immediately splash our spirituality with the living God’s word so we will continue to thrive and bear much fruit.
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season,
whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper. (Psalm 1:1-3 NIV)
Let God guiding and strengthen us in the forming process to be a person who have characters like palm and cedar tree. Do not rely on our own ability to become strong pole but be strong in God and in His grace. Amen.
… Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. (Ephesians 6:10 NIV)
You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 2:1 NIV)
Karina – Living by faith
Thank you to brother in Christ Daniel Lyons for the great thought and further information about the palm tree