Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. – Psalms 1:1-3 (NIV)
Trees depend on two critical sources of energy and life; water and sunlight. Having one without the other can be devastating to a tree and an absence of both is deadly. I believe this is why so many passages in scripture are clear about trees growing near streams. God has seen fit to give us all life, but He has also made eternal life available to us as well.
The life that is given to all of us is like the sunlight to a tree. It is readily available and there are no pre-requisites – if you are a tree, you get sunlight. “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:15-17 NIV) This doesn’t require belief in God anymore than a tree has to believe in the Sun. The Sun provides light to the tree because that is what the Sun does and God creates living things because that’s what God does.
The tree that is planted by the stream, however, has another source of life that it must be connected to in order to grow even stronger. Just as the water in the stream brings life and strength to the tree, so the living water brings newness and strength to our souls as it flows from the Father. If we want to grow strong, we must stay connected to the source of water. It is ridiculous to picture a dry and weary tree making its way from a barren land to the stream for a quick drink, only to return to the barren land. And yet that is exactly what we do in our own lives.
Too often we live in the dry places and difficult landscapes because that’s where the other trees are hanging out. From time to time we grow thirsty and edge ourselves near the stream to rejuvenate, but we never truly connect to the source. This makes for fragile trees that do not bear the burden of seasons very well and produce little fruit. It is the tree that sinks its roots into moist soil of the banks that will thicken its trunk and strengthen its limbs.
Our relationship with God has been compared to being plugged in, like a cord into a wall socket, but that breeds the idea that we only need to have the connection when we need a charge. The truth is that we need a constant connection with God like the tree has with the stream. It is the life that is rooted in God rather than the infrequent religious jolts that will grow strong, weather the seasons and bear much fruit. The question for all of us is where are your roots sinking? Are they digging into the rich soil of the stream bank or tangled up in the dry soil of a dead forest with other lamenting trees? I may not be at the stream just yet, but I’m certainly going to try and get there because the stream is calling.