A Tree “the Foliage of Which Does Not Wither”
HAVE you ever seen a countryside covered with luxuriant green trees? You will likely agree that it is a most pleasing sight. If you see many large, leafy trees, would you imagine that there is a drought in the area? On the contrary, you would know that there must be an abundance of water that keeps the trees alive and healthy.
Appropriately, the Bible compares those who are spiritually healthy to large, luxuriant trees. Note, for example, this beautiful passage from the first three verses of the first Psalm:
“Happy is the man that has not walked in the counsel of the wicked ones, and in the way of sinners has not stood, and in the seat of ridiculers has not sat. But his delight is in the law of Jehovah, and in his law he reads in an undertone day and night. And he will certainly become like a tree planted by streams of water, that gives its own fruit in its season and the foliage of which does not wither, and everything he does will succeed.”
Similarly, at Jeremiah 17:7, 8, we read: “Blessed is the able-bodied man who puts his trust in Jehovah, and whose confidence Jehovah has become. And he will certainly become like a tree planted by the waters, that sends out its roots right by the watercourse; and he will not see when heat comes, but his foliage will actually prove to be luxuriant. And in the year of drought he will not become anxious, nor will he leave off from producing fruit.”
In both passages, trees are used as an illustration to show what becomes of a person who does what is right, delights in God’s laws, and trusts in him fully. This leads us to ask, In what ways is such a person like a luxuriant tree, spiritually speaking? Let us examine these verses more closely.
“Planted by Streams of Water”
The trees spoken of are described as planted “by streams of water” or “by the waters,” not by just one river or stream. A similar word picture is found at Isaiah 44:3, 4, where Jehovah God spoke of the way he would care for repentant Jews who returned from captivity in Babylon. Through the prophet Isaiah, Jehovah said: “I shall pour out water upon the thirsty one, and trickling streams upon the dry place. . . . And they will certainly spring up as among the green grass, like poplars by the water ditches.” Here “streams” and “water ditches” are said to make the blessed ones grow like leafy poplars.
Even today in agricultural areas, you can see water ditches and streams flowing from a large source of water, such as a deep well, a river, a lake, or a dam. Generally, they are part of an irrigation system for fields or plantations. At times the channels of water are directed to an orchard of fruit trees. In some cases, the streams irrigate fields on one side and a row of leafy trees on the other, perhaps marking the border of the property.
How do trees planted by such streams fare? Psalm 1:3 speaks of a tree “that gives its own fruit in its season.” In the Bible lands, there are fig, pomegranate, and apple trees, as well as date palms and olive trees. Though the fig tree can reach a height of 30 feet [9 m] with widespread branches, most other fruit trees do not grow very tall. Yet, they can be luxuriant and healthy and give an abundance of fruit at the proper time.
In ancient times, large poplar trees grew along the banks of rivers and streams in Syria and Palestine. References to poplars in the Bible are usually associated with watercourses or ‘torrent valleys.’ (Leviticus 23:40) Willows, which are of the same family as poplars, could also be found growing where water was abundant. (Ezekiel 17:5) These large, luxuriant trees well represent the idea that both the psalmist and Jeremiah wanted to impart: Those who seek to follow God’s law and trust in him fully will stay spiritually healthy, ‘and all that they do will succeed.’ Is that not what we want—success in life?
Finding Delight in Jehovah’s Law
Today people try to find success in many ways. They immerse themselves in pursuits that could bring them fame and fortune, which all too often prove to be illusive and disappointing. What, though, can bring true satisfaction and lasting happiness in life? Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount provide the answer. He said: “Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need, since the kingdom of the heavens belongs to them.” (Matthew 5:3) Indeed, true happiness comes, not from possessing many material things, but from recognizing and satisfying our spiritual need so that we are spiritually healthy, like luxuriant trees that give their fruit in due season. How can we flourish spiritually?
According to the psalmist, first there are some things we must shun. He mentioned “the counsel of the wicked ones,” “the way of sinners,” and “the seat of ridiculers.” To be happy, we need to turn away from those who ridicule or even ignore God’s laws.
Then we should delight in the law of Jehovah. When we delight in something or some activity, we look for every opportunity to engage in it, do we not? So to delight in God’s law means having a deep appreciation for God’s Word, a desire to learn more about it and to understand it better.
Finally, we need to read it “in an undertone day and night.” That means reading the Bible on a regular basis and meditating on what we read. We should feel about God’s Word the same way as did the psalmist who sang: “How I do love your law! All day long it is my concern.”—Psalm 119:97.
Yes, when we acquire accurate knowledge and understanding of Jehovah God and develop full confidence in him and his promises, we will surely be spiritually healthy. In that case, we will be like the happy man described by the psalmist—“everything he does will succeed.”