3 And he is like a tree planted beside a water stream that gives its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither; everything that he does is successful.
We have seen that the righteous, blessed man does not associate himself with the wicked, but takes joy in study and meditation on God’s word. So the the Psalmist has set before us two types of person: the wicked, and the blessed. Both of these lifestyles have consequences, and in the following verses, the psalmist lays out for us exactly what it means to be blessed, and then what it means to be wicked.
First, the Psalmist shows us the consequences for making God’s word your joy and the object of your meditation. A person who does this is like a tree planted by streams of water. In Middle Eastern countries, you tend to find wadis, areas in the middle of the wilderness that only get periodic rain, and are dry the rest of the time. The blessed man is not like a wadi; rather he is like a tree that has been planted by streams of water. He is continually fed by life-giving water. By God’s grace, non-believers may hit upon spiritual truth, and sometimes offer wise things to say. But for the most part, they are as dry of spiritual insight as the desert wadi. The person whose meditation is God’s word is always bearing fruit; since he is constantly taking in God’s word, his mind and his understanding are being conformed to Biblical wisdom. He is able, therefore, to offer sound advice, and see problems–and, indeed, see the world–through God’s eyes. In this sense, he bears good fruit.
Notice that the blessed man bears this fruit “in its season.” That is, he bears fruit when he needs to bear fruit, when it is timely for that fruit to come forth. He has a wise word when wise words are needed; he has endurance when life makes him weary; he has patience when the world around him is in turmoil. He is well-grounded and able to withstand all that life throws at him because he has all the resources he needs in God’s Word to help him to stand firm when he needs them.
Also, because of the strength and life the blessed man gets from God’s word, his “leaf does not wither.” There is life in him, and the life he has through God’s word will continue to sustain him. As Isaiah 40:8 says, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.” And so too does the man who has the word as his meditation.
With constant meditation on God’s life-giving word, “Everything that he does is successful.” Remember that the psalms are poetry, so this is not supposed to mean that the righteous man will never face adversity, never know failure, and never know poverty. “Success,” or “prosperity,” however, will be a hallmark of his life. This is not necessarily material success—though material prosperity certainly was regarded as a sign of God’s blessings on a person. The righteous man might well prosper materially, but more importantly, he is being fed by constant streams of water and is bearing fruit in season. Spiritually, he is very prosperous. His life is one that testifies to the work of God, and whose very thoughts, words, and desires are shaped by God’s word. How can he do anything that is not pleasing to God, and as a result receive blessings, whether material or spiritual? After all, the true measure of a successful life is that day when we stand before the Lord and hear Him say, “well done my good and faithful servant.” A prosperous life is a life lived for the Lord. And we can only know what that means if we are grounded in God’s word, meditating upon it “day and night.”
May our heart’s desire be to serve the Lord faithfully, and to soak in God’s word that we might be fit for the task. Have a great week, and a blessed Thanksgiving for those of you in the US!