An enormous oak tree stood in the front yard of the house where I grew up. I saw it literally every day for years when I was a kid. For me, to walk past that oak tree on my way to school was as natural as breathing. The tree was so huge I couldn’t even reach it’s lowest branch. The giant shade provider was present when our family moved into the house, and it still stood firm when we moved away. I suppose it’s still there.
That huge oak tree is the image that comes to my mind as I read the very first Psalm:
How blessed is the man who does not walk in the
Counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
But his delight is in the law of the Lord.
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does he prospers.
That mighty oak poured its acorns all over our yard every year no matter what. Falls are beautiful in Louisville, Kentucky, in large part because of the colors produced by the leaves as they turn. That’s when the acorns would rain down on our yard year after year.
A lot of things happened to me and in our family while we lived in that house. I had a bad wreck on my bike and still bear the scars. We buried at least one pet, our dog, under the comforting branches of that behemoth. A devastating tornado roared through our city one April. But still the tree stood and produced its acorns right on schedule. Every. Single. Year.
What a perfect image for the psalmist to use for the person who meditates on God’s law; His words; His commands. When the winds of life blow his or her way, the one whose counselor is the Lord doesn’t get destroyed, but stands firm.
Also in our yard, in addition to the one majestic oak tree, grew hundreds, if not thousands of dandelions. The dandelion is on the opposite end of the botanical spectrum from the oak tree. I mentioned the oak tree survived a tornado. You’ll never hear of a dandelion doing the same. One puff of air and they willingly released their seeds. If the oak is the lion of the plant kingdom, the dandelion is the worm.
The psalmist concludes the chapter:
The wicked are not so,
But they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgement,
Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
For the Lord knows the way of the righteous.
But the way of the wicked will perish.
Jesus compared the person who listened to his words and obeyed them to a wise person who built a house upon a rock: “And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock,” (Matthew 7:25).
A growing popular practice among people who claim to be Christians is to see how mainstream one can be and still be considered a Christian. The temptation is to claim the name of Jesus as fire insurance, but never truly walk with him; never abide in him; hardly ever speak of him (unless bringing his name into profanity); never go to a hard place to represent our Lord and Savior to a world that is hostile toward the cross of Christ. And so we become dandelions, blending in to the thousands around us, instead of distinctly standing as a mighty oak.
God is looking for oak trees, who won’t be blown around and destroyed by they winds of adversity, change, or mediocrity. Oak trees don’t grow strong overnight; but the good news is God is patient, and He’ll reward and bless those who model the first part of Psalm 1 and don’t resemble the final three verses.