Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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A Tree Planted by Streams

Leslie Basham: God nourishes us so we can nourish others. Here's Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: We have been blessed to be a blessing. You take in the nourishment so you can produce fruit for the benefit of others. God feeds and nourishes us so we can feed and nourish others.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of A 30-Day Walk with God In the Psalms, for Tuesday, January 8, 2019.

"Happy New Year" is a popular phrase, but does anybody really know how to make it come true? To answer that question, Nancy’s turning to Psalm 1.

Nancy: Well, here at the outset of the new year, the beginning of January we’re taking the first couple of weeks to talk about how to be happy in this new year, how to have a blessed new year. The new year is now well under way, but we’re still thinking about resolutions and goals and the trajectory we want our lives to be on this year, the pathway we’re going to choose.

That’s why we’re taking these couple of weeks, meditating on Psalm 1 which talks about how to be a blessed person, how to not only have a blessed year but how to have a blessed life and a blessed eternity.

Let me read the first couple of verses here:

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night (vv. 1–2).

Now, if you’ve not been with us thus far for this series, we have spent the last four sessions on those two verses—Psalm 1, verses 1 and 2.  

Now as we come to verse 3, we ask the question: “What is the outcome, or the result, of this way of life?” A person who doesn’t walk in the counsel of the wicked, who does delight in the law of the Lord, what’s the reward? What’s the payoff? What’s the outcome of his way of life?

Verse 3 tells us, "He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers."

So like a tree that is planted by streams of water, this person is rooted, stable, well nourished, mature, growing, fruitful—not just for the short term—but over the long haul. The older I get, the more I realize how important that is, to be growing and fruitful and vibrant spiritually over the long haul.

This person is steadfast, enduring, flourishing, and as I read this verse and think about those adjectives, I ask myself: “Do these words describe me?”

Now, I’ll just tell you the truth, there have been numerous times even within the last few days when my life would not have been described as stable, mature, steadfast, flourishing, but I want those words to describe me. As I’ve been meditating on this passage, I’ve been going, “Yes! That’s what I want! I want to be this kind of person.”

So I want to take time to day to just unpack that analogy of a tree in verse 3 and say, “What does this have to do with us?” It says this righteous person, this blessed and happy person, is like a tree, and then there are three descriptive phrases.

It’s a tree that’s planted by streams of water, a tree that yields its fruit in its season, and a tree whose leaf does not wither. Let’s look at each of those phrases and see how it describes the righteous person, the person who is on the pathway of godliness.

First of all, like a tree planted by streams of water. I should have done this long ago, but I happened this morning before I came to this recording to look up that word "streams" in the original language, and it wasn’t what I thought.

The word used there is actually used to refer to a small channel of water. It isn’t like a wide, rushing river necessarily, although that concept is used elsewhere in Scripture. But in this case, it’s a small channel of water as in irrigation which suggests to me that the streams of water here may not be natural streams.

And that says something that the water of God’s Word, the water of God’s Spirit is not something we naturally find ourselves having access to. It’s a supernatural provision of God that comes from His heart to us. He is the stream of water that waters our roots and makes us fruitful, a supernatural source or supply of water.

So how is this godly person like a tree planted, firmly planted as the New American Standard says, planted by streams of water? Well, a tree planted by a stream of an irrigation ditch, whichever it may be, has a constant supply of water, a source of nourishment.

And so it is with the person who meditates on God’s Word day and night. As you do that, as you take this daily Bible reading challenge, your soul will be irrigated. It will be watered. You will have a constant supply of spiritual nourishment.

Now, that word planted—it’s like a tree planted—the word literally is transplanted, like a tree that’s been transplanted. It’s not a tree that’s just growing wild. The trees that are in the desert, arid land of the Middle East can easily perish in times of drought.

Here’s a tree, it suggests, that’s been taken out of that dry, barren environment and carefully transplanted into a place where it can not only survive but where it can be secure, and it can thrive, where it can be cultivated and tended so that it can be fruitful and won’t perish.

Well, what a picture is that? Of the life of a child of God. We were by nature wild, dead in sin, but by grace, the grace of God, through faith, we’ve been transplanted. We’ve been taken out of the domain of Satan and darkness and transplanted into the kingdom of God, the kingdom of light.

We’ve been planted in Christ by the grace of God, planted where we have available all the means of grace that we need to live flourishing lives. The means available to us are the Spirit of God, the Word of God. The supply of God’s Word that we delight and meditate on, that’s what nourishes us, and we’ve been planted in that place.

Trees get beauty and get strength from their roots which are generally unseen, hidden beneath the surface. Those roots draw sustenance and life, strength and nourishment from the water. I see that as a picture of what it means to abide in Christ, to live in Him, to put down your roots deep into the soil of His character and His heart and His ways and His Word.

In the Psalms, throughout the Psalms, you often see the psalmist, many times David, struggling with adverse circumstances, but it always comes back to the fact that he’s still solid, he’s still secure. I will not fear what man can do to me. Why? Because he’s like a tree firmly planted by rivers of water. He says, “I will find my refuge, I will find my strength in God; that’s where I draw my life.”

When you’re firmly planted in Christ and in His Word, you don’t have to be afraid of rejecting the counsel of the ungodly. You’re not going to be shaken easily by what others think about you or your Christianity. You’ve meditated on the Word of God, you’ve delighted in it, and that has become your pulse star for direction. You’re operating through that grid. You’re planted in the Word of God. You’re all in. You’re going to be stable and secure and solid in the Word of God.

Now, the opposite picture there, instead of a tree planted by these streams of water, is a picture of tumbleweed in the desert. It’s not planted. Right? It doesn’t have any roots. It just blows whichever way the wind blows.

That’s what we see in Ephesians chapter 4, for example, where the apostle Paul talks about those who are children. They’re tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine. They’re tumbleweeds. That’s what’s true of the people who walk in the counsel of the ungodly. They don’t have roots that keep them stable and secure in times of adversity.

So this righteous person is like a tree planted by streams of water. And then here’s a second descriptive phrase: It yields its fruit in its season.

This is not just a picture of a pipe, an inanimate object that’s channeling water from one place to another. This is an animate object, something that’s alive. This tree is alive. This tree takes in water through the roots, absorbs it, and at the appropriate time produces new life, mature, ripe, flavorful fruit. There’s this process: receiving life, giving life, producing life.

Now, having said that, trees don’t generally bear fruit instantly. You don’t just plant an apple tree and the next day have apples on your tree. We live in fruit territory here, farmers know that. That tree has to put down roots. It has to be built up and nourished. It has to mature.

And so the results in our lives of delighting in God’s Word and meditating on it day and night, having our lives rooted in God, you don’t see those results overnight. It takes time. It takes patience to bear fruit.

And that’s why I’m challenging all of our listeners—this is not for some select few. This is not for some spiritual club here—every listener. I want to challenge you to take this Daily Bible Reading Challenge this year and to say, “Every day I’m going to have intake from the Word of God into my system. I’m going to take in the water of God’s Word.”

You won’t necessarily see the fruit of that every day, but what happens is, over a period of time, you’ll see that you’ll be more fruitful spiritually. You will produce the good fruit of God’s character and the fruit of the Spirit.

The quality of the fruit that you produce is dependent on what kind of nourishment you take in. The kind of nourishment the tree takes in will determine the quality of the fruit.

Remember that that tree has to have roots before it can bear fruit. That’s why it has to be planted. You can’t just take a branch and stick it in a coffee cup on your table. That branch is not going to have fruit because it has no roots. That’s why you’ve got to put your roots down into the Word of God, and then you will yield fruit in season.

That’s what Jesus talks about in John chapter 15: Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. . . . By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples" (vv. 5, 8). Prove what’s at the core in the heart of who you are—prove that Christ is in you because Christ’s fruit is being produced through you.

Jesus said to His disciples: "I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide"—quality fruit, the fruit of the Spirit, the fruit of Christ’s likeness, the fruit of reproducing life in others.

Ladies, we have been blessed to be a blessing. You take in the nourishment so you can produce fruit for the benefit and the nourishment of others. God feeds and nourishes us so we can feed and nourish others. Don’t just sit there in church on Sunday or in your quiet time during the day and take in fruits so you can be a happy, healthy tree. A happy, healthy tree is a tree that produces fruit in its season, and the person who’s taking in that nourishment will yield fruit.

And then number three: Its leaf does not wither. In times of adversity and drought, this tree is going to survive. It’s going to thrive. It’s a picture of a life, a Christian life that remains vibrant and vital even though it’s going through difficult circumstances and seasons.

I got a call the other day from a college student who’s a friend of mine. She said, “I just got this assignment: I’m supposed to come up with an article about an older adult”—I’m not sure why she called me, but she did—and she said, “an older adult who was exceptional and accomplished something significant in their later years. Do you have any ideas who I could do that on?”

As we talked, we came up with two names who probably come to your mind as well. One is the name, Elisabeth Elliot who started her radio program after having been a missionary and written many books and had an amazing, fruitful ministry. And then at age sixty-three, she started the daily radio program, Gateway to Joy, which she continued for the next thirteen years until she retired from that ministry at the age of seventy-six.

Now, doing daily radio myself, I’m just amazed at how God gave that woman the stamina, the grace to be fruitful in that season of life. When so many other people would have been retiring and taking it easy, she said, “I want to be a fruitful believer.”

Then we talked about Corrie ten Boom and how, I think she was in her forties if I’m not mistaken, when she was in prison during the war, but then she got out of Ravensbruck—the Holocaust. In her later years, she spent decades, up until her eighties and nineties, traveling around the world. I don’t know how many countries and continents she visited just talking about Jesus, proclaiming the love of Christ, giving her testimony.

She remained spiritually passionate and vital, growing, serving the Lord and others, being fruitful, always abounding in the work of the Lord.

I think about women like that and I say, “That’s the kind of person I want to be. I don’t want to rust out. I want to be fruitful and vital.”

Green Leaf in Drought is the name of a book that was written back in the fifties, originally. It's the story of a couple named Arthur and Wilda Mathews who were missionaries to China. At the end of the Second World War the Communists took over. This couple, along with their little toddler girl, I think she was one at the time, was under virtual house arrest for a couple of years before they were able to escape from China.

They were the last China Inland Mission missionaries to escape the country. For those couple of years they lived in a small room with their little girl. They had no furniture except a stool. They couldn't contact friends and family. The government cut off most of their funds. They had a small stove that they lit once a day to produce heat and to boil rice for dinner. They heated that stove with fuel from animal refuse that Mathews went out into the street and picked up and collected during the day so they could have heat and food.

This was a season for them for a couple years of extreme deprivation—a season of drought. But they had a source of life that enabled them to thrive even in the midst of those dire circumstances.

That's why when this story was written; it was called Green Leaf in Drought. It comes from that passage in Jeremiah 17 that says,

Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit (v. 8).

In the introduction to this book, the story of the Mathews, it says:

There was an unseen source of secret nourishment, which the Communists could not find and from which they could not cut them off. Your drought may not be caused by Communism, but the drying up of life's joys is incidental. When they dry up, is there a source of secret nourishment that the deadly drought cannot reach? The drought had dried up outward comforts and freedom. Was it to be allowed to kill the roots of freedom that spread out to the river? It can attack them. But if the young tree steadfastly reaches up toward the water of life, the drought and even the forest fire will be driven back.

There's a couple whose leaf did not wither—even in the time of drought.

Psalm 92 says it this way,

The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the LORD; they flourish in the courts of our God. They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, to declare that the LORD is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him (vv. 12–15).

Well, there’s one more phrase in this verse of Psalm 1: "He’s like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither." And then this sentence, "In all that he does, he prospers."

Does that remind you of a passage in Joshua 1 where the Scripture says:

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success (v. 8).

Now, I want to suggest that this is a prosperity gospel that you should believe. There’s another prosperity gospel, the one you commonly think of that’s talking about health and wealth and material and physical and temporal prosperity. Don’t believe that. God sometimes gives us good gifts, but He doesn’t promise them. But the one you should believe is that you will be prosperous in a biblical sense when you meditate on God’s Word, put your roots down into the soil of His Word.

That word prosper means "to succeed, to flourish, to be useful, to be profitable, to finish well." Even in times of drought, you will spiritually prosper.

The concept here is that you successfully fulfill God’s intended purpose and plan for your life—whatever that is. And you don’t do it in your own strength, but you do it in the strength of another, the strength of Christ, in whose streams you are rooted, in whose Word you are rooted, and you draw up the resources you need to finish well, to fulfill God’s purpose for your life.

Now, we’re not talking about a life that is easy. We’re not talking about a life that’s pain free. The life you live in Christ may not seem to be very prosperous right now. But God uses adversity to make us more spiritually prosperous.

This concept of being a tree planted by streams of water that’s prosperous and fruitful and flourishing is a thread that runs all the way through Scripture—beginning in Genesis, where you see two trees in the Garden—the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Those trees were planted by a river. A river flowed out of Eden, Genesis 2 says, to water the Garden, and there it divided and became four rivers.

So Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, and as a result, they were expelled from the Garden so that they couldn’t reach out their hands, God says, and take of the Tree of Life and eat of it and live forever in their fallen condition.

They were banished from that tree and that Garden, but throughout the rest of Scripture, and Psalm 1 falls right in the middle of this whole unfolding story, God has been putting into motion a plan to redeem and restore fallen mankind through Christ. By His sacrifice for our sin and by faith in Christ, we receive that gift of eternal life, and we are made righteous. So as trees of righteousness, as plantings of the Lord, we are planted in the soil of God’s love.

The metaphor actually gets all mixed together because when you come to the end of Scripture, you see there’s going to be a day where there’s a new heaven and a new earth where once again we will be able to partake of the Tree of Life.

You see that the vision of that final picture of that final garden in Ezekiel chapter 47 which says:

And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. [It’s water that flows from the presence of God, the Word of God.] Their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing (v. 12).

And then in the last chapter of the Bible, Revelation 22, you read the end of the story:

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree [not withered in drought] were for the healing of the nations (vv. 1–2).

That’s our calling, to be trees of righteousness planted by streams of water, yielding fruit in season, our leaves not withering, and in all that we do, we prosper.

Leslie: That’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth in a series called "How to Have a Happy New Year."

Throughout the series Nancy is challenging us to spend time in God’s Word each day. One way you can get even more out of your time in God’s Word is by using study material, such as our brand new Bible study called Elizabeth: Dealing with Disappointment. This resource explores the life of Elizabeth and will show you how to find hope in the Lord, even in the midst of disappointing circumstances.

It’s yours when you give a gift of any amount to Revive Our Hearts. I hope you’ll get a copy and then go through this study in February when we launch a new podcast on Elizabeth. There are six weeks in the first season that go along with the six chapters in this study. Just go to to make your donation and request a copy. Or, ask for the book Elizabeth when you call with your gift at 1–800–569–5959.

Well, Psalm 1 describes the wicked person as chaff that blows away in the wind. Tomorrow Nancy will describe what this means, and she shows why this concept is so important in making sure this new year counts. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants you to know you are firmly planted in Christ. It's an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV.

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About the Speaker

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love …

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