One of my favorite places in the world is Charleston, South Carolina. And almost every time I visit, we stop for a few minutes to visit the Angel Oak. This 400-year-old mammoth of a tree has withstood countless storms and witnessed centuries of history and change in its long life in the Low Country.
I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the Angel Oak lately, and not in the planning-a-trip sense (although I so wish I were!). My musings on this icon of endurance actually began about a month ago after Zach taught a lesson to our teens on Wednesday night from Psalm 1. This particular psalm is one I memorized in elementary school and on which I have heard countless Sunday school lessons and sermons. I thought I had the main points committed to memory pretty well – don’t make friends with bad influences. Read your Bible, pray every day. Got it.
But the thing about Scripture is that we never fully get it. When we open the living Word of God, the Spirit of God is always working to draw out the truths our fallen minds missed in times past. And this time, my pastor-husband pointed out a (perhaps fairly obvious) truth that somehow I’d skipped over in all my previous readings of this ancient hymn.
Psalm 1:3 speaks of the righteous man this way:
“He is like a tree planted beside flowing streams
that bears fruit in its season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.”
The NASB adds the word firmly to this verse – the tree is firmly planted. It’s a picture of endurance and strength in direct contrast to the image we get in the following verses of the wicked, who are tossed in the wind like picked over grain. There is no durability to be found in the life of the wicked, but the righteous man is afforded stability down to his roots. Zach made the point that this stability and fruitfulness only comes from the proximity of the tree to a life-giving Source – the flowing stream. It is because the righteous man is daily meditating on the Word of God that he can be stable and secure.
The concept of being firmly rooted is something that tugs at a deep yearning in my heart. Life here often leaves us feeling like we aren’t very firmly planted anywhere. The ability to cling to a sense of permanence in a world full of change and uncertainty is one of the most wonderful graces God gives us. But we have to stick close to the stream, friends. We need constant sustenance from the Scriptures and daily reliance on the Living Water if we want this two-fold blessing of stability and fruitfulness in life. Trees don’t flourish in the desert. We need the rich soil that is found by being in close proximity to the Source of all good gifts.
Often, we feel like we’ve been planted in a dry wilderness. The landscapes of our lives seem a far cry from the beauty and rich soil of the Low Country, or even a picturesque riverside scene. But wherever we are planted God is in the midst of us. His Word and His Spirit are ever-present to give comfort, exhortation, and daily grace. When nothing in our life seems stable or consistent, the promises and character of God endure as a firm foundation. He sustains us and holds all things together by His great power. Even when storms rage around us, we can trust our riverside roots (and the Creator of them) to keep us planted firmly and producing fruitfully.