In much of the northern hemisphere, spring has arrived. The seasonal change is certainly evident here in the Middle East. Last month, when we took a picnic up to a lone tree on a hill, its March branches were still barren. It was that week that we celebrated “Nawruz,” the “new year celebration” that coincided with the beginning of spring. This year, cold weather and sparse precipitation contributed to the late arrival of greenery, but we all knew it would still come. Indeed, on an April visit to the same tree, we saw an abundance of leaves and buds. What had looked almost lifeless had been transformed.
Despite the stark contrast, no one was surprised. This annual occurrence had created an expectation that despite the complete winter barrenness, the leaves would eventually emerge. It had not died, but instead gone through a season necessary for the blossoms and fruits that were to come. This assurance came with one resource that was consistently present: water. Unlike the rest of the hill, the lone tree sat by the one spring of water. A closer look revealed a warped trunk, but despite its non-vertical early growth, the availability of water allowed it to thrive annually.
Like a Tree…
What I see makes me think of two Bible verses:
Blessed is the person 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 on His Law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree 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.
(Psalm 1:1-3, NASB)
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
And whose trust is the LORD.
For he will be like a tree planted by the water
That extends its roots by a stream,
And does not fear when the heat comes;
But its leaves will be green,
And it will not be anxious in a year of drought,
Nor cease to yield fruit.”
(Jeremiah 19:7-8, NASB)
Both comparisons include the presence of water and the growth of both leaves and fruit. The first passage emphasizes the importance of delighting in and meditating on the “law of the Lord,” while the second highlights the need to trust the Lord, regardless of circumstance. The parallel comparison seems to illustrate the balance of “good works” and “faith,” a topic often discussed in relation to salvation. Following the law of the Lord does not earn salvation; salvation is a gift of grace, received by faith. At the same time, receiving salvation through faith does not release us to freely sin without consequence; with sincere faith comes the desire to serve God wholeheartedly.
Instead of salvation being acquired through action or belief, it is the outcome of a relationship with God, made possible only by the grace of God, through Christ’s sacrificial death and victorious resurrection. It is only in that relationship that we find true LIFE, both now and for eternity. God is the ultimate source of life, and is calling all of us, His children and creation, to Himself out of love.
Planted by the Water
Water is often the symbol of life. Without it, the tree would shrivel up and die. But tapping into it, absorbing it, and enjoying it brings life and growth. Likewise, our relationship with Christ brings us life, as we abide in Him, delight in His word, partake in His joy, and experience His love. Seasons of apparent barrenness still come as we face losses, discouragement, weaknesses, and struggles with the consequences of sin, whether our own or that of others. Times of drought are a reality, as we encounter external sources of distress, whether the extremes of war and natural disasters or the accumulations of small stressors.
Yet, if we take those struggles as opportunities to lean into God, to deepen our trust in Him, and to turn to His word for truth and guidance, the outcome is growth. It is during times of drought that tree roots must dig deeper to tap into the water. Likewise, it is during our times of desperation that we seek God, realizing we can’t do it on our own. Learning to depend on Jesus strengthens our relationship with Him.
Trust in God provides hope. Even when a winter seems to last forever, it is always followed by spring.