Psalm 1 is sort of awful and wonderful, all at the same time. It exhorts us to live by the law of the Lord and promises that things will go well with us if we do. Don’t sit with the scoffers, it warns, because things are surely going to suck for them.
For the righteous faithful, things sound better:
They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper. (Ps 1:3, NRSV)
I haven’t always felt so fruitful as that, despite my best efforts to be faithful. Sometimes the streams of water, of grace, of love have seemed unreachably far away.
Today I read this Psalm in a new translation, the Common English Bible, and I found something I needed to see. Here’s the fresh look at verse 3.
They are like a tree replanted by streams of water,
which bears fruit at just the right time
and whose leaves don’t fade.
Whatever they do succeeds. (Ps 1:3, CEB)
RE-planted! I love it!
A tree can be transplanted, and while it’s not always successful, it is possible for a tree to thrive. The apple tree planted in my backyard came to us from a nursery, root ball in a burlap sack. It had already been growing somewhere else, clearly. I thought it was simply a flowering tree and looked forward to enjoying its blossoms. But in my backyard it found a home and sunk down roots and even gave forth unexpected apples.
Of course the trick is we have to be willing to risk ourselves, to choose to be transplanted, away from the things and people and habits of mind and heart that separate us from God.
The truly happy person
doesn’t follow wicked advice,
doesn’t stand on the road of sinners,
and doesn’t sit with the disrespectful. (Ps 1:1, CEB)
So it takes more than passive, nice, safe faithfulness. And don’t kid yourself; being active and rigorous and discerning involves risk, because it upsets other people who like us the way we always were before. Loving the Lord’s instruction (again CEB) requires an energetic commitment. We have to choose away from the disrespectful, the road of sinners, the wicked advice. We have to choose toward God. That’s when we will find ourselves planted anew, by streams of water.
And maybe, just maybe, our leaves won’t fade.