The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The LORD is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.” – Psalm 92:12-15
There is no such thing as a “washed-up” Christian.
Well, maybe Paul was when he washed up onto the shore of Malta after a shipwreck. That’s not the sort of “washed up” that I’m talking about, though.
When you call somebody “washed up,” what are you saying about them? It’s a phrase that we use often for professional athletes in America. When a player who was once great now possesses only a shadow of their former glory—yet still plays the game—we call them “washed up.” Brett Favre was a washed up quarterback during his final year when he played with the Vikings. But this doesn’t just pertain to athletes. I am a huge fan of the original Star Wars trilogy. After the prequels were completed, however, I couldn’t help but think that George Lucas was washed up as a director and filmmaker. He was once great at his craft, but by that point had simply lost his touch.
Perhaps a Christian man or woman might become washed up in a career. They may lose their gumption and intelligence which made them masterful at their craft.
But there is never a washed up Christian. There is no such thing as a useless, ineffective, or outdated Christian.
Why? How do those that follow Christ buck this trend and pattern followed by the rest of the world? Because all usefulness that we see eventually yields to uselessness. Effective becomes ineffective. That’s the nature of age.
Look at the plants of this world. A tree flourishes. It bears its fruit during its season of life. Perhaps the fruit is of the greatest quality even! But then the tree becomes old. It no longer gives its good fruit. It becomes barren. Then it withers, dies, and is used for firewood. Again, that’s the nature of age.
What is it, then, that continues the flourishing of the righteous? How is it that even in old age they bear fruit and stay fresh and green?
It has nothing to do with the rich color of their fruit. It has nothing to do with the emerald of their leaves. It has nothing to do with the sturdiness of their wood. It has nothing to do with the wide and high-reaching expanses of their thick-armed branches. It has nothing to do with their own charisma. It has nothing to do with their own abilities to teach or preach or evangelize. It has nothing even to do with the strength of their faith, which certainly comes and goes like the tide on the seashore.
This has everything to with their roots. Rather I should say that this has everything to do with where their roots are planted.
The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God.
When you read from the Book of Psalms, how often do you just sort of skim over the tiny words right after the psalm number? You know, the ones that always say, “Of David” or “A song of ascents” or something along those lines? You might want to stop skipping over those, because even those tiny words are bursting with meaning—after all, God wanted them to be there!
The heading of Psalm 92 specifically has the phrase listed as its purpose: For the Sabbath day. Out of the 150 psalms, do you know how many have that phrase?
I’ll give you a hint: It’s less than two.
Right away, that indicates a very special relationship between this specific psalm—Psalm 92—and the Sabbath celebrated by God’s people in the Old Testament! The Sabbath was the day of rest for those people. They put down their plows, they shut down their winepresses, they closed up their shops, and they rested from their labors.
Rest for them did not only mean physical rest. This was also the day of their spiritual rest. The Jews would go into the temple or into synagogues, and there the teachers would read to them from God’s Word. Young and old, male a female alike received their spiritual refreshment by hearing and rehearing the promises of God to their ancestors. They rested under the shelter of his goodness, his mercy, and his love.
Those who are Christians today have seen how God made good on all those promises to send a Savior to the world. We know him. His name is Jesus. He lived for us, and he died for us. He took upon himself all of our sins and canceled them from our accounts on the cross. He is the one who gives us righteousness by planting our roots in him.
As for the Israelites waiting for the Promised Savior in the times when people were writing the Psalms, we find our rest in him. He is our Sabbath. Jesus gives the spiritual life that we all need. He is the solid Rock, the foundation in whom our roots grow deep.
He feeds us when we are young. He sustains us when we are old. Throughout that whole time, we continue to flourish—not only to live, but to thrive in his greatness and in his goodness. By Jesus, as he reveals himself to us in the Bible, we bear fruit when we are young, we bear fruit when we are adults, and we bear fruit when we are approaching death.
For those whose roots are planted in him, there is no such thing as washed up. There is no such thing as useless or ineffective.
There is always life in abundance.
If you are young, consider your futures. It is tempting to try to find life and growth and flourishing elsewhere, to plant your roots in different soil than in the courts of our God. Relationships, recreation, careers, leisure, friends—these are blessings that God gives, but they are not our foundation. Jesus is. We never graduate from him onto another stage of our lives.
For those who are old, consider your pasts. It is tempting to focus on the difficulties of life and aging that exist in the present. See how your Savior has sustained you during your years. Understand how he will continue to sustain you until the end.
Whether young or old, we rest in him and are refreshed by his Word. When we attend church, when we have conversations with other Christian friends, when we read our Bibles and meditate on the words of life we find therein, our roots grow deep. And as our roots grow deeper and as we feed upon Christ and his incredible story for us, we flourish. We grow through youth, into adulthood, into the aging of our bodies. Finally, at the end, when our mortal bodies die and we enter the halls of heaven with the rest of the saints who have gone before us, our trees will flourish and grow in a way that we cannot even put words to in this life.
For there we will have entered our eternal Sabbath rest. The hard work of life in this world will end, and we will enjoy God’s everlasting protection.
May we all continue to grow in God’s grace and in our knowledge and understanding of him until we reach that end.