THE PALM TREE
T. Pierce Brown
As I was reading Psalm 92:12-15 in the NASB, I got a very uneasy feeling. For those who may not have access to that version, it reads as follows, “The righteous man will flourish like a palm tree, he will grow a cedar inLebanon. Planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still yield fruit in old age; they shall be full of sap and very green, to declare that the Lord is upright; He is my rock and there is no unrighteousness in Him.” The KJV says, “He shall grow like a cedar inLebanon,” and this is probably the meaning of the writer.
Whether I was bothered by the expression, “They will still yield fruit in an old age” or whether “They shall be full of sap and very green” disturbed me the most I do not know. How little fruit I am bearing at this age was probably the focus of my attention.
As I meditated on it, my memory took me back to the palm trees I have seen in past years, and to what I have read about them. I wondered if those of us who think we are reasonably righteous fit the description and nature of the palm tree.
The palm trees I remembered had a beauty and stateliness that attracted my attention. I am told that the palm tree begins to bear fruit at about 8 years of age, and continues to bear for more than a century. That, by itself, is worthy of note. I have known of some persons who claim membership in the Lord’s church who think of themselves as righteous, but barely did get planted. And if one expects to see bloom, leaf or fruit he would be very disappointed.
It might be a worthwhile exercise, in case you have read this far, to take a 3×5 card, or postage stamp, or something of the sort and write down what you have done for the Lord in the last month or so. I am not talking about the times you may have been present at the church building. The hen being in the chicken house, and even the fact that she cackles, does not mean she has laid an egg, and the fact that the cow came up to the barn to be fed does not mean she gave any milk.
It does not disturb me so much that the average church member has not ever led a soul to Christ. For what the other person does with the gospel after you teach him is not always your responsibility. But what you do with it is. It does disturb me that the average–and even far above the average–church member not only has not led a soul to Christ. He has no real intention of making any deliberate effort to do so, as far as we are able to tell.
The palm tree is probably one of the most useful of all trees known to man. From it comes dates for eating, lumber for building, fiber for making mats, baskets, rope, etc. I believe one can find at least 100 or more things for which the palm tree is useful.
Does that have any application to you? I know of preachers who seem to think that the limit of their responsibility is to speak from the pulpit. I admit that it is possible that many preachers fritter away their time and limit their effectiveness by trying to be all things to all men. That is, they are organizers and administrators. They are on all sorts of committees, speaking to all kinds of gatherings, doing all kinds of busy work, especially that which lends itself to some prominence or prestige, when their primary job is to preach the word. But the truth is, there is no limit to the areas in which a preacher can do good except his ability and opportunity.
The kind of thing of which I am being slightly critical is the preacher who can fish, play golf and preach, but can seem to do very little more in the cause of Christ. And I am not downgrading the values of fishing and playing golf, for they can be very relaxing and therapeutic for the overworked preacher. But I have known song leaders who were asked to do some other task, such as teach a class or be on a visitation team who seemed to think that song leading was such a great responsibility that they could do nothing else.
Did you ever know of anyone who seemed to think that it was his primary responsibility to warm part of a pew for a few minutes on Sunday morning? This attitude is not limited to those in the pew.
To any of those kinds of persons, as well as to the rest of us, I think a re-examination and meditation on the fact that “The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree” would be of value. How much like the palm tree are we? Are we just full of sap and very green, or do we try to make ourselves useful in all the areas in which we can serve? Are you willing to do what you can, where you are, with what you have for the glory of God and the good of man? If you are, we urge you to pause for a moment right now and write down some special thing you are going to do for God and/or man this week that you have not been doing, then do it!