Here’s a seemingly simple question: Why do we end up walking away from God’s will for us? What is it that we, as Christians, are missing, that causes us to so regularly stray?
It could simply be that we are human, and humans make mistakes. We have not been made perfect yet, though that will come as part of our glorious inheritance. We can say we have cast off our old self (Romans 6:6; Ephesians 4:17-24), but the reality is that our old self has a nasty habit of returning to the surface — usurping our new self, and placing itself back upon the throne of our lives.
This is part of the problem, then. But I do not believe it is the whole of the problem. We live in a sinful world, and our perfect bodies and souls are a future promise. We are called to aspire to these promises, but we cannot yet wholly grab hold of them.
In the meantime, what are we to do, then?
Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked …
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither —
whatever they do prospers. — Psalm 1:1, 3
I believe the opening lines of Psalm 1 is at least part of that answer — an integral aspect that many people overlook, either purposefully or accidentally.
The Psalmist writes that “the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit, in the company of mockers” is blessed. Furthermore, the blessed one takes his “delight” in “the law of the Lord”, and “meditates on it day and night.” We see a similar instruction given to Joshua by the Lord after Moses has died. In words that mimic those given by Moses himself to the whole people of Israel not long before, the Lord tells Joshua to “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful..” (Joshua 1:8)
One cannot help but imagine David remembering these words when he penned his psalm, looking back through those who had led Israel and seeing the truth of his God’s instruction. “Follow my law, and you will prosper.” David will have seen it in his own life, countless times by the time he penned this psalm — and would see it many more before he died, as well.
But David was a wise man, and he had seen a lot.
I have seen a wicked and ruthless man
flourishing like a luxuriant native tree,
but he soon passed away and was no more;
though I looked for him, he could not be found. — Psalm 37:35-36
How many people have we met that seem to have prospered despite having lived lives entirely based around their own selfish amusement and greed? As we look around at society, how many people do we see making it to the top, all the while treading over the little guy — or countries that do the same to entire groups of people?
But here’s the rub for those who choose to go their own way, rather than he “who does not walk in step with the wicked” — man-made prosperity and success will not last.
In understanding this, we turn to the same analogy that David used — trees.
Look at the trees in the picture, and you can see that they have sunk their roots deep into the riverbed, securing for themselves the lifeblood that will help them not only flourish and grow, but survive. The evergreen trees are a lush green, and the deciduous trees are hibernating for winter, ready to bloom back into colour when they awake in Spring. This river feeds thousands of trees, big and small, up and down its length.
So ask yourself this one question: Given the opportunity, would any of these trees uproot themselves and wander off up the mountain, away from its most important source of life? Other than conjuring-up humorous images of trees marching along a mountain trail, we all acknowledge how ridiculous the idea is. No tree would choose to leave that which gives them life.