I enjoy trees immensely. They’re beautiful, complex, and essential for life on earth. I find them interesting biologically (just ask Selena.. she’s had to endure many of my nerdy observations) and I find them revealing when we view them as an analogy for our lives with God.
This morning for my devotional, I broke my current pattern of working through John and decided to do a brief topical study of trees in the Bible. Sounds weird right? Usually topical Bible studies are about some abstract concept like peace or hope or repentance. Today, I just studied trees.
Specifically, I wanted I wanted to explore a bit deeper into the premise of our recent Facebook post and how it can be applied to marriages:
Ok, enough preamble. Let’s dive in.
The problem: a sick, dead, or dying marriage
For Selena and I, when we feel tension in our marriage – our fruit is rotten, our leaves are withering – it’s usually the result of some root problem. One or both of us have roots too far from the source. I’m not talking about a disagreement or a bad moment, I’m talking about the tension where you feel like something is truly wrong.
You probably know what I mean: intimacy (a.k.a. sex) is lacking or absent… on purpose. You avoid transparent conversations, you feel like communication is backfiring constantly, and you start to lose affectionate feelings for your spouse. Yes, these are all things we deal with, and in our experience theres usually something wrong with our roots.
“Roots and where they’re planted” is an analogy used in many instances of scripture to illustrate the health of God’s beloved (us). There are many components to the analogy, but their intended interpretations are explicit in most places and easily deciphered elsewhere.
Jesus said: “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit.” (Matthew 12:33)
A tree is known by its fruit… ouch.
The Psalmist writes in Psalm 1:
1 Blessed is the man[a]
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in the law[b] of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
3 He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
4 The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
This is where things get particularly interesting. I read a passage in John 7 yesterday, I had no idea it would apply to this study so vividly.
“On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said,‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
Catch that? In a separate place from the Psalm and Matthew (and many other verses which mentions trees by streams), Jesus refers to “rivers of living water” as the Holy Spirit.
Ok, so if we look at our marriages within this analogy, what are we to do?
The natural inclination is to say “get near the water!!”. I do agree with that, but let’s make sure our motivation is right before we create another root problem. We don’t want to simply lean toward the water… we need to be uprooted and replanted by it!
In the case of Psalm 1, the tree’s flourishing was a result of where it lived. The psalmist was making an observation of an outcome rather than advice to achieve a desired end. This is a critical but subtle distinction we must make! The primary urging in Psalm 1 is to delight in the law of the Lord and meditate on it (vs 2). Translation: Be with God and know Him intimately.
He is our objective… Knowing, obeying, and loving Him. The result? Human flourishing and favor.
Get Close to God
Please hear me. I’m not saying “be near God so you can have a better life” as many would communicate. I am saying be near to God so… you can be near to God.
HE IS THE GOAL!
Anything that comes at us – good and bad – is more or less arbitrary. To carry the analogy through: when we face wind, storms, drought, and even fire, trees planted next to the streams of living water will surely survive and even thrive!
While knowing God closely is the goal, it’s still a natural observation that being near to God has its upside. He is our Father, when we draw closer to Him we experience his ‘goodness spillover’ simply because He loves us dearly, not because we somehow earned it (this opens another can of worms about grace which is beyond the scope of this post!)
As with all of our posts, I’ve seemed to have ended in the same spot: we must know God intimately. It’s mind-blowing to always reach the same conclusion but He really is the only thing worth pursuing… period.
If we pursue better marriages, may we do so in obedience to Him, for His glory, and for His cause. And may we be trees planted near the streams of living water.
What does it mean to be planted near God? How do you see this principle evidenced in your marriage?
Photo credit: Jeff Marsh