Will You Be the Tree or the Shrub This Year?

Text: Psalm 1:1-6, Jeremiah 17:5-8

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD.” —Jeremiah 17:7

Do you want to experience a “happy” new year? Psalm 1:1-6 makes it very clear what will determine that, by giving us two pictures of contrasting dispositions: The God-abiding person and the self-abiding person. The God-abiding person finds his or her sufficiency in Christ. The self-abiding person trusts only in self. The former trusts God as the source of life while the latter thinks it is in oneself to ultimately dictate life’s outcomes. Though initially they might be standing in the same physical place together (living in the same home, working in the same office, studying in the same class, etc.), the inevitable destinations couldn’t be more polarizing or further apart.

I’ve read that there is a courthouse in Ohio that stands in a unique location. Raindrops that fall on the north side of the building go into Lake Ontario and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, while those falling on the south side go into the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. At precisely the point of the peak of the roof, just a gentle puff of wind can determine the destiny of the raindrops. It will ultimately make a difference of more than 2,000 miles in their final destination.

We all might be starting at the same place on a calendar, but our eventual destinations this year are contingent upon one thing: What, or who, is going to be our sufficiency? Our downstream coordinates will be revealed markedly on December 31, 2020. The fruit of our lives doesn’t lie.

In Psalm 1:1, we read, “Blessed is the man” whose “delight is in the law of the Lord.” The Hebrew word esher is here translated “blessed,” which has the idea of happiness or contentment. Esher is a form of the Hebrew word ashar, which in its root means “to be straight” or “to be right”; therefore, “blessed is the man” speaks of the happiness, the blessedness, and the contentment in the life of the man or woman who is right or “straight” with God. This person finds his or her delight in the “law of the Lord”—hungering for the word of God in their daily lives.

The words of Jesus remind us that, “man doesn’t live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). The person abiding in God’s word is like the image of the tree in Psalm 1, which nevertheless thrives even in a dry climate because of its constant water supply. It flourishes even in times of crisis. This tree bears fruit, not for itself, but for others. When the faithful prospers, it is never for self, alone, but succeeds in bringing benefit and blessing to others.

In a similar image in Jeremiah 17:8, this tree doesn’t fear when heat comes or become anxious in the year of drought, “for its leaves remain green… it does not cease to bear fruit.” In contrast, Jeremiah likens the self-abiding person as a cursed “shrub,” who “shall not see any good.” He will be alone and without resources when disaster comes. The contrast is in high definition color—one is green and flourishing, while the other is brown and withering.

What will be your disposition in 2020—the God-abiding life, or the self-abiding life?


Lord, your word is clear that the God-abiding person and the self-abiding person have two very distinctly different outcomes. I want my sufficiency to be found in You alone. Reveal areas of my life where self tries to assert its own way. Help me, by the presence of the Holy Spirit, to crucify the flesh and all of its desires, that I might live and flourish in the Spirit of Christ in this new year. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Questions for Reflection, Small Group or Family Discussion:

  1. In Psalm 1:1-6, how are the “righteous” and the “wicked” different?
  2. What does a God-abiding person do a lot? How does the psalm writer connect delight and meditation?
  3. What does the image of the tree tell us about the God-abiding person?
  4. What differences are implied by the references to “tree” and “chaff”? In what ways might a God-abiding person be rewarded? (Psalm 1:3-5)
  5. What will you do this week to have a God-abiding disposition rather than a self-abiding one?

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