The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
I. FOR UPRIGHTNESS. The palm tree rears itself straight up into the air, erect, stately, strong. True image of the really righteous. Crooked ways are not his.
II. FOR USEFULNESS. "The extensive importance of this tree is one of the most curious subjects to which attention can be directed. A considerable part of the inhabitants of Egypt, Arabia, and Persia subsist almost entirely upon its fruits. They boast of its medicinal virtues. The camels feed upon the date stone. From the leaves they make a variety of articles for domestic use. From the fibres of the boughs, thread, ropes, and rigging are manufactured; from the sap, a spirituous liquor is prepared; and the body of the tree furnishes fuel." And so in all departments of life - the influence, the example, the spirit, the words, and works of the righteous man are full of blessing. See this supremely in Christ, the Righteous.
III. FOR BEAUTY. In the Canticles the palm tree is often taken as an emblem of beauty, as it well may be. And on the righteous man "the beauty of the Lord our God" is seen, as in our Lord above all (John 1:14). Moral beauty is as real as physical.
IV. FOR POWER. See its victory over all kinds of foes which threaten its life. It is a root out of a dry ground: the choking sand surrounds it, the burning heat scorches it, the fierce tempest beats upon it; it is often wounded - its roots crushed with all manner of weights, the elements, man, the beasts of the desert, all combine to injure it; but in spite of them all it rears its beautiful corona of leaves far on high, and flourishes still. And so is it with the righteous (cf. Paul's paean of praise, his challenge to earth and hell to harm him if they can, Romans 8:35-39).
V. FOR FRUITFULNESS. It is the staff of life to the peoples amongst whom it is found. And so the righteous (cf. John 15:1-8).
VI. FOR GUIDANCE. It is the sure sign of the presence of water (see Elim, Jericho, etc.). Across the burning sands the caravan, parched with thirst, make for the cluster of palms they see afar off, for they know that water is there. And so the righteous should be and is a sign to the sin wearied heart, which tells him where the living waters are. "Let him that heareth say, Come."
VII. FOR PERMANENCE. It continues right on to old age to be all that has been said. True emblem of the perseverance of the saints of God. - S.C.
I. THE BLESSED SECURITY FURNISHED IN THE GOSPEL FOR OUR MAKING DAILY PROGRESS IN THE WAY OF HOLINESS, EVEN TO THE END OF LIFE. This security we may consider as resting on these two grounds.
The righteous shall flourish like the palm-tree: he shall grow like a cedar in LebanonI. WHO SHALL FLOURISH? "The righteous." There are none who are righteous by a righteousness of their own — that is, a righteousness derived from themselves; but there are those who are righteous by a righteousness derived from God. Of this the apostle speaks; " That I may be found in Him, not having mine own," etc. There is a twofold righteousness spoken of in the Scriptures: the righteousness of justification, and the righteousness of sanctification. These are very distinguishable from each other; and unless it is clearly discriminated, a confusion will pervade the whole of the religious system. The one is the change of our state; the other of our nature. The one is a relative change; the other personal. The one entitles us to glory; the other is a meetness for the inheritance of the saints in light. The one is an instantaneous operation, and applies at once; the other is gradual and progressive. Yet they are always inseparable, though distinguishable.
II. HOW SHALL THEY FLOURISH? "Like the palm-tree;... like a cedar." There is a real and active progressiveness in religion; though Christian principles and passions at present are all imperfect, yet they are growing, and shall advance to maturity. This progressiveness is to be considered as a Christian's duty, his desire, and his privilege. His duty; and therefore it is so often enjoined upon him. "Grow in grace, and in the knowledge," etc. "Giving all diligence add to your faith," etc. His desire; therefore he "forgets the things that are behind," etc.; and therefore his prayer is, "Perfect that which concerneth me." "Forsake not the work of Thy own hands," etc. His privilege, and therefore it is provided for him; "therefore it hath pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell;" and from this fulness he is to receive " grace for grace."
III. WHERE SHALL THEY FLOURISH? "In the courts of our God." There it is that you have fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. There His ordinances are dispensed — the ordinances of life. There God hath commanded the blessing, even life for evermore. In order to enjoy these advantages, you must be planted there, as a tree must be, in order to be fruitful; that is, you must be fixed there. How is this? In two ways. One by choice — for, "where the treasure is, there will the heart be also"; and where the heart is, there you are, wherever the body may be. The other is by the frequency of your attendance, availing yourselves of every opportunity the providence of God allows you to be found there.
IV. WHEN SHALL THEY FLOURISH? "They shall still bring forth fruit in old age." Not that they escape all the effects of old age, far from it; but as the apostle says, "When the outward man perishes, the inward man is renewed day by day." When the outward ear grows deaf, then the inward man hears the voice of God. When the eye grows dim, the mind is irradiated and enlightened. When the fleshly parts grow weak, we are "strengthened with might in the inner man." It is one of the consequences of old age in Christians to look towards heaven. There he reckons upon his relations and friends. "There my best friends, my kindred dwell — there God my Saviour reigns." He seems to have more connection with that world than with this. We look for meekness in the aged. The young are giddy, fierce, fiery, and determined — the older are willing to give up everything for the sake of peace, unless it is a good conscience and truth. There we look for maturity and judgment in divine things — that he should be able to distinguish things that differ, that his heart may be established in righteousness. He has not only had faith, but experience: the one is help to the other.
V. WHY ARE THEY TO FLOURISH? "To show that the Lord is upright." There seems something remarkable in this. Their fearing God, attending His ordinances, and "bringing forth fruit even to old age," shows that they are upright; but how does it show that God is upright? It does this in two ways. First, as it evidences His faithfulness to His engagements. All the ways of the Lord are mercy; not only mercy, but truth; because they are in fulfilment of His promises. Then, next, because it shows their adhering to Him with purpose of heart; and not turning back from Him, shows that they found Him what they took Him to be. Had they been deceived in Him they would have given Him up. Under the law, the servant that had his ear bored gave proof that he loved his master; and he would not have loved him if he had not behaved well to him. The attachment and the adherence of the servants of God proclaim his faithfulness; and show they have not been disappointed in their expectations of Him. Just like the venerable , who, when asked to deny his Saviour or perish, saith, "He has been a good master to me these eighty years, and can I now forsake Him?" This shows the perseverance of the Christian; not what he is, but what God is. "By the grace of God I am what I am."
VI. WHO CAN BEAR HIS TESTIMONY TO THIS TRUTH? " I," says David; "He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him." Every one can say this, and will say this, who has, like David, made God his rock for building upon — his rock of danger — his rock of refreshment, whose streams follow him all the wilderness through.
Expository Outlines.I. THE THREEFOLD RIGHTEOUSNESS WHICH ALL THE GODLY POSSESS.
1. Imputed. This is sometimes called the righteousness of God, because God provided it; it is called the righteousness of Christ, inasmuch as He performed it; it is also called the righteousness of faith, as that is the appointed means whereby we receive it.
2. Implanted. He is the subject of new principles, motives, feelings.
3. Exhibited. A changed heart will be seen in a changed life.
II. THE COMPARISON EMPLOYED.
1. For the righteous to be compared to the palm-tree, reminds us of the important truth that the most useful is the most flourishing believer.
2. The righteous will also grow as the cedar in Lebanon. A flourishing Christian is a growing Christian; he grows in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; he advances in the divine life, and abounds more and more both in the active and passive fruits of the Spirit.
III. THE PLACE SPECIFIED. "The house of the Lord," etc, "Christians," says an able writer, "are like soldiers; it is easier to fight in the regiment, where the men stand shoulder to shoulder, than standing alone to maintain some solitary outpost. They are like live coals; when separated they go out, but when gathered into heaps they burn and brighten, so as even to purify gold and silver. They are like trees; they grow the tallest where they stand together, running no small chance, like a solitary tree, of becoming dwarfed, stunted, gnarled, and bark-bound, if they grow alone. You never yet saw a tall and tapering mast which, catching the winds of heaven in its outspread wings, impelled the gallant ship on through the sea, and over the rolling billows, but its home had been the forest; there, with its foot planted upon the Norwegian rock, it grew amid neighbours that drew up each other to the skies."
IV. THE PERIOD INDICATED. "They shall still bring forth fruit in old age," etc. This, of course, does not imply that all the godly live to be old. It is true that the fear of the Lord prolongeth days; but still it often happens that the fairest specimens of sanctified humanity are called away in their early prime and promise. What the words signify is, evidently, that if they lived to be old their souls would continue to prosper, and that the peaceable fruits of righteousness would still be produced.
V. THE REASON ADDUCED. "To show that the Lord is upright," etc. A most conclusive proof have we in every "old disciple" of the faithfulness of God. When the hoary-headed saint reads the promise, "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee," he can stand up and say to all the world, It is true, for so have I found it during the whole course of my pilgrimage.
1. God hath declared this to be His unchangeable purpose with regard to all His people.
2. He hath also revealed to us the means by which that purpose is to be carried into effect, and which we see to be admirably adapted for answering the purpose for which they were intended.
(1) (2) II. HOW WE SHOULD AVAIL OURSELVES OF THIS AMPLE PROVISION MADE IN THE GOSPEL FOR THE ESTABLISHMENT OF OUR FAITH, AND FOR OUR MAKING DAILY PROGRESS IN THE WAY OF LIFE. 1. Let us often fix our thoughts on that abundant provision, believing the declarations of God's Word, and that they shall be fulfilled in the experience of all who receive them in faith, and act upon that faith. 2. Let us attend regularly and conscientiously upon the means of grace which are intended for promoting our spiritual improvement. 3. Let us set ourselves without delay to engage entirely in the duties of the Christian life, and to do so heartily, as to the Lord, and to do so in the exercise of faith, believing that in the inexhaustible fulness of Christ there is enough and to spare for all — grace suited to our state and circumstances, whatever they may be. (J. Muirhead, D.D.)
(2) II. HOW WE SHOULD AVAIL OURSELVES OF THIS AMPLE PROVISION MADE IN THE GOSPEL FOR THE ESTABLISHMENT OF OUR FAITH, AND FOR OUR MAKING DAILY PROGRESS IN THE WAY OF LIFE. 1. Let us often fix our thoughts on that abundant provision, believing the declarations of God's Word, and that they shall be fulfilled in the experience of all who receive them in faith, and act upon that faith. 2. Let us attend regularly and conscientiously upon the means of grace which are intended for promoting our spiritual improvement. 3. Let us set ourselves without delay to engage entirely in the duties of the Christian life, and to do so heartily, as to the Lord, and to do so in the exercise of faith, believing that in the inexhaustible fulness of Christ there is enough and to spare for all — grace suited to our state and circumstances, whatever they may be. (J. Muirhead, D.D.)
II. HOW WE SHOULD AVAIL OURSELVES OF THIS AMPLE PROVISION MADE IN THE GOSPEL FOR THE ESTABLISHMENT OF OUR FAITH, AND FOR OUR MAKING DAILY PROGRESS IN THE WAY OF LIFE.
1. Let us often fix our thoughts on that abundant provision, believing the declarations of God's Word, and that they shall be fulfilled in the experience of all who receive them in faith, and act upon that faith.
2. Let us attend regularly and conscientiously upon the means of grace which are intended for promoting our spiritual improvement.
3. Let us set ourselves without delay to engage entirely in the duties of the Christian life, and to do so heartily, as to the Lord, and to do so in the exercise of faith, believing that in the inexhaustible fulness of Christ there is enough and to spare for all — grace suited to our state and circumstances, whatever they may be.
(J. Muirhead, D.D.)
II. THE PALM-TREE AND CEDAR GROW BECAUSE THEY ARE WED BY HIDDEN RESOURCES. The palm in the desert is fed by hidden springs that flow beneath the surface of the dry sand; its roots drink deep and are sustained, and they send up the moisture into the leaves and branches, and they are refreshed and invigorated. The roots of the cedar are fed by the streams that come trickling down from the snow-crowned tops of Lebanon; they go far and wide into the fissures of the rocks, securing stability by their sturdy grasp, and continuing strong by drinking of the perpetual supply that comes down from the melting snows. So the righteous in this world grow and flourish. Like the palm, they are fed by hidden resources: with joy they draw water out of the wells of salvation. Like the cedar, the righteous grow, for they are fed by hidden resources which come from above; the water of life flows down from the river of life that flows by the throne of God.
III. THE PALM-TREE AND CEDAR, FED BY HIDDEN RESOURCES, GROW INTO THINGS OF BEAUTY AND UTILITY. In many particulars the righteous are as the palm-tree, for they yield the fruit of the lip and of the life to the praise and the glory of God; and their lives are not only happy and holy, but exceedingly useful to their fellow-men. They live, not for themselves, but for others, and endeavour to leave the world better than they found it. They also afford grateful shelter and shade to the weary and heavy-laden ones. "Come unto Me, all ye that are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." They are as palm-trees, the emblems of victory; they have been victorious over the difficulties that beset their pathway and opposed them in their coming to Christ — they have overcome Satan, and they are overcoming the world, and they are to conquer even death itself. Much that we have said about the palm will apply with equal force and aptness to the cedar, for it is towering and widespreading and evergreen, exceedingly noble, and very useful; and there is this additional about the cedar — its wood was exceedingly useful for sacred purposes, being used in the building of places dedicated to the worship of the Most High. So the righteous — they grow stately like cedars, and when cut down by the hand of death, they are removed to the new Jerusalem, and form part of the Church triumphant in the skies.
(F. W. Brown.)
I. THEIR USEFULNESS. "The extensive importance of this tree (says an Eastern traveller) is one of the most curious subjects to which a person can direct his attention. A considerable part of the inhabitants of Egypt, Arabia, and Persia, subsist almost entirely upon its fruit. They boast of its medicinal virtues. Their camels feed upon the date stone. From the leaves, they make a variety of articles for domestic use. From the fibres of the boughs, thread, ropes, and rigging are manufactured; from the sap is prepared a spirituous liquor; and the body of the tree furnishes fuel." However remiss individual Christians may be in the discharge of their duty, the natural tendency of religion is to make them "fruitful in every good work" (Colossians 1:10). Where are the homes for orphans? Where the hospitals for the sick? Where the asylums for the lunatic and the blind? These are the monuments of righteousness. These are founded by the Gospel of Christ. Who are the patient and painstaking teachers? Who are the first and foremost in carrying light and cultivation among savage tribes? Who are the peacemakers? Who are most ready to discharge their duties as citizens, and neighbours, and friends? Whose promises are the most solemnly and strictly kept? Whose principles are the source of the greatest benefit to mankind? The righteous — the children of God.
II. THEIR RESISTANCE TO EXTERNAL CALAMITIES. It is a remarkable fact, that the more you attempt to hinder the growth of this tree, by pressing it down with weights, by heaping stones and rubbish upon its roots, and by injuries to the bark, the stronger powers of resistance does it manifest: shooting up its straight and upright trunk a hundred feet and more. And even when the old stock has withered and decayed with age, and fallen prostrate to the ground, fresh sprouts spring vigorously from the roots; thus giving rise (as some have thought) to the fable of the Phoenix dying, and another rising from its ashes. When does the spiritual life of the righteous flourish best? Not when all hindrances and temptations are removed. Not when the skies are always bright, and the breezes soft and refreshing. Not when prosperity gathers about the Christian everything which heart can wish for. The soul is much more likely to rise upward, or assert its higher claims, when misfortunes, and ill-usage, and wrongs, are pressing heavily upon it. As the bodily strength is best developed and preserved by those inured to toil, and who boldly face the tempest and the cold, so is our inner life invigorated and prolonged by the roughnesses and afflictions which beset the good man's way.
III. THEIR DURATION. According to the report of naturalists, this tree is most productive from the thirtieth until the eightieth year, and continues to flourish for more than two centuries. At first thought, it might seem almost absurd to say, that the children of God live longer than those who serve the world, the flesh, and the devil. But the Bible certainly encourages this idea (Psalm 55:24; Proverbs 3:16; Psalm 91:14-16). Habits of regularity, and moderation, and self-restraint, which the rules of the Gospel require, do greatly contribute to the health and happiness of such as observe them. And who does not know that peace of conscience, the sense of sins forgiven, and of God's favourable regard, are more efficacious remedies for healing our infirmities than any which can possibly be devised?
(J. N. Norton.)I. IN THEIR USEFULNESS.
1. While other trees are distinguished by their devious trunks, the palm shoots perpendicularly upward to a considerable height, and thus resembles the pious mind, whose inclinations and pursuits ever tend toward heaven. Even Mahomet could say of the generous man: "he stands erect before his Lord: in every action he follows the impulse received from above, and his whole life is devoted to the welfare of his fellow-creatures."
2. The palm-tree is noted for the abundance of its fruit. The powerful action of the sap is developed not only in thick umbrageous foliage, but in multitudes of flowers and dates. Are not thus the righteous pictured forth by this tree? They who "have put on Christ" abound in every good thought, word, and work, and remembering that they are the branches of the living vine, they yield much fruit of righteousness to the glory and praise of God. Are they not eyes to the blind, ears to the deaf, and feet to the lame?
II. IN THEIR RESISTANCE TO EXTERNAL CALAMITY. Neither weight nor violence can make this tree grow downwards or crooked; but the more it is oppressed, the more it flourishes, the higher it towers, and the stronger and broader it becomes at the top. From this singular quality it became the emblem of constancy, patience, and victory by the Eastern nations; and hence Christ was honoured at Jerusalem by the waving of the palm branches; and the redeemed in heaven are described as carrying palms in their hands, in token of the triumphs they had achieved. No situation so thoroughly proves the Christian as the afflictions of mortality. The feeblest infant may endure the sunshine, but it requires the man to face the storm.
III. IN THEIR DURATION. It has been the prayer of the great and good, that they might never outlive their usefulness: and when we behold the aged, hoary, not with wisdom, but with hairs, we tremble lest they have lived in vain. But when we contemplate the pious patriarch spared for threescore years and ten, who has been both parent and priest of his domestic flock, he resembles, indeed, a fruitful palm-tree, which, still yielding fruit in its old age, is only awaiting for the transplantation of the master of the vineyard. Many are they which have flourished thus around us; but their time of vigour and usefulness has expired, and now they beautify, and enrich the paradise of God.
(R. J. Campbell, M.A.)
Like a cedar in Lebanon1. Downwardly, as to humility.
2. Upwardly, as to heavenly-mindedness.
3. Inwardly, as to heart holiness.
4. Outwardly, as to usefulness.
5. Grow even in the midst of storms.
6. Grow imperceptibly.
7. Grow till it ceases to grow.The strongest cedar in Lebanon shall cease to grow; so shall every righteous man, as to this world; but the very thought of the termination of his growth here should remind him of the issue of this termination.
Homilist.How does the cedar grow?
I. BY THE UNFOLDING OF ITS INNER LIFE. The cedar of a thousand years once slept in a little germ. Thus holy souls grow by putting forth the germinant powers within them.
II. BY THE APPROPRIATION OF THE OUTWARD. The cedar assimilates to its own substance things that are unlike itself. The dews of heaven, the salts of the earth, the gases of the air, it turns all into its own essence. Thus the godly soul turns everything into its own character.
III. BY THE INFLUENCES OF THE TRYING. Whence comes the strength of the cedar? Not merely from the dew that sprinkles its branches nor the sunbeam that warms its heart, nor the soil that feeds its roots; but from the tempests also. Even so trials help the growth of the true soul: it makes hostile elements do it service.
IV. BY ITS OWN CONSTANT ACTIVITY. The sap may be regarded as the very spirit of the tree, and that is ever active; it runs up the roots through all the pores of the trunk into every branch and leaf. From the leaves it runs back again, feeding and strengthening every part as it goes down to the very roots. Thus circulation goes on; it is incessant. The cedar grows so long as it lives; when it ceases to grow it ceases to live. So is it with the soul. There is no end to its growth. It passes from strength to strength, from glory to glory, through all ages.
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