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Sermon – 5/2/04
Psalm 1:3 - The Tree

Friday Study Ministries

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The Tree

He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper” (Psalm 1:3)

As we drove through the Texas Panhandle last week, we saw lots of “dead” bushes, along with an occasional “dead” tree.  It is possible they’re not dead, but just dormant, waiting for spring rains; though it had recently rained and the shrubs next to the road still looked “dead” for many miles.  Then, in the middle of “nowhere,” we saw a lush green tree, tall and full as though tended by a careful gardener.  Why in this bleakness did that one tree manage to do so well?

The answer is obvious as reflected in the first Psalm – The tree has access to water!  And though we did not see any “rivers” in relation to this tree, it was obvious that water was the source of its life.  There is no other explanation.  The tree had sunk its roots into hidden “rivers of water” under the ground.  The proof is in the lush green of that tree!

The writer of the first Psalm spoke of such a tree, comparing it with the person “whose delight is in the law of the Lord,” meditating on it “day and night” (Psalm 1:2).  The Psalmist was motivated by the same Holy Spirit who prompted Jeremiah to cry out: “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord, for he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river… (Jeremiah 17:7-8).  We are challenged to meditate in His Word, for in it we will find HIM who is the source of all life, offering refreshment and LIFE – Forever!  We are to TRUST in the Lord.

Sometimes the waters He sends can seem to be too much, like the storms we met on the next evening while continuing east along Highway 40 through Arkansas.  This highway, we learned, is called “Tornado Alley” by local radio newscasters.  They spoke of tornados that were nearby at that moment.  We also learned on the car radio of “golf ball sized hail stones” just to the north, and they spoke of “baseball sized” frozen missiles to the south.  The rain was coming down so heavily that the wipers no longer could clear the windshield.  We had almost no visibility except when lightning flashed, but couldn’t stop because of the large trucks surrounding us that suddenly went from 75-miles per hour to somewhere between 5 and 20, displaying hazard lights as they slowed.  Some drifted from lane-to-lane and others stopped altogether, which was dangerous, because the narrow “shoulder” at the side the road was next to some kind of drop-off.  Was it just a ditch or a sheer cliff?  We could not see and did not know.

I was traveling with Candice, Lt. Daniel Douglass’ wife, in Daniel’s pickup truck.  He had already returned to Quantico, Virginia, for six more months of officer training.  His orders had finally come through and Candice was able to get most of their possessions packed and into a moving van.  The rest was crammed into the back seat and bed of the truck, along with Scratch the dog, who had a comfortable bed next to the cab.  Candice’s mother and Daniel hoped for someone to accompany her, and I had volunteered.

It’s interesting to note that we had been praying for clear skies for two days.  “Keep the rain drops away from our windshield” we prayed, and I had confidence He would do just that.  A couple of months previously, my wife, Genevieve and I had prayed that prayer, in relation to our drive to Las Vegas, Nevada and back; and though storms raged all around us, we stayed essentially dry for the whole trip.

This time it was different, for the pickup truck in which we rode was covered with deafening rain and hail, and the concern was especially for Scratch the dog, in the open bed at the rear of the truck.  After trying to drive through the storm for a few minutes, we agreed to stop, and I went out the passenger door, trying to not slip and fall into the blackness that went down from the edge of the road.

At the back of the truck, I yelled at Scratch to “Come” and took his collar, essentially pulling him off the gate, intending to run with him to the still-open passenger door.  Scratch, who is half Labrador and half Rottweiler, wasn’t fully cooperating and he’s large enough so that he nearly dislocated my wrist, but I switched hands, pulling him toward the passenger door and out of the rain.  There wasn’t room for both of us in the passenger seat, but, pumping so much adrenalin that it must have squirted out of my ears, I held him in a combination of an embrace and a wrestling hold – We were inside, 82-pound Scratch and I, and we even managed to get the door closed!  Candice drove on through the downpour!

Then, in the middle of nowhere was a sign!  An off-ramp!  “Lodging” the sign said, and we were winding up the ramp toward the only hotel in sight, which included on its sign the very welcome words, “Dogs Permitted!”  We were in!

In our First Church On The Net, we are continuing a Bible study in the Book of Revelation and I have certain commentaries that are helpful for that study.  A favorite is one by the “Very” Rev. H.D.M. Spence and Rev. Joseph S. Exell, written 100 or so years ago.  I managed to get some studying done on the trip and was especially intrigued by Exell’s words, as I pondered why our prayers for a dry, safe trip had “not been answered.”  Here’s a quote from Exell: “The foreknowledge of God is an infinite power of the calculation of chances.”  In other words, God is omniscient – He does know everything that will happen.  But we also really do have free choice.  We can do whatever we want, and He knows every possible outcome in our lives.  He knew what was ahead on Highway 40.

Our real need on the way from California to Virginia was not to be dry, but was actually to stop and be SAFE!  The rain STOPPED us, took us off the road, and God, who knew what was ahead of us, prevented whatever it was from happening.  By allowing the storm to hit us & stop us, we were in a warm hotel.  The hail struck the roof, but we were safe inside.

How often has the “storm” hit your life and/or the lives of those you love, and you wonder, “Why didn’t God answer my prayer?”  It’s a good question and God, who knows our hearts, has the answer.  He does not mind your questions and hopes you will ask them.  Let yourself be “planted by the rivers of water” – Search His Word, reach out to Him, and you will “prosper” in subtle, wonderful ways that only you and He will fully understand.

Father, give me a heart for Your Word.  Teach me to pray.  Let my roots be in You.  Give me Your living water.  I trust in Your Son and thank You.  In Jesus Name.  Amen.

Ron Beckham, Pastor
Friday Study Ministries
Tel: (562) 688-5559
PO Box 92131
Long Beach, CA 90809-2131
"While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8)


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