The Palm and Cedar Trees

THE PALM AND CEDAR TREES

by Wayne S. Walker

     “The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree; he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon” (Psalm 92:12).  I have always liked looking at palm trees.  Of course, growing up in the midwest I never saw a palm tree, except for potted ones indoors and on television shows, until I went to college in Florida.  However, some of my favorite television shows were ones like McHale’s Navy and Gilligan’s Island (as silly as it was), because both were set on tropical islands with swaying palm trees.  I have always thought of sitting under a palm tree on an island beach romantically idyllic.  To many people, the palm tree, because it is always green and luxurient, represents that which grows lush and full.  That may be one reason why people spread branches from palm trees on the road when Jesus rode into Jerusalem (John 12:13).

     However, the cedar tree is something with which I have always been familiar because it grows abundantly in the area where I was raised.  It evokes a slightly different picture, but there are similarities.  Palm wood is not good for much of anything, but cedar wood is prized because it is strong, durable, and fragrant.  Also, cedars can grow where other trees will not, so it represents tenacity and endurance.  Thus, the “cedars of Lebanon” are used to symbolize strength and stability (Psalm 80:10, 104:16).  Yet, it also exhibits a certain luxuriousness, because, as the old song says, it stays green “Not only when the summer’s here, But in the coldest time of year.”

     The Psalmist is saying that the righteous flourishes luxuriously like the palm tree and at the same time grows strong like the cedar tree.  In fact, he goes on to tell us, “Those who are planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God.  They shall still bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing, to declare that the LORD is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him” (vs. 13-15).  When trees grow old, they no longer produce good fruit (have you ever tried to eat the apples from an old and gnarled apple tree?).  Yet, the Psalmist says that those who are planted in the house of the Lord will still bear fruit in old age because He is their rock.  The righteous can be both like the palm and the cedar trees.

Are You Afraid by Night or by Day?

ARE YOU AFRAID BY NIGHT OR BY DAY?

by Wayne S. Walker

     “You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day” (Psalm 91:5).  It seems to be a rather common phenomenon for some children to be afraid of the dark.  When I was still quite young, I can recall not being able to sleep unless there was some kind of light coming into my bedroom.  We did not have a night light, but I left the curtains of my window open to allow moonlight or the security light on the garage to shine in the room.  However, as I grew older, I found that such light would either keep me awake or if I awoke make it difficult to get back to sleep, so I came to prefer no light at all for sleeping.  The darker, the better.

     In one sense, there is good reason to be, if not actually afraid, at least very careful at night, because those who are going to commit crimes usually prefer the cover of darkness for their evil deeds.  “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.  For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed” (John 3:19-20).  However, dangerous situations are not limited to night.  The arrows of the wicked, whether literal or figurative, often come by day as well (Psalm 57:4).

     However, those who trust in God have nothing to fear whether from terrors by night or arrows by day.  Oh, men may try to kill us, and sometimes may even succeed, but they can kill only the body not the soul (Matthew 10:28).  Therefore, we should not fear what man can do to us because we know that the Lord is our helper and will never leave nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5-6).  As John Edmeston, author of “Savior, Breathe an Evening Blessing,” put it, “Though destruction walk around us, Though the arrows past us fly, Angel guards from Thee surround us; We are safe if Thou art night.  Though the night be dark and dreary, Darkness cannot hide from Thee; Thou art He who, never weary, Watchest where Thy people be.”  Whether by day or night, the Christian can put his trust in the Lord and have nothing to fear.

“The Days of Our Lives”

THE DAYS OF OUR LIVES

By Wayne S. Walker

     This article has no relationship to the long-running television soap opera of the same name.  Rather, it is taken from a statement found in God’s word.  Moses wrote, “For all our days have passed away in Your wrath; we finish our years like a sigh.  The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off and we fly away” (Psalm 90:9-10).  If we average seventy and eighty, we come up with seventy-five, which is a conveniently round number for dividing our time on earth into three periods as we compare our lives to a day with morning, midday, and evening.  Yes, to a teenager, seventy-five sounds like a long way off, but to a fifty-year-old it really does not seem quite so old any more.

     The morning of our lives would be from birth to age twenty-five.  Obviously, I do not recall when I was born, but there are many events of my childhood and early years that do stand out in my mind.  I can still remember quite clearly when I was ten, the age of my younger son, and a fourth grader in Miss Sara Lou Warren’s class at New Market Elementary School, as well as getting my driver’s license at sixteen, graduating from Hillsboro High School at eighteen, graduating from Florida College at twenty, and beginning my first preaching work.  The midday of our lives would be from twenty-five to fifty.  Again, I can remember getting married at twenty-nine and the arrival of our two sons, the first when I was thirty-eight and the second at forty-two, as well as buying our first home.

     The evening of our lives would be from fifty to seventy-five or whenever death occurs.  It is quite shocking for me to realize that by these calculations, I have now, at age fifty-two, passed into the evening portion of my life–early evening, to be sure, but still moving relentlessly toward the setting of the sun.  Truly, the years have gone by “like a sigh.”  Jesus also compared our lives to a day.  “I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is yet day; the night is coming when no man can work” (John 9:4).  The coming of night, of course, represents the time of death.  Based on this statement, the hymn writer urges us to “Work for the night is coming, When man’s work is done.”  Yes, night is coming.  Time is a-wasting.  Let us get busy.

“Thankful for God’s Faithfulness”

THANKFUL FOR GOD’S FAITHFULNESS

by Wayne S. Walker

     “O LORD God of hosts, who is mighty like You, O LORD?  Your faithfuness also surrounds You” (Psalm 89:8).  Psalm 89 is identified as “A Contemplation of Ethan the Ezrahite.”  It is thought to have been composed following the destruction of Jerusalem and the captivity of Israel.  Ethan remembers not only God’s covenant with David and His prediction that if the people forsake His law they would be punished, which had happened, but also God’s promise of faithfulness not to break the covenant that He had made with David that His throne would be established forever.  The word “faithfulness” is found at least five times in the Psalm.

     Just as God exhibited His faithfulness toward David and Israel, God demonstrates His faithfulness to His people today.  Each one of us is tempted by the devil, “but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).  Unfortunately, all of us yield to those temptations and sin from time to time, but if we confess our sins, “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

     Indeed as I look back over my life, I can identify many times when God has been faithful to keep promises that He has made in His word to me personally.  So there can be no question about the faithfulness of God.  The question then becomes, “Am I being faithful to Him?”  God has blessed me with so many wonderful gifts for which I am thankful–physical blessings such as life, health, food, clothing, shelter, and the comforts and conveniences that I enjoy; and spiritual blessings such as the gift of His Son, salvation from sin, and the hope of eternal life.  I need to live in gratitude so that He can say to me, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).

“Ere You Left Your Room This Morning”

“ERE YOU LEFT YOUR ROOM THIS MORNING”

by Wayne S. Walker

     “But to You I have cried out, O LORD, and in the morning my prayer comes before You” (Psalm 88:13).  When should we pray?  The fact is that there is never a bad time to pray.  Some people limit their participation in prayer to church services (if they go), perhaps before meals (if they happen to think about it), and usually when they are in trouble (but they probably forget to thank the Lord afterwards if they get out of the trouble).  However, prayer should be more than just a formal ritual during worship services and meal times or an insurance policy for difficult times.  “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17),

     Of course, this does not mean that we must literally be praying 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  It means that we should never cease or give up on prayer.  It also means that we should be in a prayerful attitude at all times.  And it means that we should pray often and regularly.  Consider Jesus, our perfect example (1 Peter 2:21).  There were times when He spent all night in prayer (Luke 6:12).  There were other times when He rose very early in the morning to go and pray (Mark 1:35).  If Jesus, the very Son of God, felt the need to “spend much time in prayer,” how much more important is it for us?

     As I was growing up, my mother listened to a radio station which played a religious program from “Cadle’s Tabernacle” in Indianapolis, IN, at 6:00 every morning.  When the radio alarm went off to wake us up and that program came on, the opening song was always, “Did You Think to Pray?” with its opening line, “Ere you left your room this morning, did you think to pray?”  We often sang the song in church services too.  It has always impressed me, so that I have determined, barring unforeseen circumstances, that after I awaken but before I get out of bed each day, I will go to my God in prayer, thank Him for the night’s rest, and ask His blessings during the day.  It is one way of getting a little “quiet time” alone with the Lord.  “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation” (Matthew 26:41).

“Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken”

“GLORIOUS THINGS OF THEE ARE SPOKEN”

by Wayne S. Walker

     “Glorious things are spoken of you, O city of God!” (Ps. 87:3). Psalm 87 is identified as “A Psalm of the sons of Korah. A Song,” and the heading in the New King James Version says, “The Glories of the City of God.” Verses 1 and 2 read, “His foundation is in the holy mountains. The LORD loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob.” As has been pointed out in previous Psalm meditations, Zion, as the city of God, originally referred to Jerusalem but was sometimes figuratively used of Israel in general as God’s chosen people. However, it was often cited in the prophets as foreshadowing the coming Messianic kingdom.

     Based on this verse, John Newton wrote a rather well-known hymn about the Lord’s church. “Glorious things of thee are spoken, Zion, city of our God. He, whose words cannot be broken, Formed thee for His blest abode. On the Rock of Ages founded, What can shake thy sure repose? With salvation’s walls surrounded, Thou mayest smile at all thy foes….Savior, if of Zion’s city, I through grace a member am, Let the world deride or pity; I will glory in Thy name. Fading is the worlding’s pleasure, All his boasted pomp and show; Solid joys and lasting treasure None by Zion’s children know” (#143 in Hymns for Worship Revised).

     While we should strive to avoid mere “churchianity,” we must have an exalted view of God’s spiritual Zion. Jesus Christ is “head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:22-23). The church is like a city “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord” (Ephesians 2:20-21). Indeed, “the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 3:10-11). Surely it is true that “glorious things are spoken” of God’s spiritual Zion, the church of our Lord Jesus Christ.

God Will Hear Our Prayer

GOD WILL HEAR OUR PRAYER

by Wayne S. Walker

     “Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer; and attend to the voice of my supplications” (Psalm 86:6).  The heading of Psalm 86 reads, “A Prayer of David,” and the summary in the New King James Version reads, “Prayer for Mercy, with Meditation on the Excellencies of God.”  David had good reason to believe that he could call upon God and the Lord would hear his prayer.  God had chosen him to be the next king of Israel.  God had watched over this humble shepherd boy while he watched his father’s sheep.  God had enabled that boy to slay Goliath and brought him into favor with King Saul.  God had then preserved his life when Saul turned against him so that after Saul’s death he could become king.  God had even forgiven him when he had sinned grievously.

     All of us who are children of God should be able to look back throughout our lives and find similar times when God has blessed us.  The fact that we are alive today means that God has spared us to this time.  Whatever measure of health and prosperity that we might have is due to God’s goodness.  Most of us are not starving, poorly clad, or homeless, so we have the gifts of food, clothing, and shelter from His hand.  Though we may pray that its direction might change, we have been allowed by God’s grace to live in one of the greatest countries in the world.  Truly, every good and perfect gift that we have known has come to us from God (James 1:18).  In addition, God loved us enough to send His Son that we might not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).  God has been good to us indeed!

     Oh, each of us has surely experienced problems and difficulties that might lead us to complain.  David suffered the ridicule of his own brothers when he determined to champion God’s cause against the giant Philistine.  He fled from the unjust wrath of his king.  During his reign, he dealt with various tormenters and affllictors.  And, of course, he lived with the knowledge of the great sins that he committed.  Yet, because God had been so good to him in other ways, he knew that during the bad times he could call upon God to hear and respond to his prayers.  Like David, we need to be thankful for our blessings and simply look to Him in prayer when we find ourselves in need.  “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your request be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6).  We can rest assured that He will listen and answer.