Flourishing in the Wilderness
In the previous meditation we saw that worship is the conduit to spiritual rest and flourishing.
Perhaps it should be said that this kind of worship – wilderness worship – is necessarily an act of the will, for the natural emotions evinced by the wilderness would lead us, as they did ancient Israel, to murmur, groan and complain.
Unless we determine to have thankful hearts, we will become self-centred and only interested in what we can get for ourselves in the present moment. It is this grasping after the best of the moment that characterises the wicked.
Flourishing of the Wicked
This is materialism, and sadly, it afflicts us greatly as the people of God. Too easily we become content to settle in the wilderness, aspiring only to the flourishing of this world: the big home, fancy car, designer clothes, fame and fortune etc.
But God describes this flourishing as like grass.
‘When the wicked spring as the grass, and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish; it is that they shall be destroyed for ever’ (v7)
Grass can grow quickly and easily in places; and at times be luscious; but it is not substantive; and certainly doesn’t last.
- Psa 102:11 ‘I am withered like grass’.
- Isa 40:8 ‘the grass withereth’.
- James 1:11 ‘for the sun is no sooner risen … but it withereth the grass’
How foolish to live to flourish in this world. We may get it all, but for how long? Even a lifetime is nothing compared to a lost eternity, and the material goods of this world, the fame and fortune, do nothing for the vitality of our souls. We remain thirsty!
Let’s rather go in for the greater flourishing that God has in store for the righteous, a flourishing that begins in the soul, reaches out to others, and lasts.
Flourishing that Lives
‘The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.’ (v12)
Immediately, we are brought to the oasis in the desert, with the palm tree reminding us of that life-giving place, Elim, with its twelve wells of water and 70 palms (Exo 15:27). There was certainly abundant provision for all the people of God.
Consider how it was 70 persons who went down into Egypt, trusting in God. They had to endure much hardship, but now come out of Egypt as 12 fruitful tribes. Those years of hardship did not drain the life out of them. Due to their trust in God they flourished, and despite Pharoah’s every effort, they increased in fruitfulness and strength – like the palm and cedar. They flourished!
If we are planted by that life-giving well that is Christ (John 4), we too will increase in fruitfulness and strength in our souls. We will be able to live rich and stable lives amidst the hardships. This is a flourishing that lives!
Flourishing that Loves
‘Those that be planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God.’ (v13)
The flourishing in this verse takes place in the ‘courts of our God‘, taking us to the outer courts of the tabernacle or temple. It was into these courts that the people generally could come.
But note that the one flourishing in these courts, being a blessing to others, is one who is ‘planted in the house of the LORD’. You see, it is a principle of Scripture that we must go in, before we can go out.
God’s desire is not just that His saints flourish personally, but that their flourishing will be a blessing in the community. But this will only happen if the holy place of the LORD’s presence is our constant abode. This will then be a flourishing that loves!
Flourishing that Lasts
‘They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing.’ (v14)
Finally, in contrast to the flourishing of the grass that flowers for a time but then withers, the flourishing that finds its source in the Lord, is a flourishing that continually grows. Indeed, even in old age, when naturally we slow down and begin to falter and fade, spiritually there ought to still be an ever-increasing abundance of fruit.
This is even seen in the word the psalmist uses. In the previous two verses the word flourish, meant to bud, spring forth, and had the idea of constant new growth. In this case, we are taking a step back and looking at the tree fully-laden and luxuriant with fruit. What a delightful picture. Truly, this is a flourishing that lasts … even in the wilderness.
Is this not something to aspire to? Let us determine to spend our days worshipping our God and Saviour Jesus Christ.