“The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,
they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;
13 planted in the house of the Lord,
they will flourish in the courts of our God.
14 They will still bear fruit in old age,
they will stay fresh and green,
15 proclaiming, “The Lord is upright;
he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.” (Ps 92:12-15)
Palm trees (arecaceae, to give them their Latin name) grow in mainly tropical and subtropical climates and are distinguished by their large evergreen leaves (known as fronds) arranged at the top of an unbranched stem and look very different to many trees native to England. Because of their importance as food in many cultures, palms were symbols for ideas such as victory, peace and fertility, and the coconut palm remains a symbol of the tropical island paradise many of us think of as an ideal holiday destination!
Cedars of Lebanon are a species of tree in the pine family, native to the mountains of the Eastern Mediterranean basin. This kind of tree is a large evergreen conifer, reaching up to 40 metres in height and 2.5 metres in diameter.
When Ps 92 talks of the righteous flourishing like these two trees, we see, therefore, the thought of spreading growth, longevity and an ability to flourish, no matter what the circumstgances. Ps 92:12-15 promises the righteous an ability to stay ‘fresh and green’ and to be fruitful even in old age. Trees grow more magnificent with age, and this is to be the normal expectation and experience of God’s people. We often see old age as a time of decay and withering, but Paul distinguishes between what may happen in the physical realm and what happens in the spiritual realm: ‘Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.’ (2 Cor 4:16) We have a promise of purpose, fruitfulness and growth as we grow old if we remain in Christ and abide in the vine. Notice too that this still involves proclaiming the truth of what we know about God, even as we talked about the need to speak the truth in love as a way of growing spiritually!