“_And he shall be like a tree planted_;” not a wild tree, but “a tree _planted_,” chosen, considered as property, cultivated and secured from the last terrible uprooting, for “every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up:” #Mt 15:13|. “_By the rivers of water_;” so that even if one river should fail, he hath another. The rivers of pardon and the rivers of grace, the rivers of the promise and the rivers of the communion with Christ, are never-failing sources of supply. He is “like a tree planted by the rivers of water, _that bringeth forth his fruit in his season_;” not unseasonable graces, like untimely figs, which are never full-flavoured. But the man who delights in God’s Word, being taught by it, bringeth forth patience in the time of suffering, faith in the day of trial, and holy joy in the hour of prosperity. Fruitfulness is an essential quality of a gracious man, and that fruitfulness should be seasonable. “_His leaf also shall not wither_;” his faintest word shall be everlasting; his little deeds of love shall be had in remembrance. Not simply shall his fruit be preserved, but _his leaf_ also. He shall neither lose his beauty nor his fruitfulness. “_And whatsoever he doeth shall prosper_.” Blessed is the man who hath such a promise as this. But we must not always estimate the fulfillment of a promise by our own eye-sight. How often, my brethren, if we judge by feeble sense, may we come to the mournful conclusion of Jacob, “All these things are against me!” For though we know our interest in the promise, yet are we so tried and troubled, that sight sees the very reverse of what that promise foretells. But to the eye of faith this word is sure, and by it we perceive that our works are prospered, even when everything seems to go against us. It is not outward prosperity which the Christian most desires and values; it is soul prosperity which he longs for. We often, like Jehoshaphat, make ships to go to Tarshish for gold, but they are broken at Ezion-geber; but even here there is a true prospering, for it is often for the soul’s health that we should be poor, bereaved, and persecuted. Our worst things are often our best things. As there is a curse wrapped up in the wicked man’s mercies, so there is a blessing concealed in the righteous man’s crosses, losses, and sorrows. The trials of the saint are a divine husbandry, by which he grows and brings forth abundant fruit.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 3.–“_A tree_.”–There is one tree, only to be found in the valley of the Jordan, but too beautiful to be entirely passed over; the oleander, with its bright blossoms and dark green leaves, giving the aspect of a rich garden to any spot where it grows. It is rarely if ever alluded to in the Scriptures. But it may be the tree planted by the streams of water which bringeth forth his fruit in due season, and “whose leaf shall not wither.”–^A. P. Stanley, D.D., in “_Sinai and Palestine_.”
Verse 3.–“_A tree planted by the rivers of water_.”–This is an allusion to the Eastern method of cultivation, by which rivulets of water are made to flow between the rows of trees, and thus, by artificial means, the trees receive a constant supply of moisture.
Verse 3.–“_His fruit in his season_.”–In such a case expectation is never disappointed. Fruit is expected, fruit is borne, and it comes also in the time in which it should come. A godly education, under the influences of the divine Spirit, which can never be withheld where they are earnestly sought, is sure to produce the fruits of righteousness; and he who reads, prays, and meditates, will ever _see_ the _work_ which God has given him to do; the _power_ by which he is to perform it; and the _times_, _places_, and _opportunities_ for doing those things by which God can obtain most glory, his own soul most good, and his neighbour most edification.–^Adam Clarke.
Verse 3.–“_In his season_.” The Lord reckons the times which pass over us, and puts them to our account: let us, therefore, improve them, and, with the impotent persons at the pool of Bethesda, step in when the angel stirs the water. Now the church is afflicted, it is a season of prayer and learning; now the church is enlarged, it is a season of praise; I am now at a sermon, I will hear what God will say; now in the company of a learned and wise man, I will draw some knowledge and counsel from him; I am under a temptation, now is a fit time to lean on the name of the Lord; I am in a place of dignity and power, let me consider what it is that God requireth of me in such a time as this. And thus as the tree of life bringeth fruit every month, so a wise Christian, as a wise husbandman, hath his distinct employments for every month, bringing forth his fruit in his season.–John Spencer’s Things New and Old, 1658.
Verse 3.–“_In his season_.” Oh, golden and admirable word! by which is asserted the liberty of Christian righteousness. The ungodly have their stated days, stated times, certain works, and certain places; to which they stick so closely, that if their neighbours were perishing with hunger, they could not be torn from them. But this blessed man, being free at all times, in all places, for every work, and to every person, will serve you whenever an opportunity is offered him; whatsoever comes into his hands to do, he does it. He is neither a Jew, nor a Gentile, nor a Greek, nor a barbarian, nor of any other particular person. He gives his fruit in his season, so often as either God or man requires his work. Therefore his fruits have no name, and his times have no name.–^Martin Luther.
Verse 3.–“_His leaf also shall not wither_.” He describes the fruit before he does the leaf. The Holy Spirit himself always teaches every faithful preacher in the church to know that the kingdom of God does not stand in word but in power. #1Co 4:20|. Again, “Jesus began both to do and to teach.” #Ac 1:1|. And again, “Which was a prophet mighty in deed and word.” #Lu 24:19|. And thus, let him who professes the word of doctrine, first put forth the fruits of life, if he would not have his fruit to wither, for Christ cursed the fig tree which bore no fruit. And as Gregory saith, that man whose life is despised is condemned by his doctrine, for he preaches to others, and is himself reprobated.–^Martin Luther.
Verse 3.–“_His leaf also shall not wither_.” The Lord’s trees are all evergreens. No winter’s cold can destroy their verdure; and yet, unlike evergreens in our country, they are all fruit bearers.–^C. H. S.
Verse 3.–“_And whatsoever he doeth, [or, maketh or taketh in hand] shall prosper_.” And with regard to this “prospering,” take heed that thou understandest not a carnal prosperity. This prosperity is hidden prosperity, and lies entirely secret in spirit; and therefore if thou hast not this prosperity that is by faith, thou shouldst rather judge thy prosperity to be the greatest adversity. For as the devil bitterly hates this leaf and the word of God, so does he also those who teach and hear it, and he persecutes such, aided by all the powers of the world. Therefore thou hearest of a miracle the greatest of all miracles, when thou hearest that all things prosper which a blessed man doeth.–^Martin Luther.
Verse 3.–A critical journal has shown that instead of “_Whatsoever it doeth shall prosper_,” the rendering might be, “_Whatsoever it produceth shall come to maturity_.” This makes the figure entire, and is sanctioned by some MSS. and ancient versions.
Verse 3 (last clause).–Outward prosperity, if it follow close walking with God, is very sweet; as the cipher, when it follows a figure, adds to the number, though it be nothing in itself.–^John Trapp.
HINTS TO PREACHERS.
Verse 3.–“_The fruitful tree_.” I. Where it grows. II. How it came there. III. What it yields. IV. How to be like it.
Verse 3.–“_Planted by the rivers of water_.” I. The origination of Christian life, “_planted_.” II. The streams which support it. III. The fruit expected from it.
Verse 3.–Influence of religion upon prosperity.–^Blair.
The nature, causes, signs, and results of true prosperity.
“_Fruit in his season_;” virtues to be exhibited at certain seasons–patience in affliction; gratitude in prosperity; zeal in opportunity, etc.
“_His leaf also shall not wither_;” the blessing of retaining an unwithered profession.