Archives, Pondering, Songs of Assent

Like A Tree

Sometimes knowing ourselves clothed in the righteousness of Christ is the reality we need to fix our minds upon as we rest in his forgiveness, love and safety. The loveliness of this image of a robe moves with us through our days, and we learn to walk in the quiet confidence of being covered in his beauty and his protection. But sometimes we need to know ourselves covered by Jesus in a different sense: to know our hearts protected by that which is strong and immovable, able to stand in storms and extinguish the flaming arrows intended for our hearts.

Contemporary translations of the Scriptures can inadvertently rob us of the truth of this dimension of our protection in Christ. I was reading a passage in such a translation earlier this week: “Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked.” This translation of Psalm 1 is, of course, prompted by the desire to include women in the scriptural conversation by avoiding the language of “Blessed is the man. But far more is at stake here than gender inclusiveness. For if we read Psalm 1 with Jesus as “the man” the picture radically changes:

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers (Psalm 1:1-3 ESV)

Such a Christological reading of the text is completely consistent with the historical Christian interpretation of the psalms as the prayer book of the church. We can pray the psalms because Jesus first prayed them, and we can claim this psalm as our own because Christ first embraced it as his own.

For who among us could ever claim a life such as one that never walks in the counsel of the wicked, never stands in the way of sinners, never sits in the seat of scoffers? Is there one of us who so delights in the law of the Lord that she meditates on it day and night? There is only one who bears this description. Jesus is the tree planted by streams of living water. His root systems reach deeply down into the earth and widely to the heavenly stream flowing from the throne of God that waters them. And we are baptized into this man. “For as many of you who were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Galatians 3:27)

Here, then, is how viewing Jesus as “the man” who is “like a tree” provides another way to understand the profound safety his women are given in Him. We do not have to sink new root systems down in some new, foreign soil. We have only to allow our weakness to be covered in his strength. The fragile root hairs of our small faith are to be surrounded by the deep root systems of his incarnate life. It is in being rooted and grounded in Jesus that we find our deepest protection secured. Our root systems go deeper into Jesus each time we look up to H is Father and receive the particular resource we need for life in that moment. Our own root systems spread more widely into His own blessedness as we then walk into our world, thinking, speaking and acting from within that strong, protected, gracious place. What could be a more substantial covering than the bark and wood and roots of the living, well-watered tree that is our Lord?

And so the second image in Songs of Assent depicts receptivity as life within that living root of David. She is not like a tree. She is in the tree. And that makes all the difference.

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