Trees are frequently mentioned in the Bible and often have significance as a metaphor. In Psalm 1:3, a person who steers clear of the ungodly and delights in God’s Word is like “a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.” Likewise, the book of Jeremiah says that those whose confidence is in the LORD are “like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit” (Jeremiah 17:8).
To be like a tree planted by streams of water is to be one who has a regular supply of nourishment and refreshment. Plants growing near water are easily sustained and can thrive. Water is the ultimate source of life for a tree, so to be planted by water is to have a regular supply of life itself. This means that a tree planted by the water will grow to be strong and sturdy and have a good root system. Also, such a tree will consistently bear fruit, which one of its primary purposes. Finally, the well-watered tree has the ability to provide shade (and therefore rest) to anyone who is in need.
The simile of a thriving tree is used elsewhere to picture the godly person:
“The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,
they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;
planted in the house of the Lord,
they will flourish in the courts of our God.
They will still bear fruit in old age,
they will stay fresh and green,
proclaiming, ‘The Lord is upright;
he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him’” (Psalm 92:12–15).
When we delight in and meditate on the Word of God (i.e., the Bible), as the blessed man does in Psalm 1, we, too, will be like a tree planted by streams of water. We will be firmly rooted, and Jesus, our ultimate source of life, will bring nourishment and refreshment. We will regularly bear fruit, as Galatians 5:22–23 teaches. And we, as a tree planted by streams of water, will provide shade and rest to others who are burdened or are in need (Galatians 6:2, 10).
Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28–30). It is in giving our burdens to Jesus that we find true rest and, as a result, true strength. As the tree planted by streams of water “does not fear when heat comes” (Jeremiah17:8), so does the one rooted in Jesus have peace when troubles or trials come.
As the leaves of the tree planted by streams of water are always green, so will the one “rooted and grounded in love” always be alive (Ephesians 3:17, ESV).