By Rev. Dr. J. Patrick Bowman
Light is only one component of the photosynthesis process used by trees to produce food. The other piece is water. Water is essential in transporting nutrients from the soil through the roots, by the tree’s capillary system, to the leaves. Without water, the tree’s tissues become dehydrated, and the health of the tree is jeopardized. Like light, not all trees require the same amount of water. Different soil and light conditions affect the amount of water available to roots and the amount of water lost by transpiration through the stomata of the leaves.
One of my favorite references to water is Psalm 1:
Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in
the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the
law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be
like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season;
his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. The ungodly
are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. Therefore the
ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the
righteous. For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the
ungodly shall perish (Psalms 1:1-6).
We are told here that a man who does not walk in ungodly counsel, stand with sinners in their way (path), or sit (establish himself) as a mocker of Godly things will be like a tree. But not just any tree. This is a tree planted by the rivers of water.
This plentiful supply of water brings with it fruitfulness. God desires for your fruit to
bring forth at the right time. When is the right time? When the fruit is ripe! What is your fruit? In Galatians, the apostle Paul names the fruit of the Spirit: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23).
The fruit we want to exhibit as followers of Christ is the ripe fruit that contains His
sweetness. We want the sweet juice of His love to drip down the face of everyone who gets a taste of Him through us. When we come to God in faith, we exchange the bitter fruit of our old life with the ripe, lush fruit of our new life in Christ. There is no pleasure in biting into a piece of unripe fruit. It can be hard and flavorless, and sometimes bitter or sour. As God works in us by His Word and His Spirit, we get sweeter with each passing day, and our crop looks and tastes better and better to those around us.
Fruit also represents the individual motivation, calling, skills, gifts, and service
opportunities God gives us to walk in. For a woman, that fruit might include motherhood, a career, or a church ministry. For a man, it might consist of fatherhood, a particular trade, or the call to be a missionary in foreign lands. The possibilities are endless because we serve a God of creativity. He loves to express that creativity through His people. We will discuss fruit more in a later chapter.
Going back to Psalm 1, we also notice that the leaves of this tree will not wither. As was said earlier, withered leaves are a consequence of a lack of water. Spiritually speaking, leaves are sometimes depicted in scripture as healing for the nations (Ezekiel 47:12 and Revelation 22:2). We see this also in the natural realm. Many leaves have medicinal properties. Leaves not withering indicate the water has been accessed. These two scriptures also speak of fruit becoming ripe continuously for food. We are also told in Psalm 1 that the man that is like a tree will be prosperous in all he does. This also speaks of fruitfulness. We can be spiritual food and
healing to those around us if we access the water. But we must realize that we are only conduits within a simple but complex process and must be willing to give what we’ve received.
Transpiration is a term used to describe the beneficial loss of water through leaf stomata into the atmosphere. As water pressure is lost in the tree’s crown through evaporation, it causes a decrease in hydrostatic (water) pressure. The tree then “draws” water up from the roots. This process has a spiritual analogy, as well.
We can look at transpiration as the Holy Spirit working through us. As we give what God has given us, it creates a thirst to receive more. We know that God gives to us in many ways. God wants us to enjoy what He provides for ourselves but also wants us to give it away. “How does that work?” you might ask. “How can I be filled if I give my gifts away?” Because there is more waiting to be given! The Creator has a limitless supply for us but desires that we be agents, ambassadors of His goodness to those around us. It is in the giving that we will receive.
In Isaiah 58, the prophet is called by God to cry aloud to Israel about their conduct of religious piety that falls short of what He desires from them in righteous action toward others. We read in verses 6-11:
Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo
the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?
Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou
hide not thyself from thine own flesh? Then shall thy light break forth as the
morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall
go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy reward. Then shalt thou call,
and the LORD shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou
take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and
speaking vanity; And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the
afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the
noonday: And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in
drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like
a spring of water, whose waters fail not. (Isaiah 58:6-11)
Their light breaks forth as the morning, which represents them giving of what they had received. We also see the result of that giving in continual guidance, provision, and being like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not. God says if we give out, He will give back in abundance.
In Matthew, chapter 5, Jesus has just begun preaching to the multitude in what we call the Sermon on the Mount. The first twelve verses are part of this longer sermon referred to as the Beatitudes. In verse 6, Jesus says, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” Sounds a lot like Isaiah 58, doesn’t it? In John’s Gospel, chapter 4, we read of Jesus’ encounter with a woman at a well in Samaria. Jesus had asked this woman for a drink. The woman was surprised that a Jew would ask her, a Samaritan, against the social and cultural norms of that day between the two peoples. And she said so. But Jesus had a ready answer, not only to her but to all mankind:
Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water? Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle? Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. (John 4:10-14)
In these two passages, Jesus points to thirsting for the spiritual water, righteousness, the water that is Him and in Him and only He can offer. Thirst after unrighteousness, and the world is there to provide in abundance. But the water is unclean and cannot give life. We see this in going back to Psalm 1:4-6, where we read, “The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.” Instead, let us be in the receiving mode of Jesus’ offer of living water. As the woman at the well said in John 4:15, “Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.”
Psalm 23 reinforces this. Suppose we allow Jesus to be our shepherd. In that case, we are promised clean water and good food, spiritually and naturally, even in the most challenging situations.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green
pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth
me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through
the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod
and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of
mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely
goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the
house of the LORD forever. (Psalms 23:1-6)
Jeremiah also gives us a picture of imagery from Psalm 1 and Psalm 23 above:
Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is. For
he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the
river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall
not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.
Whether it is called the valley of the shadow of death or when heat cometh, the result is the same for those who seek the water of His Spirit in their lives. There is hope in the refreshing shower that awaits those who draw near. As Hebrews 10:22 says, “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.”
As in nature, our spiritual lives flourish only when there is a correct balance between
light and water. Too much of either, neglecting the other, hinders growth and vitality and can have deadly long-term consequences. There is an old adage that says if you have the Word but not the Spirit, you will dry up. If you have the Spirit but not The Word, you will blow up! If you have The Spirit AND The Word, you will grow up. Proverbs 11:1 says, “A false balance is abomination to the LORD: but a just weight is his delight.”
God knows the thoughts He has for us. In Jeremiah 29:11, God tells Israel, “For I know
the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” We, too, can have an expected end. It comes by walking in a balance of Word and Spirit as we maneuver the path toward that destination. Our goal is to grow up into Him in all things. (Ephesians 4:15) We can be a healthy, fruitful, steady tree if we are faithful to take in what the Father has provided for us in proper proportion.
Questions for Reflection
- Are there times in your walk with Christ that you feel a little withered? If so, read Psalm 1 and decide if you are walking, standing, or sitting with the wrong people in the wrong places. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you discern who these people or places are and decide how you will redirect your associations with them.
- Psalm 1 also talks about the benefits of meditating on God’s Word and the fruitfulness that comes from being a tree planted by the rivers of water. As you read the list of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23, inspect the spiritual fruit in your life and decide if it is ripe and ready to eat or if it’s undersized and unripe. Is there something you can do to help it grow and ripen?
- Is spiritual transpiration happening in your life? Are you giving of what you’ve received? If you don’t feel that need for more, perhaps it’s because you are keeping it all for yourself! List several ways you can be more giving.
- Because we live in a physical world and have physical needs, we often have material things on our minds. The Holy Spirit has to remind us that we are spiritual beings who need spiritual input to sustain us. Has God ever used a time you were physically hungry or physically thirsty to speak to you about your need for spiritual nourishment and refreshing? How did He remind you of your condition? How did you respond?
- A proper balance between the Word and the Spirit is essential for sustained growth and vitality. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you if you are significantly off balance, overemphasizing one and neglecting the other. What are ways you can correct this imbalance?