Sunday School Lessons

Cultivated Fruit Tree or Discarded Chaff?

Continuing in the current study of Psalm 1, I think that we find an explanation in verse 3 of how a person is blessed (i.e., the kind of person described in verses 1 and 2, who avoids the company and behavior of wicked people, and who delights in God’s law).

That person 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.
Psalms 1:3 NIV

I read an article this past summer about some of the celebrities in California who were using more than their allotment of water.  As you might imagine, there are all kinds of people in this group, including those who cut back on their water usage, to those who kept using too much.  One person in particular, though, had planted an orchard with fruit trees (as I recall), and was using the extra water to keep those trees from dying.

I think that we could understand the desire of a farmer (even a celebrity farmer!) to keep food-bearing trees like this alive, especially when they take a long time to grow.  Using scarce water for a good cause is much different than using it for, say, a swimming pool.

The reality, though, is that trying to grow things too far away from water can be a challenge.  On the other hand, trees planted close to where there is plenty of water can thrive, just like this person who delights in God’s law.

Would you like everything that you do to prosper?  Note that the solution given here isn’t necessarily to “work harder” or “do better”.  Yes, this person who is blessed doesn’t participate in wicked, evil, and mocking behavior, but their alternative response starts with God’s law.

In contrast to the blessed person, we see in the next verse what happens to the wicked person.

Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff
that the wind blows away.
Psalms 1:4 NIV

I suspect that “the wicked”, “sinners”, and “mockers” (from verse 1) are not necessarily distinct groups of people, but might just be different aspects of those being described here in verse 4.

Have you ever been working with something outside that was pretty lightweight, and then the wind came along?  Maybe the wind was pretty still, and you were laying out weed-block fabric or covering a wall with insulation, and a gust of wind came by, pulling away what you were installing.  Or, maybe you were outside at a picnic, and just as you were ready to take a bite of lunch, the wind blew the napkins away and flipped up the tablecloth, along with any of the paper plates and plastic cups that weren’t yet filled.

Similarly, if you’ve ever dealt with grain dust, you probably know two things: 1) it’ll explode if it gets in the air and catches a spark, and 2) it will blow away with any significant breeze.  In fact, as you may know, that’s how grain was separated for centuries before we had giant combines driving through our fields: on a sufficiently windy day, tossing the heads of grain in the air would allow the heavier kernels to remain, while the rest – the chaff – blew away.

The Lookout reminds us of the contrast here: a fruit-bearing tree (even one in drought-stricken California, I would add) has value and is wanted, while chaff is scrap that we want to get rid of.  That is the difference between the blessed and wicked, here.  I, for one, would certainly like to produce fruit for the Kingdom of God, rather than being useless dust that needs to be removed when things are cleaned up.  I hope you do, too.

From Sunday School lesson prepared for October 2, 2022


  • The Lookout, October 2, 2022, © 2022 Christian Standard Media.
  • Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
  • The College Press NIV Commentary, Psalms, Volume 1, S. Edward Tesh and Walter D. Zorn, © 1999, College Press Publishing Co., Joplin, MO.

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