Psalm 92: 1-4, 12-15
1 It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; 2 to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night, 3 to the music of the lute and the harp, to the melody of the lyre. 4 For you, O LORD, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy. 12 The righteous flourish like the palm tree, and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. 13 They are planted in the house of the LORD; they flourish in the courts of our God. 14 In old age they still produce fruit; they are always green and full of sap, 15 showing that the LORD is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.
Psalm 92 talks about “the righteous.” In the Bible, righteousness is nothing more and nothing less than “the fulfillment of the demands of a relationship.” People are righteous when we fulfill the demands of our relationships, and these demands vary. We owe our parents one thing, and our spouse another. We are called upon to honor our father and mother, but only to a point. When we marry, we are called upon to leave our mother and father and cleave to our mate. Loyalties shift, and if they do not, there is trouble, right here in River City. A noted psychiatrist said that a failure to separate from one’s parents is the number one cause of failure in marriage. Likewise, we owe our friends and neighbors certain things that we do not owe the stranger we meet in the street. Unless, of course, that stranger is in need, in which case, according to Jesus, that stranger becomes a neighbor.
God calls upon his people to be righteous and insist upon nothing less for Himself. Emil Brunner said that God’s righteousness (or holiness) is God’s self-respect. In Biblical terms, God is righteous when God rewards virtue and right living and punishes sin—just as he promised to do when he made his covenant with Israel.
In Psalm 92 the righteous are compared to trees. The psalm declares that “the righteous flourish like the palm tree.” The Palm trees grow anywhere there is plenty of sunlight and a little moisture. No oasis is complete without them. In Leviticus 28, the people are commanded to use branches of palm trees to construct the booths they live in for seven days during their harvest festival. The righteous are said to “grow like the cedar(s) in Lebanon.” Cedar trees grow straight and true and their wood is highly prized. King David lived in a house of cedar, and Solomon commanded the cedars of Lebanon to be cut to line the walls of the temple he built in Jerusalem. This is not exactly biblical, but Moravians love to plant cedar trees to beautify our graveyards, usually called “God’s Acre.”
In Psalm 92 the righteous are said to be “planted in the house of the LORD” where “they flourish in the courts of our God.” To be planted is to be a fixture, planted. In the Bible, the righteous flourish in different ways. They flourish as a people, with a good birthrate. Those who tend the soil flourish as their crops of grain, oil, and wine abound. The righteous flourish in the enthusiasm and strength of youth and in the dignity and strength of old age. Pop Semands was a United Methodist missionary in India for 40 years. He said that the moment an untouchable turned to Christ, he started to climb out of his confinement, both spiritually, emotionally, physically, and financially. The Psalm says that people flourish in the courts of our God. What do you think—does church attendance cause one to flourish? Perhaps, it does. Consider longevity. During a six-year study conducted in the 1990s of 4,000 North Carolina residents age 64 to 101, people who attended religious services at least once a week were 46 percent less likely to die. These results were published in the August 1999 issue of the Journal of Gerontology and Medical Sciences. That said, all kinds of things improve longevity, things like eating right and exercise. Statistically speaking, married men live longer than single, widowed, or divorced men. I am not sure about women. Likewise, the American Heart Association says that, after a cardiac event, individuals who have a dog live longer than people who do not have a dog. Living with a pet reduces stress.
Of course, we all know of good people who worship God, live right, and die before their time. Forrest Gump was right, “Life is like a box of chocolates—you never know what you are going to get.” And, “S(tuff) happens!” Likewise, some of us know that old age is no picnic. It comes with lots of aches and pains and frequent visits to doctors and dentists. We lose teeth, body parts, old friends, and precious family. We know the people we were, but we hardly recognize the people we are. I suspect one of my favorite poets was looking at this old man hands and arms when he wrote:
Gone are the days of youth,
My time as a grape is done.
And you can see the proof,
I’m a raisin in the sun.
As we grow older, it is more important than ever that we maintain our relationship with God. If we do, then, like Abraham and Moses, we may do more to serve God in old age than we did in youth. What Rabbi Ben Ezra said to his wife, God says to each of us, regardless of our years, or lack of them:
Come grow old with me,
the best is yet to be.