Saints Compared to Palm Trees
William Nicholson, 1862
"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!" Psalm 92:12-14
How wonderful are the transformations of Divine grace! The heart of man is full of noxious weeds and evil fruit. But the influences of the Holy Spirit render it fruitful, and lovely, and excellent. The choicest figures are employed by the sacred penmen to represent the transforming influence of the Spirit upon the heart of man. Hence Christ said, John 15:1, verse David said, Psalm 1:3; 92:12-14. Isaiah said, 44:3, 4. Hosea said, 14:5-7.
The Palm is a noble tree, perhaps so named from its straight growth, excelling in that respect every other tree. It sometimes rises a hundred feet, and is one of the grandest and most beautiful trees of the vegetable kingdom. Its fruit is the date, which grows in clusters, and in taste is sweet and agreeable. In Egypt, Arabia, and Persia, many of the inhabitants exist almost entirely on its fruit. Its leaves and wood are of the greatest utility for domestic and other purposes. For more than a hundred years it maintains its vigor and beauty, and bears yearly fifteen or twenty clusters of dates, each of them weighing fifteen or twenty pounds.
The righteous may be compared to a Palm tree in the following respects:
I. The Palm tree is an excellent tree, beautiful to behold, and all its branches shoot upwards, none growing out of the side, as in other trees.
The righteous here compared to a Palm tree, are a choice and excellent people. Their spiritual nature, the graces of the spirit in them, and manifested by their conduct, are beautiful to behold. Christ loves them, angels view them with admiration, etc. Their affections, like the branches of the Palm, ascend and are fixed on things above, Colossians 3:1, 2. They grow heavenward. They do not shoot out their branches, or affections, to this base wicked world; they grow high in grace, and in fellowship with God.
II. The Palm tree grows in the purest soil.It will not grow and flourish in filthy places, like some trees. Water is particularly necessary to its prosperity. Its presence, travelers assure us, indicates that water is near, and may be obtained from springs, or by digging. Accordingly Israel found twelve springs and seventy palm trees at Elim, Exodus 15:27; Numbers 33:9. The more they are exposed to the sun, the quicker is their growth.
Just so, the righteous flourish most in a pure soil, where the Gospel is preached in its purity. They are planted in a choice garden, Christ's blessed vineyard, in the courts of the Lord's house, verse 13, 14. They have been transplanted from this arid world, where no water of salvation is — and are now planted in God's vineyard, where the streams of Divine influence from the fountain of grace, refresh and make them holy and happy.
III. The Palm tree is very straight and lofty, always growing upright.Jeremiah 10:5, speaking of the idols that were carried in procession, says, they were as upright as the Palm tree.
The righteous are sincere, upright in heart and behavior. In their natural state they are rough, knotty, and crooked — yet grace rectifies these irregularities. They now "walk uprightly," walk in the light, as "the children of the light." They love mercy, do justice, and walk humbly with their God. They "have their behavior honest among the Gentiles."
IV. The Palm tree when young is a very weak plant, so weak as to require support.And therefore Pliny says, they usually plant three or four of them together, which unite, embrace, and grow to one another, forming one strong, lofty, and beautiful tree.
Believers, when converted, are very weak and helpless, and not able to maintain their course without the aid and encouragement of their brethren. But believers are "helpers of each other's joy." 1 Corinthians 1:24. They love as brethren. The wise and strong have compassion on the weak and ignorant. They encourage the feeble and timid, and "bear one another's burdens." They "strengthen the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees," Isaiah 35:3, 4. Union is essential to Church fellowship, and believers are united in the holy bonds of love. Union makes the Church glorious in the estimation of all the wise and good. See Psalm 133:1, 2; Ephesians 4:3, 13.
V. The Palm tree is an evergreen.It is crowned at its top with a large tuft of spring leaves, about four feet long, which never fall off, but always continue in the same flourishing verdure. It is green in winter, as well as in summer.
And David beautifully describes the prosperous and abiding spirituality of the righteous, Psalm 1:3. As green is the color of luxuriant vegetation, it is used as an emblem of pleasantness, prosperity, fullness of wealth, grace, or comfort. Christ is called a green tree, to indicate his unbounded and inexhaustible fullness of grace and vital influence, Luke 23:31; Hosea 14:8. Believers are like green trees, retaining grace amid every opposition, and growing in grace and good works. "I am like a green olive tree in the house of God," says David, Psalm 52:8.
Believers are said to be fed in the green pastures, full of pleasant and nutritious food, Psalm 23:2. Being thus planted by the river side, their leaf shall not wither. They maintain their profession, not only in the summer of prosperity, but also in the winter of adversity. Contrast verse 7, with verse 12, 13.
VI. The Palm tree is distinguished for great fruitfulness.Its fruit is abundant, pleasant, medicinal, and exhilarating. Surely, says Pliny, new dates, as they come from the tree, are so delicious, that they are eaten most greedily.
The righteous have not only the greenness of profession, but also the fruits of the Spirit. Their conversation's full of good fruit; their spiritual efforts bear fruit for the good of man, and redound to the glory of God. "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control." Galatians 5:22-23. "The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life," etc. Proverbs 11:30. The fruit of righteousness is a pleasant fruit. It distinguishes the people of God throughout their course, and they are frequently distinguished for fruitfulness in old age. "They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green!"
VII. The Palm tree grows and flourishes under heavy pressure or weight.It grows, the naturalists say, when it is most pressed down. It will not be pressed, bowed downwards, or grow crooked, though heavy weights be laid upon it.
The righteous shall flourish like the Palm tree, though trials may threaten to crush them down. Satan labors to do it; sin struggles against them; the world frowns upon them — yet "the righteous shall hold on his way, and he who has clean hands shall grow stronger and stronger." Pharaoh extremely burdened and oppressed the children of Israel by their cruel task masters, but the more he afflicted them, the more they multiplied, Exodus 1:11, 12.
Persecution cannot annihilate Christianity. It never has done it — and never will do it. Notwithstanding its oppressions, cruelties, and bloodshed, it still lives with all its elements of increasing power. Persecutions have been beneficial to the righteous, increasing their spirituality and happiness, Romans 5:3; 8:35-37; 1 Peter 1:7; 4:12, 13, 16; Matthew 5:10.
VIII. The branches of the Palm tree were used as emblems of victory and rejoicing.They were carried before conquerors in their triumphs, both by believers and idolaters. The reason given by Plutarch, why the symbol was so adopted by the idolaters, is the nature of the wood, which so powerfully resists recumbent pressure. But more enlightened nations, by bearing palm branches after a victory, designed to acknowledge the Supreme Author of their success and prosperity, and to carry on their thoughts to the Divine Light, the great Conqueror over sin and death. See 12:13; Revelation 7:9.
The righteous are as Palm branches in Christ's hand — a sign of that glorious victory which he has obtained over sin, Satan, the world, death, and eternal wrath! When he said, "It is finished!" then those foes were slain.
The righteous are compared to Palm trees because Christ has not only himself conquered for them, but he will enable them to conquer every foe; and, in Heaven, as the symbol of his triumph, they shall "have palms in their hands."
IX.Lastly, in the holy place, or sanctuary of the Temple (the emblem of Christ's body), Palm trees alternately mingled with cherubim were engraved on the walls and the doors, 1 Kings 6:29, to indicate its heavenly connection, and its being honored with the ministration of angels. See Ezekiel 41:18-20, 25, 26.
Angels have ever been the guardians of the Church. They watch over the righteous, who are compared to Palm trees, Psalm 91:11, 12. They attended Christ in his ministry they will attend the saints during their pilgrimage on earth, and finally attend them as their escort to glory. Hebrews 1:14.
1. Be thankful that you are the subjects of transforming grace.
2. Endeavor, by Divine help, to maintain the characteristics figuratively represented by the Palm tree.