By Michael E. Brooks
“The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree” (Psalm 92:12 NKJV).
There are eight coconut palms on the campus of Khulna Bible College. Of these three are perhaps 20 years old, four are 10 to 12 years old, and one is a new planting. The coconut is one of my favorite trees in south Asia, growing quickly, bearing wonderful nuts, and presenting a beautiful picture as it sways gently in the breeze. Other varieties of palm share some of these characteristics, but the coconut palm is particularly productive.
When I read the psalmist’s description of the righteous I am reminded of these trees in particular. How is a righteous person like a palm tree? I can think of several possible applications.
First is the vigor of the palm. It grows quickly, maturing into the bearing of fruit within well less than 10 years, at which time it may be 15 feet in trunk height, not counting the large leafy crown. Such vigor means that one may plant coconuts with expectation of enjoying their shade and nuts very soon. The righteous man has sources of strength denied to others. Even a new convert or young Christian may serve productively in the Lord’s Kingdom. As Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
Second, the coconut is a strong and stable tree, in spite of its long slender trunk and soft composition. Though their natural habitat includes such hurricane alleys as the Caribbean, the Florida coast, and South Asia, they typically reach full maturity and old age without being toppled. They are resilient, bending to the winds, but not breaking. In Psalm 1 the righteous are described as “like a tree planted by the rivers of waters” (verse 3). This stability is a result of the fact that “the Lord knows the way of the righteous.” In contrast, “the way of the ungodly will perish (verse 6).”
A third application is fruitfulness. The coconut tree is extremely productive with a year-round bearing season. I read some time ago that it is the only form of vegetation upon which one may find fruit throughout the year in all forms of development from bloom to mature nut, simultaneously. The owner of a coconut tree can go to it at almost any time with the expectation of receiving good fruit. He can also observe younger nuts that will be ready to harvest later.
A consistent theme of the New Testament is that followers of Christ must be fruitful. Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away” (John 15:1-2).
Titus was commanded to “Remind them (i.e. the churches) … to be ready for every good work.” In Colossians 1:10 Paul prayed “That you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing him, being fruitful in every good work.”
Each Christian has unique talents, resources, and opportunities. But each can bear fruit, at some rate and of some kind (Matthew 13:8). Like a good palm tree, that is what God expects of us.
For information about the Khulna Bible College, see this link.
By Michael E. Brooks