“The righteous are like a sprouting date-palm tree;
Like the cedars of Lebanon they grow large.”
(Psalm 92:13 [verse 12 in English])
The psalmist gives us a picture of two trees and parallels that with one who seeks to live a righteous life (or a congregation that does so). The palm, or a better translation would be the date-palm, along with the cedar were trees that were prized in the ancient world. Both grow quickly and had a variety of uses. The date-palm was perhaps best known for the abundance of fruit that it would provide to the people. Dates were a staple food and in some regions in the middle east, the sap of date trees was also collected for syrup. Palm branches formed a significant resource for weaving baskets and other practical items, and the wood of the date, though not suitable for large-scale construction, was still useful for smaller buildings as well as for burning.
While the wood of the date may not have been suitable for large-scale construction, the wood of the cedar was. These trees would grow to be well over 100 feet tall with trunks as much as 8 feet in diameter at the base. These huge trees grew especially quickly and plentifully in the region of Lebanon and thus their fame even today. In addition to buildings, their wood was also used to construct naval and merchant ships and was a significant building material used in the construction of the Temple in Solomon’s day.
Thus, the psalmist has the strengths of both of these trees in mind when he thinks on the character of the righteous…the church that follows after God. Their growth and maturity should be measurable and the fruit they bear useful for the community. In fact, every aspect about the church should be found to be useful for the work of God. The church itself should be a useful resource to the community and highly adaptable to changes in the world around them. Such is the church that worships God faithfully in Word and in Spirit. Such is a church that is focused on Christ and not on themselves.
Sadly, many churches do not reflect this characteristic as many individual Christians do not as well. How we should all be learning and growing in our understanding and application of Scripture. If this is not happening, something is askew. How our congregations ought to be growing deeper in the Word of God, which also ought to cause others to become curious and thus over time, the congregation grow broader.