The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.…
I. WHO SHALL FLOURISH? "The righteous." There are none who are righteous by a righteousness of their own — that is, a righteousness derived from themselves; but there are those who are righteous by a righteousness derived from God. Of this the apostle speaks; " That I may be found in Him, not having mine own," etc. There is a twofold righteousness spoken of in the Scriptures: the righteousness of justification, and the righteousness of sanctification. These are very distinguishable from each other; and unless it is clearly discriminated, a confusion will pervade the whole of the religious system. The one is the change of our state; the other of our nature. The one is a relative change; the other personal. The one entitles us to glory; the other is a meetness for the inheritance of the saints in light. The one is an instantaneous operation, and applies at once; the other is gradual and progressive. Yet they are always inseparable, though distinguishable.
II. HOW SHALL THEY FLOURISH? "Like the palm-tree;... like a cedar." There is a real and active progressiveness in religion; though Christian principles and passions at present are all imperfect, yet they are growing, and shall advance to maturity. This progressiveness is to be considered as a Christian's duty, his desire, and his privilege. His duty; and therefore it is so often enjoined upon him. "Grow in grace, and in the knowledge," etc. "Giving all diligence add to your faith," etc. His desire; therefore he "forgets the things that are behind," etc.; and therefore his prayer is, "Perfect that which concerneth me." "Forsake not the work of Thy own hands," etc. His privilege, and therefore it is provided for him; "therefore it hath pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell;" and from this fulness he is to receive " grace for grace."
III. WHERE SHALL THEY FLOURISH? "In the courts of our God." There it is that you have fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. There His ordinances are dispensed — the ordinances of life. There God hath commanded the blessing, even life for evermore. In order to enjoy these advantages, you must be planted there, as a tree must be, in order to be fruitful; that is, you must be fixed there. How is this? In two ways. One by choice — for, "where the treasure is, there will the heart be also"; and where the heart is, there you are, wherever the body may be. The other is by the frequency of your attendance, availing yourselves of every opportunity the providence of God allows you to be found there.
IV. WHEN SHALL THEY FLOURISH? "They shall still bring forth fruit in old age." Not that they escape all the effects of old age, far from it; but as the apostle says, "When the outward man perishes, the inward man is renewed day by day." When the outward ear grows deaf, then the inward man hears the voice of God. When the eye grows dim, the mind is irradiated and enlightened. When the fleshly parts grow weak, we are "strengthened with might in the inner man." It is one of the consequences of old age in Christians to look towards heaven. There he reckons upon his relations and friends. "There my best friends, my kindred dwell — there God my Saviour reigns." He seems to have more connection with that world than with this. We look for meekness in the aged. The young are giddy, fierce, fiery, and determined — the older are willing to give up everything for the sake of peace, unless it is a good conscience and truth. There we look for maturity and judgment in divine things — that he should be able to distinguish things that differ, that his heart may be established in righteousness. He has not only had faith, but experience: the one is help to the other.
V. WHY ARE THEY TO FLOURISH? "To show that the Lord is upright." There seems something remarkable in this. Their fearing God, attending His ordinances, and "bringing forth fruit even to old age," shows that they are upright; but how does it show that God is upright? It does this in two ways. First, as it evidences His faithfulness to His engagements. All the ways of the Lord are mercy; not only mercy, but truth; because they are in fulfilment of His promises. Then, next, because it shows their adhering to Him with purpose of heart; and not turning back from Him, shows that they found Him what they took Him to be. Had they been deceived in Him they would have given Him up. Under the law, the servant that had his ear bored gave proof that he loved his master; and he would not have loved him if he had not behaved well to him. The attachment and the adherence of the servants of God proclaim his faithfulness; and show they have not been disappointed in their expectations of Him. Just like the venerable , who, when asked to deny his Saviour or perish, saith, "He has been a good master to me these eighty years, and can I now forsake Him?" This shows the perseverance of the Christian; not what he is, but what God is. "By the grace of God I am what I am."
VI. WHO CAN BEAR HIS TESTIMONY TO THIS TRUTH? " I," says David; "He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him." Every one can say this, and will say this, who has, like David, made God his rock for building upon — his rock of danger — his rock of refreshment, whose streams follow him all the wilderness through.
Parallel VersesKJV: The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.