February 23, 2022 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Psalm 92:12-15 (NRSV)
The righteous flourish like the palm tree,
and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
They are planted in the house of the LORD;
they flourish in the courts of our God.
In old age they still produce fruit;
they are always green and full of sap,
showing that the LORD is upright;
he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.
When a person flourishes, we might see this as a testimony to that person’s righteousness. However, our flourishing points, not so much to us, but to the God who enables us to flourish. Thus, my flourishing shows the power and grace of God. When I flourish, I am inspired to offer praise and thanks to God, who by grace enables me to live fully and fruitfully.
Today’s devotion is part of the series Invitation to a Flourishing Life
According to Psalm 92:12, “the righteous flourish like the palm tree.” So, one might infer our flourishing demonstrates that we are righteous. There is some truth here, but we must be careful. Remember, earlier in Psalm 92 we learned that “the wicked sprout like grass and all evildoers flourish” (92:7). Their flourishing, however, isn’t substantial or lasting. Like grass, their flourishing will dry up and die. Or, as the psalmist puts it, evildoers “are doomed to destruction forever” (Psalm 92:7).
If someone is truly flourishing, if someone is living fully and fruitfully, doesn’t that point to this person’s righteousness? Doesn’t flourishing show us that someone is living rightly, that is, in a right relationship with God, others, self, and the world?
I believe you could answer those questions affirmatively, though always with a measure of caution because you don’t always know what’s going on in someone’s life. Still, genuine flourishing over an extended period does seem to point to an individual’s righteousness. So, would it be safe to say that this is what flourishing shows us? It reveals the character of the person who is flourishing. Right?
In a way, yes. Yet, that’s not the conclusion drawn by Psalm 92. In the portion of this psalm that begins with “The righteous flourish like the palm tree,” you might expect the conclusion to be something like, “In old age they still produce fruit; they are always green and full of sap, showing that they are upright, and there is no unrighteousness in them.” That would make sense, but it’s not what Psalm 92 says! This is how the passage actually reads, “In old age they still produce fruit; they are always green and full of sap, showing that the LORD is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him” (92:15). A person who flourishes demonstrates, not their own righteousness, but God’s righteousness.
When we remember the lines between the beginning and the end of Psalm 92, this God-honoring conclusion makes perfect sense. Verse 12 opens the discussion of flourishing in this way: “The righteous flourish like the palm tree, and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the LORD; they flourish in the courts of our God” (Psalm 92:12-13). The righteous live fully and fruitfully, not because of their own self-generated moral excellence, but because they are planted in the place where God dwells. They are rooted in God, in God’s power and grace. Human flourishing, therefore, isn’t mainly a testimony to human effort or excellence. Rather, it bears witness to God’s effort and excellence, not to mention God’s mercy and grace.
Thus, the flourishing of people, their fruitfulness even in old age, shows “that the LORD is upright” (Psalm 92:15). God is righteous in all of his ways. The Lord is also “my rock,” in whom we are protected and upon whom our lives can be solidly built. In God, there is “no unrighteousness,” no hint of evil or wrong living.
Many implications could be drawn from the fact that our flourishing points to God’s righteousness. I’d like to mention one here. If my flourishing is evidence mainly of God and God’s provision, then I should not get overly puffed up when things are going well in my life. It’s not wrong for me to feel a measure of pride in my accomplishments. I can certainly feel glad when my closest relationships are healthy and happy. But I will miss the point if I think I am flourishing primarily because of my own effort. If I start thinking to myself, “Wow, I’m pretty righteous,” then I’m entering a dangerous moral and theological territory. It would be good for me to remember that “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18, KJV).
Once we truly see our flourishing as an expression of God’s grace, we’ll be protected from unwarranted pride. We’ll feel and live with genuine humility. We’ll know joyful gratitude as we thank the Lord for so many wonderful gifts. We’ll be able with authenticity to repeat the opening lines of Psalm 92:
It is good to give thanks to the LORD,
to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
to declare your steadfast love in the morning,
and your faithfulness by night,
to the music of the lute and the harp,
to the melody of the lyre.
For you, O LORD, have made me glad by your work;
at the works of your hands I sing for joy (92:1-4).
The works of God’s hands include what God has done in me and through me. Thus, my flourishing shows the power and grace of God. It motivates me to offer praise and thanks to the God who enables me to live fully and fruitfully.
When you think about your life, when have you experienced God’s grace and mercy in a special way?
How is God at work in your life these days? What is God doing in you and through you?
Set aside some time for prayer so that you can thank the Lord in depth for all the ways he has blessed and is blessing you.
Gracious God, how good it is to give you thanks, to sing praises to your name. I declare your steadfast love in the morning and your faithfulness by night. For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy.
In particular, Lord, I think you for your good work in me. Where would I be without you? Lost. Forsaken. Broken. Hopeless. But you have reached out to me in love, saving me by your grace through Christ. You have chosen to bless me, even to make me flourish. When this happens, I see your hand at work. I experience your grace once again. Thank you.
When things are going well with me, when I’m living with meaning and joy, when my labors are bearing good fruit, may I recognize your presence and offer humble thanks. To you be all the glory! Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: The Lord Is Our Righteousness
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.