“Multiply your seed sown”; “the tares are the children of the wicked”; “by their fruits ye shall know them”; “I am the vine, ye are the branches.”
The Bible is full of metaphors that compare the Christian journey—the spiritual conversion process—to the plant kingdom. It even likens God’s truth to rain (Deuteronomy 32:2). The Apostle Paul exhorts us to be “rooted and grounded” in God’s love (Ephesians 3:17).
What’s more, God’s holy days—which picture His master plan for human existence—compare the salvation of mankind to two major harvests in the Northern Hemisphere—the spring and the fall harvests. It’s at these times of year that the analogies seem literally to blossom around us.
But what about the winter time when everything seems to die? This is the longest gap between holy days on the calendar, the sunlight portion of the day is shorter, and it is prime time for pagan holidays.
Still, God gives us an analogy that we can use at this time of year—something that typifies our growth even as everything around us seems to die and grow dark.
“The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon” (Psalm 92:12). The righteous are compared to two contrasting types of trees. Let’s examine the latter of them—what it means to grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
The cedar of Lebanon is a cone-producing tree that can grow up to 120 feet tall (imagine a 10- to 12-story building). Its branches are wide-spreading, and go straight out horizontally 30 to 50 feet from the trunk. It was known in biblical areas as “the king of trees.”
The Hebrew word for cedar comes from a root word meaning firm. It is known for the “firmness of roots” (Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon). The adjective form of the word for cedar means firm, strong.
Hosea 14:5 reads: “… Israel … shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon.”
The Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary states about the phrase “roots as Lebanon” in this verse: “that is, as the trees of Lebanon (especially the cedars), which cast down their roots as deeply as is their height upwards ….”
What an amazing analogy! To grow spiritually, how deeply must God’s people be rooted in His truth and His way of life? We will only grow as tall as we are rooted deep!
Even the inclusion of Lebanon in this tree’s description gives us further spiritual insight. Lebanon refers to the trees’ geographic elevation: Mount Lebanon—the central part of the west coast of modern-day Lebanon—the highest point in the Israel-Lebanon-Syria area.
Becoming White as Snow
The Hebrew for Lebanon simply means whiteness. The prefix is transliterated lawban, meaning white, and is used throughout the Old Testament in reference to being white, purged and cleansed of sin. Isaiah 1:18 states: “[T]hough your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white [lawban ] as snow ….”
Lebanon was named because of its snowcapped mountains. Their Eastern ridge is partly covered with perpetual snow to this day.
So we can also draw spiritual parallels from the geographic location of this tree. God is purifying us and making us as white as snow. The snowcapped mountains, where the cedars once dwelled so abundantly, are there to remind us of that.
Excellent Building Material
Gesenius’ Lexicon continues: “Its wood is odoriferous, without knots, and not liable to decay; used therefore for building and adorning the temple and royal palaces.”
As we strive to build godly character in our lives, God uses the physical to help us understand how to build on the spiritual level.
This is what our editor in chief wrote in the booklet Ezra and Nehemiah: “Zerubbabel brought cedar trees from Lebanon to be hewn into beams for the temple (Ezra 3:7). … [T]he cedar trees provided the best material for a strong and beautiful temple. … Building a Spirit-filled congregation is a team effort. … Your approach to your spiritual life determines whether you are a cedar tree or a pine. … The way we ensure that we are of the highest-quality spiritual material is through obedience to God’s law and government.”
Growth Despite the Surroundings
So we can see why God equates the “righteous” with this kind of tree and this kind of wood. But it’s not just the material that forms the analogy in Psalm 92:12: “… he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.”
The Adam Clarke Commentary quotes a scholar who visited the trees in 1697 as saying: “These noble trees grow among the snow, near the highest part of Lebanon” (emphasis added).
That is the beauty of this analogy: Here is flora that grows all year round—even in the dead of winter.
God says the righteous grow like that! Not just during the holy day seasons, or at the Feast of Tabernacles, but even when winter hits. Even if they are snowed in. And, because of that, look at how majestic and tall God’s people can grow!
How tall can we grow spiritually? Again, as deeply as our roots go into God’s truth.
Verse 13 continues the thought: “Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God.”
As the Ezra and Nehemiah booklet points out, we become this type of material “through obedience to God’s law and government.” And this psalm tells us that if we plant ourselves in God’s house—in the spiritual temple God is building—we’ll flourish in His courts.
“Cedar wood is not consumed by worms or time; nor the Church by antiquity nor persecution. The gates of hell shall not prevail against it, nor any true member of it. Of which the reason is, because these … cedars—these righteous men—are planted, set by faith, watered by the word … rooted by charity in the Church, which is the house of the Lord; and therefore they shall flourish—be green and vigorous in the courts of our God” (Adam Clarke).
God’s people must be rooted in Church doctrine, staked to Church government based on God’s law, watered by God’s Word, and energized by the light of God. That will keep His people green and growing— even in the midst of spiritual winter.
Rare Trees to Become Abundant!
One final parallel has to do with the sparseness of these trees today. Because of their magnificent building properties, the majority of those precious trees have been cut down. Likewise, God’s people are small in number due to a tragedy that has pummeled God’s Church in this end time (for more, request The Epistle of James booklet, free upon request). There are only so many of these trees left spiritually.
But God says soon these cedars will bloom over this Earth (see Isaiah 41:19).
This is what God’s Church must become today: majestic, strong, grand, as tall as its roots are deep, so it is firmly planted in God’s presence, white and purified, and—most importantly—always growing, always green and always living—for eternity!
Though these trees are sparse today, soon physical and spiritual cedars will populate this entire Earth!