“Called Trees of righteousness, The planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.”
While all the prophecies are wonderful, it has often seemed to us that the declarations of Isaiah are, if possible, more wonderful and profound than those of any other prophet. The text quoted above, together with the context, is one of special interest to the church in this gospel age of the world. Indeed, the whole book of Isaiah has more direct reference to the gospel dispensation than the legal covenant, and many expressions are so suited to the understanding of the Lord's people that it seems they cannot err in their spiritual interpretation of them. Yet as simple as they seem, and are, to the wayfaring man, even though a fool, they cannot be properly interpreted by the wise of the world, for the reason that the world by wisdom knows not God; hence all sorts of constructions are put upon the Scriptures of both the Old and New Testaments by the untaught of the Lord to please the carnal mind and to tickle the ear of those who cannot and will not endure sound doctrine. The figures employed by the Holy Ghost in the Scriptures convey to the spiritual mind or man the truth of the doctrine of grace, just as a good teacher conveys by simple figure or illustration to the mind of the child the very essence of knowledge. Hence when God's protection of his people is presented mountains are used as a figure, David saying, As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people henceforth and forever. When the everlasting love of God was preached it was done by the figure of a woman's love, the Spirit saying by the prophet, A woman may forget her child, to have compassion upon her offspring, but I will never forget thee; thy walls are ever before me, and thy names are graven in the palms of my hands. When the chosen family of God and all that belongs to his children in the covenant of grace were distinguished by Solomon, the figure of a garden inclosed was employed; so in our text, when the righteous in Christ Jesus, the work of God through him, are mentioned by the prophet, the figure of trees is used. When the unity of Christ and his people and the steadfastness of the gospel government were preached in the days of old, the illustration of a tree was brought to view: They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat; for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the works of their hands. In our text the elect are spoken of as trees of righteousness. There are many kinds of trees in nature, the Lord giving them to man to meet his needs and tastes. Each tree has its own name and each has its own peculiar value. The mahogany, the walnut, the oak, the chestnut, the poplar, the pine, and we we might mention hundreds of other kinds, but these are sufficient to illustrate our thought that each is absolutely distinct from the other and is valued according to its kind. The mahogany is perhaps the most valuable tree in nature, so far as the wood is concerned, and likely in the order that we have mentioned them the value of the tree decreases. Then fruit trees have their own peculiar nature and value according to their kind. More than likely the orange tree is reckoned about as valuable as any fruit tree. Each and every fruit tree has some value owing to its fruit, every tree bringing forth after its kind. If it be a bad tree bad fruit is sure to be made manifest, and a good tree cannot bring forth bad fruit. The first name trees grow without cultivation, but the fruit trees named are planted and cultivated by men, and men reap the benefit. Often after years of toil and expense, however, crops are sometimes utter failures, owing to certain conditions, and the owners of such trees suffer great loss, but such is not the case with the Lord, he can suffer no loss. The trees he plants are ever-living, every-bearing or fruitful. Man has no hand in the matter. The Lord prepares the ground, plants the tree and gives them his personal care, so to speak. The cold of winter does not affect them, the heat of summer does not harm them, the floods do not uproot them, the fires do not kindle upon them, tornadoes and hurricanes never disturb them. They are simply proof against all powers, against all elements and every enemy, even death itself. As trees in nature are called by their names, or each given its name according to the wood or fruit, so the trees, the planting of the Lord, are called, or named, “Trees of righteousness.” This name is given because of the nature and fruits of the trees. An orange tree bears, or brings forth, oranges, because it is an orange tree. The same is true of the lemon tree, it bears fruit after its kind, and every other fruit tree brings forth the fruit characteristic of its nature. So in grace the Lord named the trees of his planting, Trees of righteousness, hence because of their divine nature they bring forth righteous fruits, or the fruits of righteousness, which are faith, love, joy, peace, gentleness, longsuffering, kindness, meekness, temperance, charity, sobriety, truthfulness, honesty, in short, everything characteristic of the Spirit of the Planter and Dresser. As the owner of the orange, apple, peach or any other orchard is honored and enriched by the fruits of his trees, so the Lord is glorified through the fruits of his trees of righteousness. The owner of the orchard, literally, cares for it, that it may be protected from all enemies, that it may bring forth abundantly, so the Lord keeps his trees as the apple of his eye. He who keeps them neither slumbers nor sleeps, lest any should hurt or destroy one of his trees. Hence how secure, how sure to do the bidding of the Lord.
These trees of the Lord's planting are peculiar characters, such as “the meek,” “broken hearted,” “captives bound in prison,” “they that mourn.” Their work, or fruit, as declared, shall be to build the wastes, raise up the former desolations of many generations. The gospel ministry among the Gentiles is presented in verse five, which reads as follows: “And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the alien shall be your plowmen, and your vinedresses.” These are all included in the trees of righteousness, and shall be named, “The priests of the Lord,” and shall be called, “The ministers of our God.” “Priests of the Lord” is only another name by which the trees of righteousness are called. Made priests unto God through the blood of Jesus Christ to offer spiritual sacrifices unto the Lord, even the fruit of our lips. The priests of the Lord have access to God through Christ, and each one offers for himself in the temple of the Lord and is heard, the Lord never turning any empty away who come unto him through Christ, the Head of this living priesthood. He was made sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. Therefore the trees, the planting of the Lord, are righteousness itself in him who knew no sin.
In the first Psalm Jesus, the man who was never found in the way, or path, of sinners, nor in the seat of the scornful, but whose delight was in the law of the Lord, and in his law did he meditate day and night, is compared to a tree planted by the rivers of water that bringeth forth his fruit in his season, his leaf also shall not whither, and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. Thus is Christ preached by the figure of a tree. The tree planted by the river of waters is fruitful, and it flourishes because of being well watered. It is said to live forever, in that its leaf shall not whither, and all his works shall prosper. This is just as true of each tree of righteousness as it is of Christ, the Tree of trees. God's work nor his word returns unto him void, but accomplishes his purpose, and prospers in the thing (tree) whereunto he sends it. The house of the Lord is spoken of as a well watered garden. Each tree of righteousness has in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life, hence can neither wither nor die, but must bring forth fruit unto the praise and honor of God, through which he is glorified and his grace magnified.
May the God of our salvation continue to plant trees of righteousness in his gospel kingdom, and give those long planted there daily tokens of their acceptance in the Beloved, and that they shall continue to bear fruit to his honor and glory until gathered at his right hand to join in the song of the servants of God and the Lamb. - K.
Elder H.C. Ker
Signs of the Times
Vol. 87, No. 10 – May 15, 1919