The clump of three poplar trees clung to the upper edge of the cliff-like stream bank. Some of their roots were bare, the soil having been washed away by floods over the year.
But the trees stood high and erect, apparently healthy, the tallest reaching as high as 80 feet. Remarkably, the trees remained stable over the 27 years Pat and I have owned the property through which the stream, Gillis Falls, runs. They stood even though flood waters rushed by the exposed roots an average of once every one of those 27 years -- and who knows how many years before.
Then came the rains and floods of 2018. The stream flooded over its banks at least three times, eating away large chunks of the soil on the banks each time. The poplars could hang on no longer. One flood surge undercut the roots of all three of the trees, bringing them down to a 45 degree angle. Another flood brought two of the trees down to ground level, while the third lodged securely in a large tree on the opposite bank. It, too, would have dropped to the ground but for the tree it landed on.
Psalm Chapter 1 compares one who follows God with a tree firmly planted by streams of water. Psalm 1:3. Such a person is rooted and built up in Christ, Colossians 2:6-7, and rooted and established in the love of Christ, Ephesians 3:16-19.
But what about the person who is like our clump of poplars – not “firmly planted” but still surviving for a number of years, ultimately destroyed when the flood waters of life became too strong? Is the “poplar tree person” like the one David describes in Psalm 1: 1-2? That is, one who associates with the wicked, sinners and scoffers (lives a worldly life, in other words) yet appears to be healthy and prosperous. In the meantime, sin and Satan are gradually undercutting the roots of his life.
Such a person may be able to hang on for a time, even years. But there is always a risk of a “year 2018” in the person’s life – sudden, unexpected tragedy. Better that he make a choice to follow God now rather than risk being swept away by a killer flood of life.