12. The righteous shalt flourish like the palm-tree,1 he shall be multiplied as the cedar in Lebanon.2 13. Those who are planted in the house of Jehovah shall flourish in the courts of our God. 14. They shall still bud forth in old age; they shall be fat and green; 15. That they may show that Jehovah is upright, my rock, and that there is no iniquity in him.
12. The righteous shall flourish like the palm-tree. He now passes to the consideration of another general truth, That though God may exercise his people with many trials, subject them to hardships, and visit them with privations, he will eventually show that he had not forgotten them. We need not be surprised that he insists so explicitly and carefully upon this point, as nothing is more difficult than for the saints of God to entertain expectations of being raised up and delivered when they have been reduced almost to the state of the dead, and it does not appear how they can live. Some think the cedar is mentioned from the fragrancy of its smell, and the palm for the sweetness of its fruit; but this is too subtile a meaning to attach to the words. The sense seems simply, that though the righteous may appear for a time to be withered, or to have been cut down, they will again spring up with renewed vigor, and flourish as well and as fair in the Church of God as the stateliest trees upon Lebanon. The expression which is employed -- planted in the house of the Lord -- gives the reason of their vigorous growth; nor is it meant that they have merely a place there, (which can be said even of hypocrites,) but that they are firmly fixed, and deeply rooted in it, so as to be united to God. The Psalmist speaks of the courts of the Lord, because none but the priests were allowed to enter the holy place; the people worshipped in the court. By those who are planted in the Church he means such as are united to God in real and sincere attachment, and insinuates that their prosperity cannot be of a changeable and fluctuating nature, because it is not founded upon anything that is in the world. Nor indeed can we doubt that whatever has its root, and is founded in the sanctuary, must continue to flourish and partake of a life which is spiritual and everlasting. It is in this sense that he speaks of their still budding forth, and being fat, even in old age, when the natural sap and juices are generally dried up. The language amounts to saying that they are exempt from the ordinary lot of men, and have a life which is taken from under the common law of nature.3 It is thus that Jacob, speaking of the great renovation which should take place in the Church, mentions, that at that happy period he who was an hundred years old should be a child, meaning that, though old age naturally tends to death, and one who has lived a hundred years is upon the very borders of it, yet in the kingdom of Christ; a man would be reckoned as being merely in his childhood, and starting in life, who entered upon a new century. This could only be verified in the sense, that after death we have another existence in heaven.
15. That they may show that Jehovah is upright. It is evident from this verse that the great object of the Psalmist is, to allay that disquietude of mind which we are apt to feel under the disorder which reigns apparently in the affairs of this world; and to make us cherish the expectation, (under all that may seem severe and trying in our lot, and though the wicked are in wealth and power, flourish, and abound in places and distinctions,) that God will bring light and order eventually out of confusion. That they may show, it is said particularly, that the Lord is upright; for through the influence of our corruption we are apt to conclude, when things do not proceed as we would wish in the world, that God is chargeable not only with neglect but with unrighteousness, in abandoning his people, and tolerating the commission of sin. When God displays his justice in proceeding to execute vengeance upon the wicked, it will be seen at once, that any prosperity which they enjoyed was but the forerunner of a worse destruction in reserve for them. The Psalmist, in calling God his rock, shows a second time that he reckoned himself amongst the number of those in whom God would illustrate his justice by extending towards them his protection.
1 The palm is one of the noblest and most beautiful of trees. It is more remarkable than any other tree for its straight, upright growth, and hence its Hebrew name
2 The cedars of Lebanon are a favourite image with the sacred writers. They grow to a prodigious size, rise to an enormous height, and spread their branches to a great extent, affording a grateful shade. They continue to flourish for more than a thousand years; and, when cut down, their wood is so durable that it has obtained the reputation of being incorruptible. How striking, then, the image, "The righteous shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon," like that massy, lofty, umbrageous, and incorruptible tree, which continues to flourish from generation to generation, which survives empires, and is still vigorous when a thousand years have passed over it.
3 "They shall still bring forth fruit in old age. Being thus planted and watered, they shall not only bring forth the fruits of righteousness, but shall continue and go on to do so, and even when they are grown old; contrary to all other trees, which, when old, cease bearing fruit; but so do not the righteous; grace is often in the greatest vigor when nature is decayed; witness Abraham, Job, David, Zechariah, and Elisabeth, and good old Simeon, who went to the grave like shocks of corn fully ripe." -- Dr Gill.