3. When clouds are full,
they empty rain on the earth;
whether a tree falls to the south or to the north,
in the place where the tree falls, there it will lie. (NRSV)
3. When the clouds are full of water, it rains.
When the wind blows down a tree, it lies where it falls.
Don’t sit there watching the wind. Do your own work.
Don’t stare at the clouds. Get on with your life. (The Message)
3. When the clouds are heavy, the rains come down; when a tree falls, whether south or north, the die is cast, for there it lies. (The Living Bible)
Ecclesiastes follows Proverbs, was written by Solomon probably, and is part of the wisdom literature. My mother taught me using riddles. I can remember her pointing her finger at me and saying, “A stitch in time saves nine,” and I knew I was to obey now and not put off something. Tackle a small task so it does not become big. “An early bird catches the worm,” was her admonition to be industrious. So this wise saying from Ecclesiastes about trees I find intriguing. What was Solomon trying to tell us? Sometimes when a passage is unclear, I look it up in a more modern translation to see if I can grasp the content better. So I looked up Ecclesiastes 11:3 in the Message and in the Living Bible to see if I could get a clearer picture. This is how it might be speaking into our world today.
Sometimes we see warning signs, take heed and act before the small tear becomes a big rip and a dress is ruined. We see the clouds and we take an umbrella to work because the odds are it will rain. Recently the weather-man said that hurricane Ian was coming. We did not know the exact path but we moved furniture inside, parked cars in safe places, made plans for the single women to stay together so no one would be left alone. We filled water containers and bathtubs and had cash for dealing with electrical outs. Seeing the warning signs, we took precautionary action. When we see a tree start to fall, we best move out of the way for once it starts to fall, it will not change its mind.
This is also true spiritually. We have times when we see the signs that tell us we are headed into a storm and we need to double check our spiritual disciplines. If we are loosing our temper too quickly, crying too quickly, despairing too quickly, we need to spend time in prayer, praise, reading, singing or whatever discipline that fortifies us spiritually. When a tree of disaster like a medical situation occurs, for sure we follow medical advice, but we also call friends and get prayer chains informed. Even as we set our actions by what is going on with a tree, we can proactively care for our spiritual lives. Lord, help me be alert to warning signs!