In the last passage, we saw that evil can come upon us at any time; that’s just the way it is. In this section, we will see that good can come upon us as well, and that we must not be so cautious about the potential of evil that we miss out on the good. This discussion begins with verse 3 of chapter 11 in which the laws of nature are used to illustrate the potential for bad times:
If clouds are full of water,
they pour rain on the earth.
Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north,
in the place where it falls, there it will lie.
Who knows exactly what will happen – who knows just where there will be rain, floods blizzards or danger? Nobody, that’s why we are being bombarded with warnings. This is the message of verse 3; you just never know what might happen. The next verse, verse 4 tells of our possible response:
Whoever watches the wind will not plant;
whoever looks at the clouds will not reap.
I remember a couple of years ago when a major winter storm was moving into the Washington, D.C. area; on the news they were listing (over and over) all of the closings and “late starts” for the incoming storm. Amazingly, the Federal government was open for business that day, and I must admit that I was a bit surprised, since they normally surprise me by how quickly they shut it down. Since the government wasn’t closed that day, I predicted that it would be a real major storm; they almost always guess wrong!
…Which is exactly the point that the Teacher is making. Using an agricultural metaphor, he is saying here that if you are always looking at the clouds and the wind, you’ll never get your fields planted, or to put it another way, if you are always looking for danger, than you can always find a reason not to try.
As you do not know the path of the wind,
or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb,
so you cannot understand the work of God,
the Maker of all things. (11:5)
This transitional verse is where the tide changes: None of us knows the workings of God, so we can’t easily predict what will come next. Even with advanced weather models and satellite tracking of storms, they don’t always get the forecasts right. How can any of us think we can predict the future?
Sow your seed in the morning,
and at evening let your hands not be idle,
for you do not know which will succeed,
whether this or that,
or whether both will do equally well. (11:6)
The conclusion is simply that we should get out there and give it our all in this life, and not worry about the storm clouds that come along, for who can say what will bring good and what will bring evil into our lives; do your best always.
With this Solomon brings this second section of Ecclesiastes to its close. Next time, our adventure will reach the third and final section of the book: The conclusion of the matter.