“How was I supposed to see that?”

I’m not very good at poetry. I seldom understand the imagery and symbolism until someone explains. Then I nod appreciatively while I think, “How was I supposed to see that?”

I think my literal brain explains why I struggle with books like Psalms, Ecclesiastes, and Proverbs. So often I see what’s on the surface and just don’t get the intended meaning behind the words.

Frankly, I think people tend to use the poetry/wisdom books at times to serve personal agendas. It takes a lot of study to be sure we’re not imposing our own meaning.

Recently a speaker referred sort of tangentially to Ecclesiastes 11:4. He made a connection that didn’t click for me so I looked at the bible app on my phone.

Whoever watches the wind will not plant;
whoever looks at the clouds will not reap.
NIV

What does that verse say to you?

To me it referred to distraction, not keeping your eyes on the task at hand. If you’re staring at the sky you’re not getting your work done. In the context of the talk I was listening to, it made no sense at all. So I decided to check some different versions.

Don’t sit there watching the wind. Do your own work.
Don’t stare at the clouds. Get on with your life.
The Message

Okay, that validated my first impression. Normally I would’ve stopped there, but I decided to check one more.

Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant.
If they watch every cloud, they never harvest.
NLT

Oops. That’s a different meaning. Now I had to keep going.

If you wait until the wind and the weather are just right, you will never plant anything and never harvest anything. Good News Translation

If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done. Living Bible

So now I’ve got two basically conflicting meanings. This is becoming more study than I intended, but I can’t stop now. I check out a couple of study bibles.

People must not procrastinate. They must not cower before the unknown or inconvenient. The tasks of life must be done now and not be delayed for ideal conditions. Asbury Bible Commentary

Okay, now I’m pretty sure I understand. My initial reaction was wrong.

It’s one verse. It would have been easy to skip past it, to settle for my first-impression meaning. I do that too often.

When we read God’s word, does it matter enough to study and be sure we get it right?

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Copyright 2008-2013 by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.

Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of:

Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance. Visit his web site www.relentlessgrace.com

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