If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth: and if the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be.
Ecclesiastes 11:3 (KJV)
At first glance, to many Western readers, this Biblical maxim seems to be stating the obvious in a rather redundant and perhaps humorous way. This verse can be understood as a parallelism, which means that the second clause restates the principle embodied in the first. The clouds are full, and the rain falls. A tree is cut down and it lies where it fell. To many left-brained Westerners, this seems like a bit of silly philosophical mumbo-jumbo.
However, the lesson conveyed is extraordinarily profound and poignant. Actions have consequences. Always. When we choose to act, whether we act upon what is right, moral, and ethical, or not, our actions set wheels in motion that often cannot be reversed. If we have sinned, we can certainly pray, repent, and ask God for forgiveness (I John 1:9). He has promised, in His Mercy, based on the provision of the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, to forgive AND to cleanse us. Yet the consequences of our wrong and sinful choices may indeed continue to affect in some ways our lives and the lives of others. God will forgive a murderer if he or she truly repents before Him. Yet the life that was snuffed out is still gone. Although the hydrologic cycle generally ensures that water continues to “make the rounds,” once a cloud has dropped its rain, it cannot issue a recall order. Once a tree has been felled, regardless of regret on the part of the lumberjack, the tree cannot be “un-cut.” And once words leave our mouths, regardless of the remorse we may experience over uttering them, those words cannot be “taken back.” The hurt that they cause cannot be undone. Those we hurt may indeed find healing in Christ for the wounds we inflicted. And they may even forgive us for what we have said or done. But the fact that we did indeed cause injury cannot be reversed. How I have grieved in my heart over words that exploded from my lips in the anger of the moment. Although God has developed in me a quickness to repent, and although those that I injured graciously forgave me, there was no way that I could turn back the clock and “un-hurt” them. Esau also deeply regretted the selling of his birthright. Yet, he found no way to undo the consequences of what he had, in a moment of impulsive indulgence, chosen to act upon (Heb. 12:17).
Adam and Eve also were faced with a choice that had far reaching implications. Adam’s rebellion in Eden has been working out its deadly effects in fallen humanity for many millennia. “In Adam, all have died” (I Cor. 15:22). Adam’s sin of high treason against Almighty God has affected EVERYONE that is “in him.” However, the reciprocal of this principle is also true, as Paul confidently assures us. “In Christ shall all be made alive!” Just as Adam’s sinful action affected all that were “in him,” the righteous Redemption provided by Jesus Christ, through His death on the Cross and victorious resurrection, affects all that are now “in Him.” We were all identified with the first Adam through physical birth. We are now identified with the “Second Adam” (I Cor. 15:47) through spiritual birth. This Is why Jesus proclaimed, “You MUST be Born Again!” (John 3:7) Jesus Christ indeed bore the penalty of sin for you and for me. Because of what He did for us, we can find Mercy, Forgiveness, Healing, and Restoration. However, many of the temporal consequences of sin might continue to remain, even after one has embraced faith in Christ, or as a believer has asked forgiveness for some sin committed. I heard Dr. Lester Sumrall say, “Yes, God is a God of ‘second chances.’ But sometimes ‘second chances’ hurt.’”
The Apostle Paul declared that he kept his body in submission to his reborn spirit, lest after preaching to others, he would be disqualified (I Cor. 9:27). Although confident of God’s Mercy, Grace, and Forgiveness, Paul did not want to do anything that might hinder or disqualify him from the calling and destiny to which God had ordained him. Pastor JOHN Osteen often quoted the poet who said, “Of all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these: ‘It might have been.’” God indeed forgives us when we ask Him in faith. But what might have been had we not sinned, might never be in the same way that it would have been had we not spoken or acted as we did.
The words we speak and the choices we make have a consequential effect upon our individual lives and upon the world in which we live. That is true whether those words and choices are positive or negative. There is no doubt that each one of us will leave some impact upon our world. The only variable lies in the type of legacy we will leave behind. Be Blessed!