Noticing the Obvious in the Mundane

Derek Ouellette —  May 12, 2010

The early prophets in Israel’s history seem to have a special gifting which is lost to the later prophets, the ability to see the significance in the mundane visions.

When God asks that later prophet Zechariah, “What do you see?” the prophet goes on to describe in detail the whole purview before him. Afterward he asks the Lord, “What are these things?” (Zechariah 4:2-6) What’s the point? Why are you showing me this? I don’t get it?

In contrast God asks the earlier prophet Amos, “What do you see?” Amos’s answer is so simple that its significance is almost lost, and then when it is translated into English it is completely lost: “I see a basket of summer fruit” (Amos 8:1). He doesn’t say “I see a basket of fruit” or “I see a basket” or “I see fruit”. Any one of those would have been true enough, but they would have missed the point. The Hebrew word for “summer fruit” (qayis) is very similar to the Hebrew for “end” (qes). God responds to what Amos sees by saying: “The end has come for my people Israel.”

Similarly God asks Jeremiah, “What do you see?” The prophet replies “I see an almond branch”. He could very well have said “I see a stick” or “I see a branch” or “I see a piece of wood” and all of these would have been true enough. As with Amos so with Jeremiah, there is a pun involved: the Hebrew word for “almond” (saqed) is very similar to the Hebrew word for “watching” (soqed). God replies to Jeremiahs observation with: “You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it” (Jeremiah 1:12-13).

The point is that these two prophets, in looking at the obvious, are able to see the significant thing which is hidden in plain sight, and it got me thinking:

Do you see a tree, or the faces of people in the branches?

Do you see a tree, or the faces in the branches?

When we walk the streets, when we see the world, when we view our friends and voyage through the mall do see the details of everything like the later prophets while losing the significance of it all? Or do we observe what God wants us to observe in the mundane things of this world? Almost everybody is hurting, has been hurting or will be hurting. Do we see them? Some people have money and so we think they have everything when in reality they have nothing. Do we observe them? Do we see what God wants’ us to see or do we see as our society has trained us to see?

Of me I want God to say as he says to Jeremiah, “you see well”.

Do you see well?

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Derek Ouellette

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a husband, new dad, speaker, writer, christian. see my profile here.