Friday, May 30, 2014

The Tear Bottle

“You number my wanderings; put my tears into Your bottle; are they not in Your book?
When I cry out to You, then my enemies will turn back; this I know, because God is for me.  In God (I will praise His word), In the Lord (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” – Psalms 56:8-11

David was on the run from the Philistines when he wrote Psalms 56, which is a prayer to God.  One of the most beautiful metaphors is found in verse 8 when he writes “You number my wanderings”, referring to the many times he had to change his hiding place.  He writes that God “put my tears into Your bottle, are they not in Your book?” which refers to a Roman tradition for those that grieve. 

When a Roman died, each one who loved them had a time of grief.  As they grieved the priest would come by, swab their tears, and wring out the swab into a bottle.  The bottle was often made of precious stone, but sometimes clay or skin.  The bottle would be placed into the grave with the one who died as a memorial.  It was also thought that the drops of tears shed for someone about to die, when placed on their lips, had healing powers.

David writes that God has kept his tears in a bottle, noting that he had God’s full attention, and God was aware of his struggle.  He also says that God had recorded each tear in His book, accounting for them all as deeds done against him.  He writes that when he cries out to God, then he is victorious over his enemies “because God is for me”.  Then David makes a bold stand and says that because he praises God and the Lord and will not be afraid because man cannot harm him.

We often read the last of this passage and find peace in thinking that God always fights our enemies.  But while God is for us all, not all of us will escape our enemy.  God loves us all, sinner and saint.  But the way in which He loves us is different.  John 3:36 says “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”  When God’s wrath is upon you, it is through love.  God punishes those that He loves (Hebrews 12:6), as a parent will correct their child for the long term benefit of the child.  Sometimes that punishment comes through the enemy that pursues us.

What makes David different is that David was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22).  He was obedient to God’s call on his life and daily activities.  Sure, David messed up.  He once slept with another man’s wife, conceived a child, and had the man murdered.  He was guilty in that one action of coveting, adultery, and murder.  But when his sin was pointed out to him, he didn’t try to run from it, but he confessed it to God, mourned, fasted, and prayed for forgiveness. 

Obedience to God doesn’t mean we get it right every time.  Obedience is a lifestyle, a position of the heart, that causes us to strive to please God.  In our human frailty, we will always sin.  If we could be perfected, Christ’s death would have been in vain.  But a “man after God’s own heart” seeks to please God, and continually strives to obey Him.  And that man can truly say, “In God (I will praise His word), In the Lord (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid.  What can man do to me?”  For this man, God is his rear guard, and the One that goes before him, and when he cries out, God answers “Here I am” (Isaiah 58:8).  For this man, God does count each tear that falls.




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