Wineskin in the Smoke

A devotional of Psalm 119:65-96

ט Teth

65 Do good to your servant according to your word, Lord.

66 Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I trust your commands.

67 Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word.

Afflicted – anah – means to look down on literally and/or figuratively. It is to humble or humiliate oneself, to chasten, submit, or abase oneself. In previous chapters we’ve described the soul as a spirited seven-year-old behind the wheel of a car, quite certain they know what they’re doing. But the default way of the unsubmitted soul is to stray. It smugly follows its own plan, making up its own rules along the way; its own template; its own blueprints.

The default way of the unsubmitted soul is to stray.

Hannah tk

God enters the picture and desires to be inserted into the picture in a radical way. In his sovereignty, he declares himself master and brings his blueprints for us to transpose our lives to. We examine our ways and his ways and wisdom reveals that his ways are supreme. We then, moment by moment, divest ourselves of what we are and pour our lives into his for him to make wonders with. We choose his way. “I have considered my ways and have turned my steps to your statutes,” v. 59. Ultimately it is no loss to us at all. This process of losing ourselves in him and his ways makes us more than we could ever be otherwise. This is knowledge. This is good judgement. This is the loving Lord doing good to us.

The process of losing ourselves in him and his ways makes us more than we could ever be otherwise.

Hannah tk

68 You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees.

Here is another ingot to memorize. Say this one to yourself and to others often. “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me, Matthew 16:24. To deny – aperneomai – means to forget oneself, to lose sight of one’s self and one’s own self-interest. Spiritually, we do this with our soul – our will, our intellect, and our emotions. As you die to yourself you quickly learn that dying hurts. Hurt is another definition of the term affliction we discussed in v. 67. The pain involved in dying makes us fear and avoid it. Pain and death are a human beings’ greatest fears.

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If I am to carry my cross and crucify myself daily, I must deeply trust the cause. If I am to take my will (desires;) my intellect (attention, plans, knowledge, etc.;) and my emotions (joy, fear, anger, excitement, etc.) and afflict them, submitting them to him, I will only be as successful as my trust factor that God’s will, his intellect, and his emotions are better than mine.  My heart and soul and mind must learn and know that he is good and that what he does is good. Otherwise, I will walk in doubt and default to my will, my intellect, and my emotions.  

69 Though the arrogant have smeared me with lies, I keep your precepts with all my heart.

70 Their hearts are callous and unfeeling, but I delight in your law.

71 It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.

72 The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.

The practice of submission will galvanize your soul and your faith in incredible ways. It will enable you to stand before people who accost and smear your character without you being shaken. Then you can say with David, “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone, my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my Salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My Salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. One thing God has spoken, two things I have heard: that you, O God, are strong, and that you, O LORD, are loving,” Ps. 62:1, 2, 5-8, 11, 12a.

“I have set the LORD always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. You make known to me the path of life;  you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand,” Psalm 16:8-11. God’s law and ways then become the greatest treasure we could ever desire – one that no one can ever take from us.

י Yodh

73 Your hands made me and formed me; give me understanding to learn your commands.

74 May those who fear you rejoice when they see me, for I have put my hope in your word.

75 I know, Lord, that your laws are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.

76 May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant.

77 Let your compassion come to me that I may live, for your law is my delight.

78 May the arrogant be put to shame for wronging me without cause; but I will meditate on your precepts.

79 May those who fear you turn to me, those who understand your statutes.

80 May I wholeheartedly follow your decrees, that I may not be put to shame.

the Hallel Psalms (113-118) we studied three groups of people God identified as greatly blessed:  the house of Israel, the house of Aaron, and those who fear the Lord. Ps. 119:74 and 79 address the conduct of those who fear God towards you. First they rejoice at the very sight of you. Remember our senses are the gateway to our souls. You spark recognition (intellect) and delight (emotion) in them. You ignite their very soul. You relish each other and spur each other further in the fear of God. Secondly, when you are pushed away many who besmear you with malice aforethought, may there be God-fearers who turn to you in compassion, love, and understanding. In everyday life may God-fearers turn to you as God increasingly sets you up as a leader among them because of your obedience. May they turn to you as an example and as a beacon of hope in their affliction.

כ Kaph

81 My soul faints with longing for your salvation, but I have put my hope in your word.

82 My eyes fail, looking for your promise; I say, “When will you comfort me?”

83 Though I am like a wineskin in the smoke, I do not forget your decrees.

84 How long must your servant wait? When will you punish my persecutors?

85 The arrogant dig pits to trap me, contrary to your law.

86 All your commands are trustworthy; help me, for I am being persecuted without cause.

87 They almost wiped me from the earth, but I have not forsaken your precepts.

88 In your unfailing love preserve my life, that I may obey the statutes of your mouth.

Waiting on God is one of the toughest disciplines of faith as we all know. Things don’t happen in our time. Many lose hope and faith on this issue of time.  Theologian Horne says, “While the promised salvation is delayed, the afflicted soul thinketh every day a year.” How true that feels. Conception of time is another construct of our intellect. It is therefore another opportunity to surrender our soul to God, even as we ask, “when will you comfort me?”

The psalmist describes himself as a wineskin in the smoke. What a visual. Smoke makes our eyes smart and imbues us with its distinct odor. Our initial reaction is to wave it away. It seems to compromise the integrity of the wineskin as it dries it out, sapping it of all life. Yet God knows that smoke has its purpose too. As it dries the wineskin it cures it. It kills harmful microorganisms. It removes the moisture that harbors them and makes it prone to disease and irreparable damage. It makes it tough and able to endure various conditions.

It doesn’t stay in the smoke forever, but it might feel like it to the wineskin. Within a day the wineskin might say, “Okay, I’m good. I’m pretty well cured now.” But not so. It must sit there many days till its master sees to it that it is devoid of all disease; denuded of all humidity which would damage the wine. The master of the wine knows exactly when it is ready. Spurgeon adds, “our trials are smoke, but not fire; they are very uncomfortable, but they do not consume us.”

ל Lamedh

89 Your word, Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.

90 Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth, and it endures.

91 Your laws endure to this day, for all things serve you.

92 If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.

93 I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have preserved my life.

94 Save me, for I am yours; I have sought out your precepts.

95 The wicked are waiting to destroy me, but I will ponder your statutes.

96 To all perfection I see a limit, but your commands are boundless.

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What glorious words of life! What faith and depth of truth. A life lived thus ends with no regrets. Indeed, its end is heightened with anticipation to see the culmination of the faith when it truly becomes sight and we behold our master face to face. Delight in the laws. Seek out and remember the precepts. Ponder the statutes. They are the ultimate in unlimited perfection!

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