Message in a Bottle
You number my wanderings; Put my tears into Your bottle; Are they not in Your book?
Someone has said that life is a bridge of groans over a river of tears. While that statement may be overly pessimistic, there is nevertheless more than a tinge of realism in it. Life has a way of reducing each of us to a puddle of tears. Which of us has not cried ourselves to sleep? Which of us has not fought back the tears? Ever since the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden we have been eating the bitter fruit of their disobedience. Their disobedience brought sin, and sin brought sorrow, and we have been crying ever since (Gen. 3:16-17; Rom. 8:22-23). Not surprisingly the Bible is awash with tears. In John 11:35 we find the Lord Jesus crying over the death of Lazarus. In Luke 22:62 we find the apostle Peter weeping bitterly over his denial of Jesus. In Jeremiah 9:1 we find the prophet Jeremiah drowning in tears over the sins of the people of God in Judah. In Acts 20:19 we find Paul humbly serving the Lord with tears. In 2 Samuel 18:33 we find King David crying copiously over his wayward son Absalom. This world is a vale of tears. But to those who are all cried out I have a wonderful promise from God's Word.
In Psalm 56 we find David in a spot of trouble. He has been captured by his mortal enemies the Philistines, and is under lock and key in Gath (1 Sam. 21-10-11). In the midst of these terrifying circumstances David is seized with a sense of fear and foreboding (Psa. 56:3, 4, 11). But through prayer David regains his confidence in God; panic gives way to the calm composure of trust (Psa. 56:3-4, 8-11). Of interest to us is the fact that part of David's confidence is rooted in the reality that God knows everything about his circumstances, and catches each falling tear in His bottle (Psa. 56:8). In Persia and in Egypt, tears were wiped from the cheeks of the mourner and carefully preserved in a tear bottle. In ancient Persia, when a sultan returned from battle, he checked his wives' tear catchers to see who among them had wept in his absence, and missed him the most. Tear bottles have been found in many of the ancient tombs of Egypt and elsewhere throughout the East. These bottles were made of alabaster since glass was not yet in use. This powerful image points to God's concern for David.
God sees our falling tears, and is not indifferent to them (Psa. 39:12; 2 Kings 20:5). Some years back my mother called me to tell me that God had wonderfully saved her sister Margaret after many years of persistent praying. My mum went on to say that she had shed many a tear for her prodigal sister, but God had kept those tears in His bottle, and had now answered her heart's cry. Listen! Until God wipes away our tears in heaven, He will lovingly catch them in a bottle (Rev. 21:4). God is not unmindful or unmoved by the tears we shed (Psa. 116:8). Take the handkerchief of Psalm 56:8.