Smoked with Slander and Parched with Persecution
Psalm 119:83 For I have become like a wineskin in the smoke,
yet I have not forgotten your statutes.
The Psalmist’s own life is used as a template for response to all that is encountered. In the nomadic life wineskins were filled for travel. Once they were emptied they were hung to dry near the open fire. There, after much use they became blackened and wrinkled, bearing the marks of life.
The man of God had been blackened and wrinkled by falsehood, “smoked with slander,” and “his mind parched with persecution.”(Surgeon) The possibility of being overcome by fear was great and yet he had learned that his life must be seasoned by prayer. In the midst of the suffering he continually went back to God and the Psalm becomes an example for prayer. The wrinkled and smoke covered exterior belies the soft and pliable heart which beats beneath the chest. Prayer is not to be the casualty of suffering but the remedy that leads us to the place of hope and life.
It would be highly unusual if we did not have experiences in life that left us wounded. Jesus, himself, was wounded and his body bears the marks of persecution. Why would we expect anything different? We are called to take up our cross and follow him daily.
Where is Christ? Yesterday he had his throat slit in a church in France. Today he will be persecuted the world over; through the restrictive laws in Russia to the complacent “Christians” in the West. The journey to follow Jesus was never expected to be easy. The temptation, however, is to forget to go to God in prayer. In anguish we cry out with the Psalmist, telling God about our circumstances. God listens and hears our cries. We become smoked with slander and parched with persecution and instead of becoming an unusable wineskin we cry out to God for we have not forgotten God’s statues. Even blacked and wrinkled God can make the wineskin soft and pliable — useable for service in the kingdom.
The discouraging events of life have a tendency to take us away from God. We feel that God is distant and we are uncomfortable bringing our pain and frustration to the altar. The Psalmist reminds us that the remedy is found in prayer as we meditate upon God’s statues and faithfulness. New life is breathed into our weary bodies as we continue following and reflecting Christ.
Lord, may I seek your face daily in prayer. Amen.
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