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God bless you and greetings in the name of Jesus Christ who was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth (Acts 8:32).

Today we will be looking at the eastern custom of hanging bottles from the ceilings in their dwellings.  The psalmists uses it to describe his situation in Psalms 119:83.  We will learn the truth it conveys as we look at the context in which it occurs.

Psalms 119:81-88 describes a time of trouble filled with great discouragement, disappointment and despair.  In it we find the only unanswered questions of the psalm.  We hear, in this section, the psalmist pouring his heart out before God.  The psalmist cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel until he comes to the last verse when he says, “Quicken me after thy lovingkindness; so shall I keep the testimony of thy mouth.”   In verses 81 and 82 he talks about fainting and failing which he illustrates in verse 83.  Then in the next four verses he questions the Lord’s delay, fears the devices of the proud, seeks the Lord’s defence, and expresses his own determination.  Only in the last verse do we see his expectation for God’s lovingkindness to change things.

Our only true hope in this world is in God and His Word.  The world uses “hope” as a fond wish or desire.  Biblically, hope is much more sure and secured.  Biblically there is no doubt associated with hope.  Hope affords us a deep, settled confidence that God will keep His promises.  The Hope for the Old Testament believers was the first coming of Messiah, whereas The Hope of us New Testament believers is rooted in Christ’s return where we shall be changed and be like him.  What an important part of the believer’s armor the hope is.  It is the helmet of salvation that covers our head in the day of battle.  The psalmist here faces his crisis with his helmet on.

The psalmist begins the stanza speaking of the condition of his soul and his sight which he illustrates with an orientalism.

Psalms 119:81-83 [CAPH]:  My soul fainteth [kalah] for thy salvation: but I hope in thy word. 82 Mine eyes fail [kalah] for thy word, saying, When wilt thou comfort me? 83 For I am become like a bottle in the smoke; yet do I not forget thy statutes.

The Hebrew word kalah is used four times in Psalm 119, and three of them are in this section.  It is translated “fainteth” in verse 81, “fail” in verse 82, and “consumed” in verse 87, all of which are good translations.  The fourth occurrence is in verse 123 where it echoes verses 81 and 82 saying, “Mine eyes fail [kalah] for thy salvation.”  It carries the idea of being “spent,” “used up,” or “exhausted.”  It is clear that the psalmist is in dire straits and longs for God to move.  He seems desperate for God’s comfort.

Then he uses the metaphor of a bottle in the smoke to describe his situation.  This eastern expression is quite graphic.  This refers to an Eastern leathern bottle blackened and shriveled up in the smoke.  It is suspended from the ceiling and has no escape from the smoke of the fires that cook the food.  It is powerless to change its condition; it just hangs there, helpless.  Bishop Pillai taught us that using this is figurative of a tremendous crisis.  A bottle in the smoke had no control over its circumstances and could not get out of them by itself.

Despite the crisis and calamity he faces, he refuses to forget God’s statutes.  Then in the next four verses he presents his desperate circumstances:  he questions the Lord’s delay, fears the devices of the proud, seeks the Lord’s defense, and expresses his own determination.

Psalms 119:84-87:  How many are the days of thy servant?  when wilt thou execute judgment on them that persecute me? 85 The proud have digged pits for me, which are not after thy law. 86 All thy commandments are faithful: they persecute me wrongfully; help thou me. 87 They had almost consumed [kalah] me upon earth; but I forsook not thy precepts.

He considered whether he would even live through the crisis and was concerned that those who persecuted him would get what they deserved.  He so wanted God to act, but wondered at His delay.  He was concerned about the traps the insolent had set for him.  They were so presumptuous that they disregarded God’s law to do so.  His only defense was to cry out to the Lord.  Surely, He would be faithful to His faithful commandments.  The key word in verse 87 is “almost.”  They had pressed hard upon him, but he was determined not to falter.  Despite the crisis and calamity he faced, he refused to forsake God’s precepts.  He continues to expect change.

Psalms 119:88:  Quicken me after thy lovingkindness; so shall I keep the testimony of thy mouth.

He asks for God to make him alive through His lovingkindness and maintains his vow to keep God’s testimonies.  He fully expected to come through the crisis and have his own testimony of God’s lovingkindness to declare.  God’s Word is our source of hope in crisis.