KOPH - The Besieged Soul
(81) My soul wastes away with longing for your deliverance. In your word I put my hope. (82) My eyes fail while looking for your promise. I say, “When will you comfort me?” (83) Although I have become a wineskin in the smoke, I do not forget your decrees. (84) How long must your servant endure? When will you execute judgment on my persecutors? (85) The arrogant dig pitfalls for me, (those) who do not (live) according to your law. (86) All your commands are faithful. They persecute me with falsehood. Help me! (87) They almost destroyed me from the earth, but I have not forsaken your precepts. (88) Revive me according to your steadfast love, so that I may keep the testimonies of your mouth.
This stanza contains one repeated word, “persecute/persecutor,” (vss. 84 & 86). No other stanza in the psalm is filled with such an assortment of adversities. As we reach the midpoint of the psalm, we find the psalmist engaged in a pitched spiritual battle. The words he uses to describe his plight are vivid and graphic: “my soul wasting away,” “my eyes failing,” “wineskin in the smoke,” “pitfalls dug,” “persecution with falsehood,” and “almost destroyed from the earth.”
The author seems to have reached a point almost beyond recovery as he expresses his distress amidst daunting afflictions. Having sunk down in a bog of spiritual quicksand, his head is about to go under. His cry for help at the end of the stanza leaves us wondering, “Will God come through for him?”
I. Besieged physically (81 & 82)
II. Besieged emotionally (83 & 84)
III. Besieged by evil men (85 & 86)
IV. Hanging on by means of God’s Word (87 & 88)
An unwavering trust in God’s Word enables us to endure whatever adversity life may bring our way.
We should spend time meditating on the implications of the vivid metaphor, “I have become a wineskin in the smoke” (vs. 83). What does this image convey to our minds? Most of us have never even seen a wineskin, let alone used one. Those who have tell us that before an animal hide is ready for use, it must be cleaned, dried, and then hung in a smokehouse where the leather goes through an extended curing process in wood smoke which, after several months, renders it a fit container for wine.
At least three observations can be made regarding growth in spiritual maturity as related to the curing of a wineskin:
- Preparing an animal hide to hold wine is a slow process that requires waiting for the leather to cure. So it is with our personal growth in maturity. It takes a long time.
- Preparing an animal hide to hold wine takes a skilled and experienced craftsman to know just how to process it and the precise timing involved. So it is with the Lord’s working in us to bring us to maturity. It takes his skilled hand.
- Hanging useless in a dark, smoke-filled room for an extended time may seem unpleasant, even useless, but it is an indispensable part of the process to prepare a wineskin to hold the wine. So it is that adversity is a necessary part of the process of our growth in spiritual maturity. As in achieving physical fitness, if there is no pain, there will be no gain.
Does this sound familiar? Whenever it seems that nothing is happening, that we are being hung out to dry in a dark curing shed full of smoke, feeling useless, helpless, and hopeless, we should remember this verse and trust God to use whatever negativity we are experiencing to accomplish his perfect purpose in our lives.