Psalm 119:83

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 83. For I am become like a bottle in the smoke. The skins used for containing wine, when emptied, were hung up in the tent, and when the place reeked with smoke the skins grew black and sooty, and in the heat they became wrinkled and worn. The Psalmist's face through sorrow had become dark and dismal, furrowed and lined; indeed, his whole body had so sympathized with his sorrowing mind as to have lost its natural moisture, and to have become like a skin dried and tanned. His character had been smoked with slander, and his mind parched with persecution; he was half afraid that he would become useless and incapable through so much mental suffering, and that men would look upon him as an old worn out skin bottle, which could hold nothing and answer no purpose. What a metaphor for a man to use who was certainly a poet, a divine, and a master in Israel, if not a king, and a man after God's own heart! It is little wonder if we, commoner folk, are made to think very little of ourselves, and are filled with distress of mind. Some of us know the inner meaning of this simile, for we, too, have felt dinghy, mean, and worthless, only fit to be cast away. Very black and hot has been the smoke which has enveloped us; it seemed to come not alone from the Egyptian furnace, but from the bottomless pit; and it had a clinging power which made the soot of it fasten upon us and blacken us with miserable thoughts.

Yet do I not forget thy statutes. Here is the patience of the saints and the victory of faith. Blackened the man of God might be by falsehood, but the truth was in him, and he never gave it up. He was faithful to his King when he seemed deserted and left to the vilest uses. The promises came to his mind, and, what was a still better evidence of his loyalty, the statutes were there too: he stuck to his duties as well as to his comforts. The worst circumstances cannot destroy the true believer's hold upon his God. Grace is a living power which survives that which would suffocate all other forms of existence. Fire cannot consume it, and smoke cannot smother it. A man may be reduced to skin and bone, and all his comfort may be dried out of him, and yet he may hold fast his integrity and glorify his God. It is, however, no marvel that in such a case the eyes which are tormented with the smoke cry out for the Lord's delivering hand, and the heart heated and faint longs for the divine salvation.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 83. -- A bottle in the smoke. Sleep was out of the question, for I was...almost smothered with the smoke from a wood fire, for there was no chimney. I was indeed "like a bottle in the smoke," turned black and dried almost to cracking; for this was something of what the Psalmist had in view. The bottles being of leather, and being hung up in rooms with large fires of wood, and without chimneys, they became smoke-dried, shrivelled, and unfit for use. --From "My Wanderings", by John Gadby, 1860.

Verse 83. -- Like a bottle in the smoke. The tent of a common Arab is so smoky a habitation, that I consider the expression of a bottle in the smoke, to be equivalent to that of a bottle in the tent of an Arab. There was a fire, we find, in that Arab tent to which Bishop Peteeke was conducted when he was going to Jerusalem. How smoky must such an habitation be, and how black all its utensils! Le Bruyn in going from Aleppo to Standcroon was made sufficiently sensible of this: for being obliged to pass a whole night in a hut of reeds, in the middle of which there was a fire, to boil a kettle of meat that hung over it, and to bake some bread among the ashes, he found the smoke intolerable, the door being the only place by which it could get out of the hut.

To the blackness of a goat skin bottle, in a tent, but to the meanness also of such a drinking vessel, the Psalmist seems to refer, and it was a most natural image for him to make use of, driven from among the vessels of silver and gold in the palace of Saul, to live as the Arabs do and did, and consequently often obliged to drink out of a smoked leather bottle. --Thomas Harmer, 1719-1788.

Verse 83. -- For I am become like a bottle in the smoke. A bottle in the smoke has very little inflation, fatness, moisture, beauty. Thus God wastes away, debases, and empties his people, while he exercises them with tribulations and the disquiet of hoping and waiting. The glory and eagerness of the flesh must be emptied, that the Divine gifts may find room, and the remembrance of the commandments of God may be restrained, which cannot be well kept in bottles which are swollen, inflated, and filled. -- Wolfgang Musculus.

Verse 83. -- A bottle in the smoke. One object amongst the ancients of such exposure was to mellow the wine by the gradual ascent of the heat and smoke from the fire over which the skin was suspended; and thus the words teach us the uses of affliction in ripening and improving the soul. --Rosenmuller, quoted in Neale and Littledale.

Verse 83. -- For I am become like a bottle in the smoke, etc. Satan can afflict the body by the mind. For these two are so closely bound together that their good and bad estate is shared between them. If the heart be merry the countenance is cheerful, the strength is renewed, the bones do flourish like an herb. If the heart be troubled, the health is impaired, the strength is dried up, the marrow of the bones wasted, etc. Grief in the heart is like a moth in the garment, it insensibly consumeth the body and disorders it. This advantage of weakening the body falls into Satan's hands by necessary consequence, as the prophet's ripe figs, that fell into the mouth of the eater. And surely he is well pleased with it, as he is an enemy both to body and soul. But it is a greater satisfaction to him, in that as he can make the sorrows of the mind produce the weakness and sickness of the body; so can he make the distemper of the body (by a reciprocal requital) to augment the trouble of the mind. How little can a sickly body do? it disables a man for all services; he cannot, oft pray, nor read, nor hear. Sickness takes away the sweetness and comfort of religious exercises; this gives occasion for them to think the worst of themselves; they think the soul is weary of the ways of God when the body cannot hold out. -- Richard Gilpin, in "A Treatise of Satan's Temptations," 1677.

Verse 83. -- Like a bottle in the smoke. In this did the afflicted Psalmist find a striking emblem of his own spiritual state. He waited for the Lord to come. In spirit he was dried up by pressure upon him; and he still waited for the Lord to come, declaring his shrivelled condition. Perhaps his outward man partook of the same sad qualities at this time... The outward appearance of the man of God, to which he may be alluding, was, however, but the semblance of his spiritual nature at this period, whatever may have been the visible effects. David was exposed to the calumnious reports of evil minded men, and to the hot persecution of relentless enemies, till the effect upon his mind was such that his whole spiritual nature resembled, in his own mind, a skin hung up in the smoke for a length of time. Not only was he shrivelled in public estimation, but also in his own mind; not indeed because at this time, and on the ground of the charges made against him, he felt that he deserved it; but because so incessant and multifarious was the bitter invasion of his spirit, that even with all his faith in God, he well nigh literally sunk under it. The term given in our translation to the original would imply, that he bore himself well notwithstanding --

For I am become like a bottle in the smoke; yet do not forget thy statutes. Whereas the words rendered more literally would convey the important all this happened to him even while he was in the very way of duty: "I am become like a bottle in the smoke -- I do not forget thy statutes." He was directly in the way of the Lord's appointments for all salvation; yet trouble came. It is sad when our spiritual man becomes shrivelled and dried up because of our falling into sin, or because of guilty omissions; but here seems to be a falling off of the spiritual man, and of the physical man, while the believer is conscious that he is not forgetting the statutes of his gracious God. --John Stephen.

Verse 83. -- Observe here the difference between the beauty and strength of the body and of the soul: the beauty of the soul groweth fairer by afflictions, whereas that of the body is blasted. David was a bottle shrivelled and shrunk up; yet the holy frame of his soul was not altered; his beauty was gone, but not his grace. --Thomas Manton.

Verse 83. -- I am become like a bottle in the frost (so the Seventy translate it). When spiritual desires burn, carnal desires without doubt cool: on this account followeth, "Since I am become like a bottle in the frost I do not forget thy righteousnesses." Truly he desireth this mortal flesh to be understood by the bottle, the heavenly blessing by the frost, whereby the lusts of the flesh as it were by the binding of the frost become sluggish: and hence it ariseth that the righteousnesses of God do not slip from the memory, so long as we do not meditate apart from them; since what the apostle saith ( Romans 13:14 ) is brought to pass: "Make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof." Therefore when he had said, "For I have become like a bottle in the frost," he added, "and I do not forget thy righteousnesses," that is, I forget them not, because I have become such. For the fervour of lust had cooled, that the memory of love might glow. --Augustine.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 83. --

  1. The outward man in ill case.
  2. Character blackened.
  3. Constantly exposed to discomfort.
  4. Contents maturing.

Verse 83. -- A bottle in the smoke.

  1. God's people have their trials.
(a) From the poverty of their condition.
(b) Our trials frequently result from our comforts.
(c) The ministry hath much smoke with it.
(d) The poor bottle in the smoke keeps there for a long
time, until it gets black.

  1. Christian men feel their troubles; they are like "bottles" in the smoke.
    1. The trial that we do not feel is no trial at all.
(b) Trials which are not felt are unprofitable trials. A
bottle in the smoke gets very black, becomes very useless,
in an empty bottle.

  1. Christians do not, in their troubles, forget God's statutes -- the statutes of command, the statutes of promise. Why was it that David still held fast by God's statutes?
    1. He was not a bottle in the fire, or he would have
      forgotten them.
(b) Jesus Christ was in the smoke with him, and the
statutes were in the smoke with him, too.
(c) The statutes were in the soul, where the smoke does
not enter. --From "Spurgeon's Sermons." No. 71.