11th January 2014

When There Are No Words

“…Put my tears into your bottle…”
Psalm 56:8 (NKJV)

David was on the run from Saul; he was a wanted and hunted man, and he had taken what he thought was refuge with the King of Gath. Now his life was threatened by those from whom he sought shelter, as the king’s servants related to the king some of the words of a song that they’d heard doing the rounds: ‘Saul has slain thousands, but David has slain tens of thousands’. From that point he was no longer seen as a refugee, but as a dangerous enemy that should be eliminated (1 Samuel 21:10-12). With his life in danger yet again, in the midst of his urgent prayer to God David cries out: “You number my wanderings; put my tears into your bottle; are they not in your book?”

We know God can also count all the hairs on our head, sees every unnoticed sparrow and has numbered all the stars and given them names. Now David seems to saying that he has a heavenly bottle. But God is not some bureaucrat presiding over a celestial statistics office. Putting tears in a bottle is David’s allusion to an ancient custom of putting tears shed for a death of someone in a small container or lachrymatory and placing it on the grave as an expression of loss and mourning. We put flowers; ancient generations and cultures put bottles. David tells us that God sees our sorrows and that our tears are precious to him.

David made it singular:  just one bottle.  He has given us a picture of a bottle into which the grief-stricken sobs of all the world are poured.  So they must surely join Jesus’ tears who during his life on earth offered prayers and petitions to his Father with vehement crying and tears, who wept over recalcitrant Jerusalem who rejected him, and whose tears fell to the ground with Martha’s and Mary’s as they made their way to Lazarus’ tomb. (Hebrews 5:7, Luke 19:41, John 11:35)

 So during times when only our tears are our prayers, then they are gathered up by the groaning Spirit to join the tears of Jesus, the One who knows our griefs and carried our sorrows (Isaiah 53:4).

Father, if in my distress I have no words, in your love accept my tears and treasure them.

Study by Hilary Buck


About the Author:
Hilary Buck attends Grace Communion in Lewes.

Local Congregation:
Grace Communion – Lewes
The Priory School
Mountfield Road

Meeting Time:
Saturday 11:00am

Local Congregational Contact:
Hilary Buck
Email: hilarybucksbox@mypostoffice.co.uk

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