How to Face Difficulties
There is an interesting expression in Psalm 119:83. It reads in the King James version, "For I am become like a bottle in the smoke, yet do I not forget thy statues." Probably most readers of the King James version would not have the least idea of the meaning of the expression. The American Standard Version helps some, but not much. It says, "For I am become like a wine-skin in the smoke; Yet do I not forget thy statutes."
Even if one realized that some persons hung their wineskins in the chimney, or other places where the warmth of the fire and smoke would surround it, one might have trouble seeing any meaning in David's words. As in all cases of serious Bible study, one should read the passage in the context. This will not always reveal the exact meaning, but will usually help to shed light on the subject.
He had just asked in verse 82, "When wilt thou comfort me?" At the end of verse 83, he says, "Yet do I not forget thy statutes." In verse 84 he mentions "them that persecute me." Without question, the context has to do with persecution, need for comfort and difficulties of various sorts.
Realizing that, we can visualize a wineskin hanging in the smoke of a chimney, growing more wrinkled, blackened and shriveled. This would suggest his feeling of distress, anxiety, grief, misfortune, adversity, sorrow, anguish, discomfort and misery. It is very similar to what he said in Psalm 22:15, "My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws."
It is possible, however, that David meant more than that, for he concludes that verse with, "Yet do I not forget thy statutes." Instead of these difficulties and persecutions becoming stumbling blocks, he makes stepping stones of them.
Whenever you feel that you are like a bottle in the smoke, remember James 1:2-4, "Count it all joy, my brethren, when ye fall into manifold temptations (trials); knowing that the proving of your faith worketh patience. And let patience have its perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, lacking in nothing." Can anyone doubt that Job was better after his terrible experiences? Yet "a bottle in the smoke" does not begin to describe the difficulties through which he passed. Is there any question that Paul knew it was better for him to have the thorn in the flesh (2 Cor. 12:7)? He said in verses 9 and 10, "Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ my rest upon me. Wherefore I take pleasure in weaknesses, in injuries, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then I am strong."
It is said that they hung the wineskins in the warm smoke of the fire to help mellow the wine and bring it to perfection. Whether David also had that in mind, we do not know. We do know that it is the kind of thing that has happened to God's children many times. Hebrews 12:6 is still true, "For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth." Then in verse 10 he says, "For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed good to them; but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness." So, when the bottle gets all smoked and shriveled, remember David said, "Yet do I not forget His statutes." "Rejoice in the Lord always. And again I say, Rejoice" (Phil. 4:4). To realize the practical value of Romans 8:28 can change your life. "And we know that to them that love God all things work together for good, even to them that are called according to His purpose."
T. Pierce Brown
Published in The Old Paths Archive