God’s Tear Bottle
Because of David’s courageous defeat of the Philistine giant, Goliath, the shepherd boy of Bethlehem became a hero in Israel.
King Saul “set him over the men of war, and it was good in the sight of all the people” (1 Sam. 18:5). David’s fame quickly spread as he traveled through the hamlets of Palestine. Women danced and sang, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.”
King Saul was hardly impressed with these musical eulogies. In fact, he was very wroth. And so, “Saul eyed David from that day and forward” (1 Sam. 18:7-9).
Consumed with envy, Saul began attempting to murder David. From place to place, he pursued him.
How dark and depressing must these days have been to that noble Hebrew youth.
The inspired penman of First Samuel informs us that on one occasion, David (perhaps in desperation) fled to the king of Gath in hostile Philistine territory. Quite possibly he was confined for a while because the sacred narrative characterizes him as being in their hands from which he eventually escaped to Adullam (1 Sam. 21:13; 22:1).
What tearful times these were!
Later, David penned two psalms relating to the incident just mentioned — Psalms 35 and 56. To this latter passage, we now call attention.
“Put My Tears in Your Bottle”
The superscription of Psalms 56 asserts that it is a psalm of David, “when the Philistines took him in Gath.”
Though these superscriptions are not a part of the original text, nevertheless, they do reflect great antiquity, antedating even the Septuagint. This is the Greek translation of the Old Testament dated around the third century B.C.
In this period of crisis, the psalmist pleads:
“Be gracious to me, O God, for man tramples on me;
All the day long an attacker oppresses me;
My enemies trample me all day long;
For many attack me proudly.”
Then, in recounting the heart-breaking episodes of the past, David says:
“You have kept count of my wanderings;
Put my tears in your bottle;
Are they not in your book?”
David knows that the Lord has been mindful of his fugitive perils.
Though the shepherd boy had been driven relentlessly into hiding, God had kept count of his wanderings. The meaning is, Jehovah had been intimately aware of all the dangers confronting David.
In the language of Job, he might well have asked: “Does he not see my ways, and number all my steps?” (Job 31:4). Our Lord Jesus, using a similar figure, assures us that the very hairs of our heads are all numbered (Matt. 10:30).
The concern of the Almighty for his children is so utterly complete!
Our heavenly Father is truly a God of compassion. Paul, in describing the tender feelings of sympathy which the Lord has for those in distress, says that he is “the God of all comfort” (2 Cor. 1:3).
“As a father shows compassion to his children, so Jehovah shows compassion to those who fear him” (Psa. 103:13).
And so, David implores: “Put my tears in your bottle.”
The psalmist beseeches his Maker to be mindful of his tears, to treasure them up as men might preserve costly liquids. How magnificently graphic! How brimming with comfort!
We are reminded of King Hezekiah’s grief, and Jehovah’s response thereto: “I have heard thy prayers, I have seen thy tears” (2 Kings 20:5).
Is it not wonderful to know, when our hearts are laden with sorrow, there is one who is never too busy to truly care? Heartaches may go unnoticed by others, but not by Him.
Therefore, “Cast your burden on Jehovah, and he will sustain thee” (Psa. 55:22).