Monday, December 03, 2012
Today’s Topic: Elasticity and Flexibility
Today’s Text: Psalm 119:83 (ESV) For I have become like a wineskin in the smoke, yet I have not forgotten your statutes.
When I first started playing baseball as a young boy, I was very insecure and very nervous. To compensate, I would chew on one of the leather ties on my baseball glove. Every lull in the action was met with a spontaneous movement of my left hand towards my mouth, and the salty taste of the tanned leather would occupy me until the next pitch was thrown. By the end of the game the top of the thumb of my glove was a slobbery mess. My goal, other than diverting my attention from my insecurities, was to get that leather strip as wet and soft as possible without breaking it.
When it came time to use the glove again, the string would be dry and hard and stiff, which provided another challenge that would keep me occupied during the next game or practice.
Then one day it happened. The string broke below the knot that held the webbing to the thumb. Try as I did to pull the extra through the whole so there would be enough to tie another knot, the string was too stiff. Every attempt to tie it was met with another crack or break. The leather had become unusable because it had lost its natural flexibility and elasticity. I had to buy new leather strapping and restring the glove.
Wineskins were made of animal skins – leather – that had been properly tanned so that it would remain soft, flexible, and elastic. New wine would be placed in the skin, and as it continued to ferment the wineskin would expand to accommodate the gases being released during the process. That’s what Jesus is referring to when He said, “No one puts new wine into old wineskins.” In order for the wineskin to properly accomplish its purpose it had to remain elastic.
Most wineskins were hung from the center pole of the tents in which the people lived. But as the smoke from the cooking and warming fires would rise upward in the tent to escape out the roof, the wineskin would be affected by the smoke. It would start to char and turn black, and would become stiff and rigid. Wineskins had to be constantly replaced because of the effects of the smoke upon them. They were unusable when they lost their elasticity, and heat and smoke caused it to happen.
The Psalmist relates to us that he feels like a wineskin hung in the smoke because of the trials he is experiencing in his life. The fires of affliction have started to minimize his elasticity. Prior to the afflictions, he was flexible and able to expand with the increased stress. He absorbed the bubbles of his fermenting foes and contained them. But the constant heat and smoke of the fires is starting to harden him. There are cracks developing. There is no more room for expansion. One more issue could cause him to burst.
Can we relate to him? Is that how life feels right now? But unlike wineskins that cannot be returned to a state of elasticity once the leather has become hard and stiff, the Psalmist understands that his heart can be restored through the statutes and promises of God. Trust in God’s Word is the salve that saves when rubbed into the heart.
In the modern world we have so refined the tanning process that leather is now used for car seats, gloves, and multiple other applications where flexibility, elasticity, and durability are all required. Leather treatments have been developed that when rubbed into the leather help preserve the natural qualities of it. But if not cared for, the leather will still dry out and crack. Just check out the leather on the driver’s seats of both my cars. And no matter how much rubbing of leather protectants I do, the cracks won’t go away.
But when the Word of God is rubbed into our hearts, elasticity returns. We are restored to functionality so that we can absorb the bubbles of fermenting foes again. We are given back our elasticity so we can handle the unforeseen stresses that fire up in our lives each day. God’s promise of His steadfast love and faithfulness to us are the protectant we need from the smoke of sin that surrounds us every day. God’s Word keeps us soft, supple, and strong.
So when you notice, or when someone else loves you enough to tell you that they notice, that you are getting hard and brittle, let the Word of God become the healing salve that restores your elasticity. The wineskin is not responsible for what is put into it, or for what outward circumstances influence it: it is only responsible to remain elastic and flexible. Don’t let the issues of life make you hard. Let the Word of God keep you elastic.