The Tear Bottle

Psalm 56:8

“Put thou my tears into thy bottle”

Tear Bottl2 2 - CopyHistory and archaeology records that eastern peoples would sometimes employ a little jar, which they named the tear bottle. If some people were visiting a friend who was undergoing intense suffering they would capture his tears in the bottle as a memorial of the visit. It is reckoned that it was customary for some to bring their tear bottles to funerals and when the weeping started the tears would be bottled. The weeping would not be forgotten.

Here in the 56th Psalm David is asking God to visit him with a tear bottle. The Psalmist is in a bad way. He is enduring grief. But he cries unto the Lord to come to him and place his tears into the bottle.

We live in a broken world and as a consequence no-one is immune to suffering. There are many, many situations which cause us to weep. Perhaps you are not inclined to weep freely – but still you feel and feel deeply, more deeply perhaps than the one who weeps. This text is for you also.

“Put thou my tears into thy bottle”

1: The Timing of our Tears

David writes in this place about “my tears”. He was the one who was weeping. He was taking ownership. He was undergoing a trying time – a time for tears. In the Book of Ecclesiastes 3:3 Solomon said that just as there was a time to be born and a time to die, there was also a time to weep.

Some mourn because they have lost a loved one. There are two types of mourning people. There are those whose mourning is fresh. Having to go through all of those experiences alone and for the first time is testing. There are others who have lost a loved one a year or two ago. It seems that everyone has moved on – but you cannot move on. Before others you are coping well, getting on with life. But behind the closed door it is all so very different.

Others are weeping because of illness. Bad news at the doctor’s surgery. You feel devastated. Your hardly know how to view the future. The illness may not be yours, it may be someone close to you. You are keeping strong for them while you yourself are in turmoil.

Some weep over their families. Parenthood is never easy. The truth is – the older our children become the tougher it gets. Those teenage years. The worry the fretting. It goes on in every home, not just yours. You despair in relation to the future of your children, you despair in relation to their salvation. There is not the grace that you long to see. Your family may be older – they are in the world, they are not where you would want them to be.

Some weep because their children are sick, disabled or experience learning difficulties. No-one knows except those who have experienced this, the grief that is felt as parents struggle to accept the suffering and inabilities of their children.

Others suffer not from physical pain but psychological. Depression is a larger problem than any of us are aware of. Behind many a smiling face there is a darkness of mind, causing intense suffering.

As we think about this time for tears I wish to make two observations:

The Humanity in our Tears 

Tears are produced by our emotions. Times of great sorrow cause us to weep. In many respects tears prove that we are but human. It is no sin nor is it a shame to weep. Our tears prove that we care; that we love; that we mourn. They are part of the building blocks of humanity that sets us apart from the animal kingdom.

Job 16:16 My face is foul with weeping, and on my eyelids is the shadow of death; 

Job 16:20 My friends scorn me: but mine eye poureth out tears unto God. 

Psa_6:6 I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears. 

Lam_2:11 Mine eyes do fail with tears, 

Heb_5:7 Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death. 

The Honesty of our Tears

Tears - CopyOur times of sorrow are given to us to teach us lessons.  We must be willing to learn these lessons. Our tears teach us honest lessons in relation to ourselves and our need.

What lessons does this time of tears teach us today?

– That we are a weak and suffering race. What one suffers today I may suffer tomorrow. What affects one family today affect my family tomorrow.

– That there are families in our communities which suffer and Christians must rise to the challenge and show these people that the Gospel really is relevant.

– This is a broader lesson; society around us must see the love of God in His Church in dark and difficult days.

Pro 4:18 But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.

2: The Treasury of our Tears
Tear Bottle - CopyDavid here asked the Lord to his tears into thy bottle. God brought the bottle to catch the tears of David.

The Recognition of our Tears 

God sees and recognises our tears. Here we are presented with a remarkable comfort. That God takes notice of our sorrow.

The Handkerchief of God; Facing Death with Grace

Isaiah 38:1-5
In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came unto him, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live.  Then Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall, and prayed unto the LORD,  And said, Remember now, O LORD, I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore.  Then came the word of the LORD to Isaiah, saying,  Go, and say to Hezekiah, Thus saith the LORD, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will add unto thy days fifteen years. 

Because he knows about our sorrow we must learn in the midst of our sorrow to trust in him.

Nah 1:7 The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him.

This is the predominant theme of this Psalm.


• The Retention of our Tears

The real climax of this text, however, is the manner in which God retains our tears in his bottle as an everlasting memorial to our suffering in this world.

Why does God retain our tears?

– Because they are precious to him.

Our seasons of suffering are precious because they are felt by Christ Jesus.

– Revelation of our Great High Priest.

 Hebrews 4:15                                                                                                                                 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.  Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

– How is Christ touched by our infirmities?

– As one who became man – there is nothing that He did not feel.

Mark 14:33-34.                                                                                                                                 And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy; And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch.

The very real human emotions that Christ related are incredible and poignant – Amazed – horrified – fearful:

 “..remaining still as he must remain the same God unchangeable, he yet appeared in the form of a servant not drawing on his divine might and energies but denying himself their exercise …concealing, retiring out of view, withdrawing from the field of action. He withdrew them from all action that he might taste the weakness of created nature,” Hugh Martin in ‘The Shadow of Calvary”

He feels for us as our head – we are members of His body. As we suffer He actually does experience our pain, as one who “tasted the weakness of created nature.”

John 11:33-35

When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled,  And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see? Jesus wept. 

On account of this He prays for us – He intercedes as one who truly cares.

When it seems that you’ve prayed till your strength is all gone

 And your tears fall like raindrops all the day long

 Jesus cares and He knows just how much you can bear

 He’ll speak your name to someone in prayer

Someone is praying for you

Someone is praying for you

And when it seems you’re all alone, and your heart would break in two

Remember someone is praying for you

 Have the clouds round you gathered in the midst of a storm

 Is your ship tossed and battered Are you weary and worn

 Don’t lose lose someone’s praying for you this very day

 And peace be still is already on the way

Grace in time of need – due season – Christ will give grace right there at the appropriate time – hold on – the grace is available and it will not fail. Grace is more about the giver than the recipient, and God has that tear bottle available to capture the expressions of our grief and to treasure them forever.

Christ is really our friend and remains true even when life goes wrong:

Is Jesus our Friend when Life Goes Wrong?

– Our sufferings are opportunities for spiritual improvement as the experience of the Apostle Paul demonstrated.

2nd Corinthians 12:9

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

– If God records and retains our tears then we should stop along life’s road and remember days of tears. They are our teachers reminding us to love more, forgive more , understand more and to appreciate the humanity and love of our tender Saviour in a deeper fashion.

“Put thou my tears into thy bottle”


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