29. A Bottle for our Tears.

There are many tender and beautiful figures used in the scripture to express God's loving care and interest in His children. And the one referred to in the heading of this letter is not the least striking. The Psalmist is speaking of the enemies that daily oppress and persecute him. But in the face of all their evil threatenings he looks up confidently to God as his preserver. "What time I am afraid," said he, "I will trust in Thee." And then he gives utterance to his implicit reliance upon the individual interest that God was taking in all his circumstances of trial. "Thou tellest my wanderings; put thou my tears into Thy bottle" (Psalm 56:8).

The figurative expression is not a difficult one to understand. To put tears into a bottle conveys at once the idea of preserving them as being precious. It appears to have been customary in the East to put up in bags or small bottles, secured with a seal, any small articles of value, such as gold or silver ornaments, or precious stones. Hence the general sense of the words seems to be that of God regarding David's tears as of such value as to be treasured up by Him.

Tears are the outward expressions of inward sorrow and suffering. In a world where sin reigns to death tears are inevitable. None of the children of Adam are exempt. "Man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward" (Job 5:7). It is therefore comforting to know that there are some circumstances in which tears are of actual value before God, while they also afford occasions in which we may experience what is really so wonderful in itself — divine sympathy.

Much depends on what causes the tears. It is, of course, far too lengthy a task to enumerate here all the varied causes of tears, some praiseworthy and some blameworthy. One or two instances only must suffice, specially in illustration of the subject of this letter.

We see what particular interest the Lord; during the days of His flesh, took in those who sorrowed and wept. You remember the case of the widow woman of Nain, who was met by Him just as she was accompanying the dead body of her only son to the tomb. When the Lord saw her weeping He was moved with compassion, and said to her, "Weep not." Then He gave her back her son. But it was the same love that preserves the tears of the saints in His bottle which first of all, before raising her son, said to her, "Weep not."

Mary Magdalene standing before the opened but empty sepulchre of Jesus was overwhelmed with sorrow. The body of Him she loved and adored was not there. Peter and John went away to their own home. But Mary "stood without, at the sepulchre weeping." Then One marked those tears from afar. He drew near and addressed to her that tender and gentle enquiry, Woman, why weepest thou? May we not say that the tears of that faithful and devoted soul were tears for His bottle?

Perhaps the most striking incident of this kind given in the Gospels is in connection with the bereavement of the sisters of Bethany. It proves most absolutely how the Lord enters into the feelings and circumstances of those who are sorrowing. We read these significant words, "Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus." It was into this happy domestic circle that death came. Lazarus died and was buried. And not until he had been dead four days did the Lord come to the sorrow-stricken home in Bethany. Then the tears of the bereaved flowed at His feet. Should the thought arise even in our hearts whether the Lord was regardless of those tears, His own tears utterly deny such a thought. "When Jesus therefore saw her [Mary] 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 to Him, Lord, come and see. Jesus wept. Then said the Jews, Behold, how He loved him!" (John 11:33-36). Every tear was eloquent of the exquisite sympathy of the Saviour. And how precious did He count the tears of those sorrowing sisters! May we not say that they too were tears for His bottle?

Now it is good to bear in mind that the Lord's love and sympathy are the same now as ever. And the inevitable sorrows and trials of this world call them into exercise towards us, affording us opportunity for such an experience of His compassionate grace as we could not otherwise have.

"We thank Thee, Lord, for weary days,
When desert springs were dry;
And first we knew what depth of need
Thy love could satisfy.

We thank Thee for that rest in Him
The weary only know —
The perfect, wondrous sympathy
We needs must learn below.

We know Him as we could not know
Through heaven's golden years;
We there shall see His glorious face,
But Mary saw His tears.

The touch that heals the broken heart
Is never felt above;
His angels know His blessedness,
His way-worn saints His love."

It may be,  through the mercy of the Lord, that your tears have hitherto been few, but they will visit you sooner or later, Remember there is One Who counts your every tear-drop. They may be tears of sorrow in bereavement, or because of the wilfulness of others, or because of the suffering that comes upon you on account of your faithfulness to the Lord and His word. In every case, let them be such tears as He can put into His bottle.