This sonnet is next in a series based on Psalm 119. The sections of Psalm 119 stand alone as individual meditations. Even though the sections are distinct, many themes repeat and are re-voiced throughout.
The Psalmist makes use of a metaphor which captured my imagination. Speaking of the personal impact his afflictions, he says, “I have become a wineskin in the smoke.” By this I believe he means that he is emotionally dehydrated — he has cried all his tears.
By coupling the two sections of Psalm 119:81-96 together, one sees the contrast between the Psalmist’s anguish in the first section and his marveling at the greatness of the Lord and his word in the second. The tension between nearness and greatness or between height and depth is one that continues to capture my imagination. God is both exalted and greater, above and beyond reaching, and he is near, intimate, and tenderly close. The gospel sings when we apprehend the span of his reach and the significance of his condescension.
If it’s helpful, you may listen to me read the sonnet via the player below.
How long? How long must your servant endure?
How many prayers prayed before you assure,
Come with comfort, save from enemies,
Bring to an end those who seek to end me?
Hot and bitter, fire as affliction burns;
Confusion clouds the hope for which I yearn;
Its oily smoke obscures, burns, blinds and chokes,
Leaves me brittle as a wineskin in smoke.
In the waste around, I look to the sky,
I ask for the wisdom to see, know why
You let your servants suffer shame and die,
Make dust of their dreams, let them in ashes lie?
Could your Word so high, stretch for me, reach down,
Lift me up from ruin though buried ‘neath the ground?
© Randall Edwards 2018.
This poem is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thanks.
Artist: James Tissot [No restrictions or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons