December 30, 2020

The Passage of Time

For I have become like a wineskin in the smoke, yet I have not forgotten your statutes.
Ps. 119:83
This verse reminds me of when Jesus said, "Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; otherwise, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved." But I actually think this bleak verse is more hopeful. Jesus was referring to cold hearts and closed minds. They were like shriveled, old wineskins that couldn't handle a living, expanding liquid. We often think of old people as closed-minded and set in their ways, but experience has shown me that this might just as easily be true of younger people. Just as old people can have young and lively spirits, so young people can have old and shriveled spirits.

A great illustration for this is midnight on New Year's Eve when we picture Father Time as an old man suddenly being replaced by a baby. The old year is suddenly renewed. The year ahead is like a field after a fresh snowfall when no foot has marred the perfection of its surface. Father time did not change into a different character, but the old character was renewed.

And so I think it is with Psalm 119:83. This is not the kind of old wineskin that Jesus was talking about in Matthew 9. The psalmist is like a wineskin that has gone through the fire but is still able to retain the living entity that's placed inside it—in this case, God's word. Neither environment nor outward appearance has altered inward viability.

I hope to remember this as I put 2020 behind me: The passage of time may dry out an old wineskin on the exterior, but on the inside, those who trust in God are ever renewed and able to handle all that comes our way.

The year that is nearly past, O God, has been almost unbearably difficult. I have been presented with challenges I did not know how to meet. I have been lonely and afraid. I have been surrounded by illness and death. I have lived in the midst of hostility and division. And yet I am reminded in your word that 2020 has been Anno Domini—a year of the Lord, a year of grace—no less than all the years that preceded it. Help me in the midst of pain or confusion to trust, regardless of appearances, that all things are at work for the good of those who love you and are called to be your people in a desperate world. I pray this in the Name of the the One who taught me to pray: Our Father...

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