81 My soul longs for your salvation;
I hope in your word*.
82 My eyes long for your promise;
I ask, “When will you comfort me?”
83 For I have become like a wineskin in the smoke,
yet I have not forgotten your statutes.
84 How long must your servant endure?
When will you judge those who persecute me?
* Through these reflections, those phrases that identify God’s word, revelation, or law will be highlighted in the text in the hopes of accentuating the many and varied ways we can visualize what God has given to us for our good.
The language of “longing” has been mostly lost in the modern world. We speak more of desire and wanting. But these words tend to be used to capture ideas of immediate relief. If we can just get what we want, we will be better. Even better off.
But longing, and in particular, the biblical conceptualization of it, speaks to an all encompassing satisfaction that will not be met by just anything. Especially not anything in this world. The longing the Psalmist is speaking to is an awareness that what is missing in our lives is of a spiritual nature. That the void that must be filled is as vast as God is eternal.
Only God can satisfy what is missing in us because it is God who created us to exist with him. The separation we commonly call sin, in theological terms, is the emptiness created by the distance our disobedience creates. The greater the distance the more ravenous the longing. And the longer we exist in this condition, the more desperate we feel.
But the closer we draw to God, the more satisfied we become. And we find ourselves not looking for something to fill that space where we know something is missing. Rather, we can then begin to look to God and be fulfilled as we were always meant to be.
Verse 81: To know God’s word is to know the hope God offers. To believe what God has revealed is to see what God can and has done. As these realities and realizations take root within our minds and hearts a longing for God’s promised blessings take root. In particular, we begin to see salvation as God’s greatest gift. The one from which all others emanate. And the one we should seek above all others.
Verse 82: On our journey of faith, the more time we spend with God, the more accustomed we become to his presence. This does not mean that we will not have times of drift. We are a people who must always fight for a disciplined way of living. However, our proximity to God is a constant reminder of the joy of his promises. When we have tasted and seen, it will become more difficult to ignore what we are missing out on when we are distant from God.
Verse 83: The imagery here is of a wineskin no longer in use, set aside, and allowed to fall into disrepair because of smoke, usually in the place of a tent where food was cooked and prepared. With this picture in mind, we are to see the effect of being dismissed or ostracized unjustly. To be kept from fulfilling ones purpose. In spire to these circumstances, we are encouraged to not forget what God has commanded. God’s purposes for us are not at risk, just because we find ourselves in places not of our design.
Verse 84: This is the first verse in which the Psalmist does not make some direct reference or allusion to God’s word. Over and over again, the author was pointing back to how all God had spoken had impacted and guided their life. After reflecting and considering all the good that comes through obedience to God’s commands, there is a pause and a question for God. How long must there be suffering for continued faithfulness to what God has said? At this point, there is no answer. Only the question. And the wrestling that comes from seeking God in the midst of difficulties.