Is anybody there, does anyone care?

Is anybody there, does anyone care?

You have collected all my tears in your bottle. – Psalms 56:8

Psalms 56:8-11

 8 You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.

 9 My enemies will retreat when I call to you for help. This I know: God is on my side!

 10 I praise God for what he has promised; yes, I praise the LORD for what he has promised.

 11 I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me?

 12 I will fulfill my vows to you, O God, and will offer a sacrifice of thanks for your help.

 13 For you have rescued me from death; you have kept my feet from slipping. So now I can walk in your presence, O God, in your life-giving light.

During the severe weather of 1777-1778, General Washington had sent several dispatches to the Continental Congress from his Valley Forge headquarters pleading for more troops and supplies. One of the problems he faced was that some of his men didn’t even have shoes. Finally in an act of despair, he ended one of his dispatches with the question: “Is anybody there, does anyone care?” (Forbes, July 10, 2017)

Sadly, even children of the King find themselves asking the same question, “Is anybody there, does anyone care?”

Reflect for a moment. When you ask a question like this what exactly was going on in your life at the time. Obviously, the answers would be different for each of us. But I think they would boil down to just a few types of causal events: tremendous setbacks or losses, unmet needs or expectations, difficult circumstances, negative responses to those circumstances, emotional stress and distress, and grave doubts regarding the Father’s love and involvement. Often the situation is accompanied by our feelings of abandonment, betrayal, hopelessness, or the inability to cope. In common, modern, colloquial English, we simply “hit the bottom of the barrel.”

David shows us how it is possible for each child of the King to respond when we feel like this. David has an intimate personal relationship with the Father. He knows that the Father is always paying attention and aware of every detail of his life.

He has absolute assurance and confidence that the Father has his back and will be there for him. He does not doubt for a moment that the Father is watching, and listening, and will act in his behalf.

Psalms 56:8-9

 8 You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.

 9 My enemies will retreat when I call to you for help. This I know: God is on my side!

REFLECT & PRAY

“He is there and He is not silent” (Francis Schaeffer).

Father thank You that You care and pay close attention to everything that goes on in my life. Enable me to hold fast to this wonderful truth and overcome my tendency to despair.

INSIGHT

In Psalms 56:8, David expresses his great confidence and certainty in the Father’s attention.

Psalms 56:8 You have taken account of my wanderings; put my tears in Your bottle. are they not in Your book? (NAS)

Psalms 56:8 You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. (NLT)

The verse is about the absolute fact that the Father is well aware of what is going on in David’s life and paying close attention to everything that is happening. Notice the second phrase. Is David asking the Father to put his tears in a bottle or is David making a statement that the Father has put David’s tears in a bottle?

This is the type of question that Biblical translators struggle with when trying to render either Hebrew or Greek into English. The lexical meaning or the definition of the words or phrases is often fairly straightforward. But the actual translation requires a bit of contemplation and perhaps research. 

The Hebrew words of Psalm 56:8 are clear and their definitions are certain, but the appropriate translation is a bit difficult. At issue is the correct translation of the Hebrew verb in question sum or sim. It means to put, set, or place. However, the verbal form is in the imperative mood. Imperatives are often orders, commands, suggestions, or requests. The imperative gives rise to the different translations and adds a bit of confusion as to the meaning and interpretation.

When we interpret the Bible, the goal is to determine what the Scriptures meant to those that wrote them or received them?

In English words or phrases have a similar ambiguity. In English if I were to say, “I was walking and saw a trunk,” to what would the word trunk refer? If I were looking at luggage, the meaning would be obvious. If I were at the zoo looking at elephants or in a forest looking at trees, or examining the back of my car, the meaning would be clear.

It is the context that helps us to understand what is meant. The same is true in translating the Scriptures. The context sets the stage and informs our translation. The mood and the tone provide some clarity.

Obviously, David is suffering and struggling. In his struggles:

He could be asking, “Father are you paying attention?”

He could also be asserting confidently, “Father I know you are paying attention!”

It is unlikely that he would be saying, “Father pay attention!”

He certainly would not be commanding the Father to pay attention and take action. However, David could be requesting the Father’s attention.

Knowing David’s intimate relationship with the Father, he knows that the Father is always paying attention and aware of every detail of his life. His confidence that the Father is watching and attentive is seen in the first and third phrases of the verse:

Psalms 56:8 You have taken account of my wanderings; Are they not in Your book?

Psalms 56:8 You keep track of all my sorrows. You have recorded each one in your book.

Would not the middle phrase express optimism and confidence as well? Of course! David knows the Father cares is paying close attention.

Psalms 56:8 You have collected all my tears in your bottle.

What about the bottle for the tears? Glass had not yet been invented. To what does this refer? Archaeologists have discovered small vessels made of clay that were “tear bottles” or flasks in which those who grieved collected their tears and then left them to be buried with the deceased.

“The point is simply that God is aware of what we feel and how we suffer, and His records are accurate” (Wiersbe).

“Therefore he [David] dared believe that God had taken note of what he had suffered. He bases the unique prayer on the conviction that God might gather the tears that he shed in His bottle, which is to say, to take intimate note of each of them” (Leupold).

The Father is there and He cares!

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One thought on “Is anybody there, does anyone care?

  1. NIV: “Record my lament; list my tears on your scroll (or I put my tears in your wineskin) – are they not in your record?” Interesting….and very comforting. This will remain a favorite – thank you!

    Like

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