“Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book?” (Psalm 56:8)
This is a remarkable insight into the tender heart of our heavenly Father. He has a tear bottle—in fact, perhaps a tear bottle for each of His wandering children.
Ancient “tear bottles” (or wineskins) have actually been excavated by archaeologists in Israel. These vessels were used to catch and preserve the owner’s tears during times of grief or extreme pressure. This psalm was actually written by David when he was being pursued by Saul on one side and surrounded by Philistines in the city of Goliath on the other. David apparently not only had his own tear bottle, but also believed that God somehow was also storing up David’s personal tears in His own heavenly bottle of tears.
There is a touching story in the earthly ministry of Jesus that provides another example: “Behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, . . . and anointed them with the ointment” (Luke 7:37-38).
The ointment was obviously not the same as the tears, but followed the washing by tears. Some scholars think these tears came from her bottle, which was emptied on His feet and used to wash them. Others think that those tear bottles that have been found actually contained the collected tears of mourners at a burial site.
In any case, God does know all our wanderings and sorrows and all our tears, and stores them up somewhere. Perhaps it is also a metaphor for His “book of remembrance,” which is being “written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name” (Malachi 3:16). HMM