A Wineskin in Smoke

Imagine, if you will, an ancient Bedouin home, a tent made of black goat’s skin; it is made of coarse, heavy fabric and will protect the family in all seasons. The tent’s shape is somewhat oblong and inside it is divided into 2 or 3 apartments by goat’s hair curtains.

As you enter you proceed into the men’s compartment and also the place of welcoming guests. If you were to walk on, you would enter the quarters for the women and children, which is protected from view from the reception area.

Rugs are covering the grounds, and the bedding and mats are brought out only at night. Around you will see sacks of grain piled up, and over there a mortar and handmill where the grain is pounded.

A hole is dug in the earth where the fire is set and several stones are put around it; this hole is inside the tent. Outside the tent another fire is also prepared.

Hanging from the poles inside the tent you will find skin bags for water, other liquids and even cheese, butter or olive oil.

Let’s look at those bags more closely.

a bottle
or wineskin

These “bottles” were made from the goats skin, dried and tanned, having been cut in the shape of a “bota”, stitched, reversed and sealed.

These Botas (bottles) were valuable to the Bedouins, for they carried life, refreshing, and sustenance on their long days or journeys. They were used and reused and refreshed as needed if they became too hard or brittle. When the bags were empty they would be hung up on the poles inside the tent.

Because the fire was inside the tent, it affected these empty, hanging bags. The bags would loose their elasticity, become dry, brittle, cracked, and eventually covered with black soot from the smoke. This is where the idea for our title comes from, “the wineskin in smoke”, those empty skins that hung inside the tent and exposed to the fire and smoke.

” Though I am like a wineskin in smoke, I do not forget your decrees.”

Israeli Psalm 119:83

If the Bedouin, now in need of a wineskin, took one down to refill it and found it old, cracked, brittle and unable to hold what he needed, the skin would have to be “reconditioned”.

This process included cleaning it, washing off the soot, dust and dirt and soaking it in oil. The wineskin would be soaked in oil until it was rejuvenated to its supple and soft state again, ready to be used for new wine. It was never thrown away, it was reconditioned, or as they called it, made “fresh”. It was the skin that was made fresh, not always the wine.

Throughout history, much has been made about old and new wineskins. Many literary, historical, and biblical lessons and analogies have been taught regarding wineskins.

Most often, we hear of how an old wineskin cannot hold the new wine, because it has become too rigid, and is no longer flexible. So, when the new wine is placed inside, as it ferments and expands it creates pressure inside the old skin , and eventually it will burst the old skin with the new wine being sadly wasted.

New wine, we are told, belongs in new wineskins. But what is really meant is new wine belongs in an old, usable wineskin or a reconditioned wineskin. Bottom line, the bottle, bag, wineskin, or “bota” must be flexible, pliable, soft, soaked, refreshed, rejuvenated, or reconditioned and refreshed.

There are dozens of applications to draw from this story and wineskin picture. My first request is to ask you to receive from it what is meant for you- as the wineskin. Pause now, reread sections, or think about it. What’s in it for you?

What I feel to add is this –

We are living in a time when something new is being birthed. It’s powerful and expanding and we wineskins need to be flixible and not rigid in our handling of “it”. The old ways will not hold the new “thing”.

Wineskins are being filled up with this new wine and more is coming. It is not the time to be empty and hanging in the smoke of the tent all dirty and sooty and rigid, unusable.

Whether it be political, personal or biblical “new wine”, the wineskins must be reconditioned and refreshed to carry and pour out the power of the new wine.

What’s your condition?

Let’s get filled up!

Cheers to you.

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