Verse 83 says, “For I have become like a wineskin in the smoke, yet I do not forget your statutes.”
1. Wineskins in the Smoke
The wineskins here were usually made from goat skin, not like most wineskins today which are made from leather. However, there are some areas today that still use the old traditional method.
The custom back in Bible days was to hang the skins of wine in the smoke of a fire, for the same reason that we stand a bottle of Claret on the hearth in order to mellow the wine by gradual moderate warmth, to bring it to an early perfection or to speed up the maturing process.
So, here the psalmist finds an illustration of the meaning and the mercy of the afflictions to which he has been exposed. They have been sent to act on him like the warm smoke on the wine to refine, mellow and ripen or mature his character.
Because he has refused to part with his faith in God and his duty; because he has been true to God and God’s statutes, they have had their intended and proper effect on him.
2. An Older View of this Psalm
However, an older view puts it this way:
Though under severe pressure of trial and affliction, a good man shrinks, wastes away and blackens like a wineskin hung in smoke. He still remembers the divine statutes and holds fast to his faith in God and duty.
What seems to be happening here is a long waiting time, which was also a time of suffering and strain. Waiting for God was prolonged; no response seemed to come, much had to be endured while he was waiting for the moisture and refreshing of being used and filled again with wine.
But the question of supreme importance was this: what was he doing during the hard waiting time?
He had the joy of this confident assurance; he was holding fast to his integrity; he was faithful to his obedience and trust; he was standing firm on his obedience and trust and he was persistently governing his life by divine statutes.
We can either waste away like a shrunken, shriveled, empty wine-creased, oily, smoky wineskin, or we can be topped continually with the new wine of Jesus daily - the choice is ours.