“These wineskins were new when we filled them, and behold, they have burst. And these garments and sandals of ours are worn out from the very long journey.” (Joshua 9:13)
This seems like a fitting scripture for the year we've had when I read it this morning.
In its context, ironically, it was a lie. The burst wineskins and broken sandals were an elaborate charade made to give the appearance of having traveled far. (Israel's shrewd potential enemies, the Gibeonites used it to avoid battle.)
When I first read it, out of context, I assumed the bible verse - taken as it is from the book of Joshua - was a reference to the Israelites after their long sojourn in the desert. We get used to projecting ourselves on the Israelites, so it was a natural thought: "Familiar! Sounds like the year we've had". It has been a hard year, a slog, beginning with the death of a dear friend, ending with the closure of our community house, along the way some loved-ones struggling with ill-health and associated problems. We almost ran out of wine altogether. Our shoes are in tatters.
But I found out that the burst wineskins et cetera of Joshua 9 were fake. This wasn't a story of endurence and suffering, but of cunning and strategy. My mournful scriptural epitaph for the year snatched from my grasp! Ah! What now for my self-pity!
And that was when another bible verse came to mind. What they have in common is sandals: "Your clothes have not worn out on you, and your sandals have not worn off your feet." (Deuteronomy 29:5). The Israelites did indeed have a long, arduous, dangerous trek across the wilderness. But God gave them staying power beyond themselves. Their sandals didn't wear out.
So, deprived of my sombre text for 2013, I'll make this my happier one for 2014. Our sandals are not worn off our feet. We can carry on. And in the next leg of the journey, may there be new wine.
I wish you all a restful, peaceful Christmas season and a New Year of new wine.