Verse 67. Before I was afflicted I went astray. Partly, perhaps, through the absence of trial. Often our trials act as a thorn hedge to keep us in the good pasture, but our prosperity is a gap through which we go astray. If any of us remember a time in which we had no trouble, we also probably recollect that then grace was low and temptation was strong. It may be that some believer cries, "O that it were with me as in those summer days before I was afflicted." Such a sigh is most unwise, and arises from a carnal love of ease: the spiritual man who prizes growth in grace will bless God that those dangerous days are over, and that if the weather be more stormy it is also more healthy. It is well when the mind is open and candid, as in this instance: perhaps David would never have known and confessed his own straying if he had not smarted under the rod. Let us join in his humble acknowledgments, for doubtless we have imitated him in his straying. Why is it that a little ease works in us so much disease? Can we never rest without rusting? Never be filled without waxing fat? Never rise as to one world without going down as to another! What weak creatures we are to be unable to bear a little pleasure! What base hearts are those which turn the abundance of God's goodness into an occasion for sin.
But now have I kept thy word. Grace is in that heart which profits by its chastening. It is of no use to plough barren soil. When there is no spiritual life affliction works no spiritual benefit; but where the heart is sound trouble awakens conscience, wandering is confessed, the soul becomes again obedient to the command, and continues to be so. Whipping will not turn a rebel into a child; but to the true child a touch of the rod is a sure corrective. In the Psalmist's case the medicine of affliction worked a change -- "but"; an immediate change -- "now"; a lasting change -- "have I" an inward change -- "have I kept"; a change towards God -- "thy word." Before his trouble he wandered, but after it he kept within the hedge of the word, and found good pasture for his soul the trial tethered him to his proper place; it kept him, and then he kept God's word. Sweet are the uses of adversity, and this is one of them, it puts a bridle upon transgression and furnishes a spur for holiness.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 67. -- Before I was afflicted I went astray, etc. Not that he wilfully, wickedly, maliciously, and through contempt, departed from his God; this lie denies ( Psalms 18:21 ); but through the weakness of the flesh, the prevalence of corruption, and the force of temptation, and very much through a careless, heedless, and negligent frame of spirit, he got out of the right way, and wandered from it before he was well aware. The word is used of erring through ignorance ( Leviticus 5:18 ). This was in his time of prosperity, when, though he might not, like Jeshurun, wax fat and kick, and forsake and lightly esteem the Rock of his salvation; or fall into temptations and hurtful lusts, and err from the faith, and be pierced with many sorrows; yet he might become inattentive to the duties of religion, and be negligent of them, which is a common case. --John Gill.
Verse 67. -- Before I was afflicted. The Septuagint and Latin Vulgate, "Before I was humbled." The Hebrew word has the general sense of being afflicted, and may refer to any kind of trial. --Albert Barnes.
Verse 67. -- Before I was afflicted. Prosperity is a more refined and severe test of character titan adversity, as one hour of summer sunshine produces greater corruption than the longest winter day. --Eliza Cook.
Verse 67. -- I was afflicted. God in wisdom deals with us as some great person would do with a disobedient son, that forsakes his house, and riots among his tenants. His father gives orders that they should treat him ill, affront, and chase him from them, and all, that he might bring him back. The same doth God: man is his wild and debauched son; he flies from the commands of his father, and cannot endure to live under his strict and severe government. He resorts to the pleasures of the world, and revels and riots among the creatures. But God resolves to recover him, and therefore commands every creature to handle him roughly. "Burn him, fire; toss him, tempests, and shipwreck his estate; forsake him, friends; designs, fail him; children, be rebellious to him, as he is to me; let his supports and dependencies sink under him, his riches melt away, leave him poor, and despised, and destitute." These are all God's servants, and must obey his will. And to what end is all this, but that, seeing himself forsaken of all, he may at length, like the beggared prodigal, return to his father? --Ezekiel Hopkins, 1633-1690.
Verse 67. -- I was afflicted. As men clip the feathers of fowls, when they begin to fly too high or too far; even so doth God diminish our riches, etc., that we should not pass our bounds, and glory too much of such gifts. --Otho Wermullerus.
Verse 67. -- But now have I kept thy word.
Affliction brings Man Home.
"Man like a silly sheep doth often stray,
Not knowing of his way,
Blind deserts and the wilderness of sin
He daily travels in;
There's nothing will reduce him sooner than
Afflictions to his pen.
He wanders in the sunshine, but in rain
And stormy weather hastens home again."
"Thou, the great Shepherd of my soul, O keep
Me, my unworthy sheep
From gadding: or if fair means will not do it,
Let foul, then, bring me to it.
Rather then I should perish in my error,
Lord bring me back with terror;
Better I be chastised with thy rod
And Shepherd's staff, than stray from thee, my God."
"Though for the present stripes do grieve me sore,
At last they profit more,
And make me to observe thy word, which I
Let me come home rather by weeping cross
Than still be at a loss.
For health I would rather take a bitter pill,
Than eating sweet meats to be always ill." --Thomas Washbourne, 1606-1687.
Verse 67. -- From the countless throng before the throne of God and the Lamb, we may yet hear the words of the Psalmist, "Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word." There is many an one who will say, "Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth" ( John 5:17 ). One would tell you that his worldly undoing was the making of his heavenly prospects; and another that the loss of all things was the gain of All in All. There are multitudes whom God has afflicted with natural blindness that they might gain spiritual sight; and those who under bodily infirmities and diseases of divers sorts have pined and wasted away this earthly life, gladly laying hold on glory, honour, and immortality instead. --William Garrett Lewis, in "Westbourne Grove Sermons", 1872.
Verse 67. -- By affliction God separates the sin which he hates from the soul which he loves. --John Mason.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 67. --
- The dangers of prosperity.
- The benefits of adversity. --G.R.
Verse 67. -- The restraining power of affliction
Verse 67,71,75. -- Affliction thrice viewed and thrice blessed. I
- Before affliction: straying.
- In affliction: learning.
- After affliction: knowing. --C.A.D.