Psalm 119:8

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 8. I will keep thy statutes. A calm resolve. When praise calms down into solid resolution it is well with the soul. Zeal which spends itself in singing, and leaves no practical residuum of holy living, is little worth: "I will praise" should be coupled with "I will keep." This firm resolve is by no means boastful, like Peter's "though I should die with thee, yet will I not forsake thee," for it is followed by a humble prayer for divine help,

O forsake me not utterly. Feeling his own incapacity, he trembles lest he should be left to himself, and this fear is increased by the horror which he has of falling into sin. The "I will keep" sounds lightly enough now that the humble cry is heard with it. This is a happy amalgam: resolution and dependence. We meet with those who to all appearance humbly pray, but there is no force of character, no decision in them, and consequently the pleading of the closet is not embodied in the life: on the other band, we meet with abundance of resolve attended with an entire absence of dependence upon God, and this makes as poor a character as the former. The Lord grant us to have such a blending of excellences that we may be "perfect and entire, wanting nothing."

This prayer is one which is certain to be heard, for assuredly it must be highly pleasing to God to see a man set upon obeying his will, and therefore it must be most agreeable to him to be present with such a person, and to help him in his endeavours. How can he forsake one who does not forsake his law?

The peculiar dread which tinges this prayer with a sombre hue is the fear of utter forsaking. Well may the soul cry out against such a calamity. To be left, that we may discover our weakness, is a sufficient trial: To be altogether forsaken would be ruin and death. Hiding the face in a little wrath for a moment brings us very low: an absolute desertion would land us ultimately in the lowest hell. But the Lord never has utterly forsaken his servants, and he never will, blessed be his name. If we long to keep his statutes he will keep us; yea, his grace will keep us keeping his law.

There is rather a descent from the mount of benediction with which the first verse began to the almost wail of this eighth verse, yet this is spiritually a growth, for from admiration of goodness we have come to a burning longing after God and communion with him, and an intense horror lest it should not be enjoyed. The sigh of Psalms 119:5 is now supplanted by an actual prayer from the depths of a heart conscious of its undesert, and its entire dependence upon divine love. The two, "I wills" needed to be seasoned with some such lowly petition, or it might have been thought that the good man's dependence was in some degree fixed upon his own determination. He presents his resolutions like a sacrifice, but he cries to heaven for the fire.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 8. This verse, being the last of this portion, is the result of his meditation concerning the utility and necessity of the keeping the law of God there take notice:

  1. Of his resolution, I will keep thy statutes.
  2. Of his prayer, O forsake me not utterly. It is his purpose to keep the law; yet because he is conscious to himself of many infirmities, he prays against desertion.

In the prayer more is intended than is expressed. "O forsake me not", he means, strengthen me in this work; and if thou shouldest desert me, yet but for a while, Lord, not for ever; if in part, not in whole. Four points we may observe hence:

  1. That it is a great advantage to come to a resolution as to a course of godliness.
  2. Those that resolve upon a course of obedience have need to fly to God's help.
  3. Though we fly to God's help, yet sometimes God may withdraw, and seem to forsake us.
  4. Though God seem to forsake us, and really doth so in part; yet we should pray that it may not be a total and utter desertion. Thomas Manton.

Verse 8 (with 7). I will keep thy statutes, etc. The resolution to "keep the Lord's statutes" is the natural result of having "learned his righteous judgments." And on this point David illustrates the inseparable and happy union of "simplicity" of dependence, and "godly sincerity" of obedience. Instantly upon forming his resolution, he recollects that the performance of it is beyond the power of human strength, and therefore the next moment he follows it with prayer: I will keep thy statutes; O forsake me not utterly. Charles Bridges.

Verse 8. I will. David setteth a personal example of holiness. If the king of Israel keep God's statutes, the people of Israel wilt be ashamed to neglect them. Caesar was wont to say, Princes must not say, Ite, go ye, without me; but, Venite, come ye, along with me. So said Gideon ( Judges 5:17 ): "As ye see me do, so do ye." R. Greenham.

Verse 8. Forsake me not utterly. There is a total and a partial desertion. Those who are bent to obey God may for a while, and in some degree, be left to themselves. We cannot promise ourselves an utter immunity from desertion; but it is not total. We shall find for his great name's sake, "The Lord will not forsake his people" ( 1 Samuel 12:22 ), and, "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee" ( Hebrews 13:5 ). Not utterly, yet in part they may be forsaken. Elijah was forsaken, but not as Ahab: Peter was forsaken in part, but not as Judas, who was utterly forsaken, and made a prey to the Devil. David was forsaken to be humbled and bettered; but Saul was forsaken utterly to be destroyed. Saith Theophylact, God may forsake his people so as to shut out their prayers, ( Psalms 80:4 ), so as to interrupt the peace and joy of their heart, and abate their strength, so that their spiritual life may be much at a stand, and sin may break out, and they may fall foully; but they are not utterly forsaken. One way or other, God is still present; present in light sometimes when he is not present in strength, when he manifests the evil of their present condition, so as to make them mourn under it; and present in awakening their desires, though not in giving them enjoyment. As long as there is any esteem of God, he is not yet gone; there is some light and love yet left, manifested by our desires of communion with him. Thomas Manton.

Verse 8. Forsake me not utterly. The desertions of God's elect are first of all partial, that is, such as wherein God doth not wholly forsake them, but in some part. Secondly, temporary, that is, for some space of time, and never beyond the compass of this present life. "For a moment (saith the Lord in Esay) in mine anger I hid my face from thee for a little season, but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer." And to this purpose David, well acquainted with this matter, prayeth, "Forsake me not overlong." This sort of desertions, though it be but for a time, yet no part of a Christian man's life is free from them; and very often taking deep place in the heart of man, they are of long continuance. David continued in his dangerous fall about the space of a whole year before he was recovered. Luther confesseth of himself, that, after his conversion, he lay three years in desperation. Common observation in such like cases hath made record of even longer times of spiritual forsaking. Richard Greenham.

Verse 8. O forsake me not utterly. This prayer reads like the startled cry of one who was half afraid that he had been presumptuous in expressing the foregoing resolve. He desired to keep the divine statutes, and like Peter he vowed that he would do so; but remembering his own weakness, he recoils from his own venturesomeness, and feels that he must pray. I have made a solemn vow, but what if I have uttered it in my own strength? What if God should leave me to myself? He is filled with terror at the thought. He breaks out with an "O." He implores and beseeches the Lord not to test him by leaving him even for an instant entirely to himself. To be forsaken of God is the worst ill that the most melancholy saint ever dreams of. Thank God, it will never fall to our lot; for no promise can be more express than that which saith, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." This promise does not prevent our praying, but excites us to it. Because God will not forsake his own, therefore do we cry to him in the agony of our feebleness, "O forsake me not utterly." C. H. S.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 8. --

  1. A hopeful resolve for life.
  2. A dreadful fear.
  3. A series of considerations removing the fear.

Verse 8. --

  1. The resolution: "I will keep," etc.
  2. The position: "O forsake me not utterly."
(a) Filial submission. I deserve it occasionally.
(b) Filial confidence. "Not utterly."

  1. The connection between the two. Obedience without prayer and prayer without obedience are equally in vain. To make headway both oars must be applied. God cannot abide lazy beggars, who while they can get anything by asking will not work. -- G.R.

Verse 8. -- O forsake me not utterly. Divine desertion deprecated.

  1. The anguished prayer.
(a) Sovereign forsaking. Sovereignty is not arbitrariness
or capriciousness: perhaps its right definition is
mysterious kingly love; unknown now, but justified when
revealed.
(b) Vicarious forsaking.
(c) Forsaking on account of sin. David, Jonah, and Peter.
The seven churches of Asia; the Jews. But to know what
"utter" both in regard to degree and time means, we must go
to hell. Like one trembling on the very verge of hell, he
prays. Like belated traveller, in vast wood and surrounded
by beasts of prey, sighs at day's departure. Like the watch
on the raft seeing the sail that he has shouted himself
hoarse to stop fading away in the sky line.

  1. Its doctrinal foundation. Where he condescends to dwell, his abode is perpetual. He can only utterly forsake us because he was deceived in us. He can only utterly forsake because baffled. Both imply blasphemy. Thou who hatest putting away thou who hast never yet utterly forsaken any saint, make not me the solitary exception.
  2. Historical certainty of answer. The saint and the church in all time delivered. It may tarry till "eventide," as in Cowper's case. His face bore after death an expression of delighted surprise. --W.A.