Psalm 119:8

Psalm 119: An Exposition
Charles Bridges

"I will keep your statutes;
Oh, do not forsake me utterly."

The resolution to keep the Lord's statutes is the natural result of having learned his righteous judgments. But how happily does David combine simplicity of dependence with godly sincerity of obedience! Firm in his purpose but distrustful of his strength he instantly, upon forming his resolution, recollects that the performance is beyond his power. Therefore, the very next moment he follows it up with the prayer, "I will keep your statutes; oh, do not forsake me utterly."

Oh, beware of self-confidence in the Christian course! Whether we stumble or advance depends on whether we lean upon an arm of flesh or upon an Almighty Savior. Temporary desertion may be the suitable chastisement for spiritual neglect and ingratitude. When grace has been given in answer to prayer, was it duly prized or diligently improved? The Beloved, in answer to solicitation, is come into his garden. He knocks at the door but the spouse is asleep. The answer to prayer was not expected, not waited for, and therefore not enjoyed. And thus the sleeper awakes too late and finds herself forsaken by the object of her desire. When we yield to temptation, when "our mountain stands strong," when love for the Savior grows cold and our earnestness in seeking him faints, we must not be surprised if we are left for a time to the trial of a deserted state.

Yet sometimes, when God hides his face, we speak of it as if it were a sovereign act calling for implicit submission, when in fact we should be searching for its cause. It will generally be found in some secret thing of indulgence, in a lack of vigilance, or in self-dependence. It was while David kept silent, rather than voicing contrition, that he felt the pressure of the heavy hand of his frowning God. And may not the darkness that has sometimes clouded our path be the voice of our God--"Your own wickedness will correct you, and your backslidings will rebuke you; know therefore and see that it is an evil and bitter thing that you have forsaken Yahweh your God" (Jer. 2:19).

But in the engagement of the Lord's everlasting covenant, how clear is the justification of faith and how ample the encouragement for prayer. "Forsake me not utterly!" David knew and wrote of the Lord's unchangeable faithfulness to his people; and while he dreaded even a temporary separation from his God more than any worldly affliction, he could plead that gracious declaration, "Nevertheless my loving-kindness I will not utterly take from him, nor allow my faithfulness to fail."

Indeed, we would not make the promises of grace an encouragement to carelessness. Yet it is indispensable to our spiritual establishment that we receive them in their full, free, and sovereign declaration. How many fainting souls have been refreshed by these assurances: "For a mere moment I have forsaken you, but with great mercies I will gather you. With a little wrath I hid my face from you for a moment; but with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you, says Yahweh your Redeemer!" "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of my hand." It is in a lowly, self-abased, and dependent spirit, however, that we shall best learn to make our boast in the Lord, "confident of this very thing, that he who has begun a good work in us will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." And even if for a time we are destitute of perceptible consolation, still our language will be, "I will wait on Yahweh, who hides his face from the house of Jacob; and I will hope in him."

When in darkness, we fear the Lord has forsaken us; and when in perplexity, that we are no longer on the path. Then great indeed is the danger and evil to the soul. But these are the very markers that show us we are in the way of his own promised leading--painful exercise, faithful keeping, eternal salvation: "I will bring the blind by a way they did not know; I will lead them in paths they have not known. I will make darkness light before them, and crooked places straight. These things I will do for them, and not forsake them" (Isa. 42:16). Oh, the rest, the satisfaction of placing an implicit confidence in a covenant-keeping God!

Forsaken we may be, but not utterly. David was forsaken, but not like Saul. Peter was forsaken, but not like Judas--utterly and forever. What foreboding do you have of such desertion? Is your heart willing to forsake him? Do you not mourn and thirst for his return? If, indeed, you forsake him, he will forsake you. But can you forsake him? "Let him do as seems good to him" should be the language of our heart. "I will wait for him, follow after him, cleave to his word, cling to his cross." Take note of his dealings with you, inquire into their reasons, and submit to his ordering of affairs. If he forsakes, beg his return; but trust God. "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him," says Job. "Though my comfort is clouded, my hope remains steadfast; and such I would not relinquish for the glory of an earthly crown." What are these earnest prayers, this abiding confidence but his own work in us? And can the Lord "forsake the work of his own hands?" Sooner should heaven and earth pass than the faithful engagements of the gospel be thus broken.

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