on Psalms 119 :176
I have gone astray like a lost sheep - A sheep, when it has once lost the flock, strays in such a manner as to render the prospect of its own return utterly hopeless. I have seen them bleating when they have lost the flock, and when answered by the others, instead of turning to the sound, have gone on in the same direction in which they were straying, their bleatings answered by the rest of the flock, till they were out of hearing! This fact shows the propriety of the next clause.
Seek thy servant - I shall never find thee; come to the wilderness, take me up, and carry me to the flock. See the notes on the parable of the lost sheep, Luke 15:4 (note), etc. The psalmist began with "Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord;" and he concludes with "I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant." And thus, conscious of the blessedness of those who are in the way or righteousness, he desires to be brought into it, that he may walk in newness of life. Psalm 119:1 : "It is a good way, and they are blessed that walk in it." Verse the last, "Bring me into this way, that I may be blessed." And thus the Psalm, in sentiment, returns into itself; and the latter verse is so connected with the former, as to make the whole a perfect circle, like the serpent biting its own tail.
There is one extraordinary perfection in this Psalm: begin where you will, you seem to be at the commencement of the piece; end where you will, you seem to close with a complete sense. And yet it is not like the Book of Proverbs, a tissue of detached sentences; it is a whole composed of many parts, and all apparently as necessary to the perfection of the Psalm, as the different alphabetical letters under which it is arranged are to the formation of a complete alphabet. Though there be a continual recurrence of the same words, which would of itself prevent it from having a pleasing effect upon the ear, yet these words are so connected with a vast variety of others, which show their force and meaning in still new and impressive points of light, that attention is still excited, and devotion kept alive, during the whole reading. It is constructed with admirable art, and every where breathes the justest and highest encomiums on the revelation of God; shows the glories of the God who gave it, the necessities and dependence of his intelligent creatures, the bounty of the Creator, and the praise and obedience which are his due. It is elegant throughout; it is full of beauties, and I have endeavored in the preceding notes to mark some of them; but the number might have been greatly multiplied. To no Psalm can its own words be better applied, Psalm 119:18 : "Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law."
on Psalms 119 :176
I have gone astray like a lost sheep - A sheep that has wandered away from its fold, and is without a protector. Compare Isaiah 53:6; Matthew 10:6; Matthew 15:24; Matthew 18:12; Luke 15:6; 1 Peter 2:25. I am a wanderer. I have lost the path to true happiness. I have strayed away from my God. I see this; I confess it; I desire to return. It is remarkable that this is almost the only confession of sin in the psalm. This psalm, more than any other, abounds in confident statements respecting the life of the author, his attachment to the law of God, the obedience which he rendered to that law, and his love for it - as well as with appeals to God, founded on the fact that he did love that law, and that his life was one of obedience. This is not, indeed, spoken in a spirit of self-righteousness, or as constituting a claim on the ground of merit; but it is remarkable that there is so frequent reference to it, and so little intermingling of a confession of sin, of error, of imperfection. The psalm would not have been complete as a record of religious experience, or as illustrating the real state of the human heart, without a distinct acknowledgment of sin, and hence, in its close, and in view of his whole life, upright as in the main it had been, the psalmist confesses that he had wandered; that he was a sinner; that his life had been far from perfection, and that he needed the gracious interposition of God to seek him out, and to bring him back.
Seek thy servant - As the shepherd does the sheep that is lost, Luke 15:4-6. So the Saviour came to seek and to save that which was lost, Luke 19:10. So God seeks the wanderer by his word, by his providence, by his Spirit, to induce him to return and be saved.
For I do not forget thy commandments - In all my wandering; with my consciousness of error; with my sense of guilt, I still do feel that I love thy law - thy service - thy commandments. They are the joy of my heart, and I desire to be recalled from all my wanderings, that I may find perfect happiness in thee and in thy service evermore. Such is the earnest wish of every regenerated heart. Far as such an one may have wandered from God, yet he is conscious of true attachment to him and his service; he desires and earnestly prays that he may be "sought out," brought back, and kept from wandering anymore.
on Psalms 119 :176