Psalm 119:176
I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments.
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(176) I have gone astray like a lost sheep.—It would be in accordance with a true religious character that even at the end of a long protestation of obedience to the Divine law the psalmist should confess his weakness and sin. But while this may be a legitimate application of the close of this remarkable composition, and while the LXX. suggest a comparison with our Lord’s parable by their rendering (comp. Matthew 18:11; Luke 19:10), this could hardly have been the intention of the words of this verse. More likely there is a reference to the condition of the community, for the word rendered “lost” (literally, perishing) is used in Isaiah 27:13 of the exiled Hebrews, and is rendered “outcasts;” the emphatic “I do not forget Thy commandments,” which is the real close of the psalm, seems to make this view imperative.

Psalm 119:176. I have gone astray like a lost sheep — I have too often swerved from the path of thy precepts, through my own infirmity, or the power of temptation. Seek thy servant — As the shepherd doth his wandering sheep, and bring me back into thy fold. Or, as some interpret the psalmist’s meaning, I have wandered like a sheep which is lost, driven from place to place during these tedious persecutions; but be thou pleased, like a careful shepherd, to look after me, and to put me in the right way of escaping all the dangers to which I am exposed, and of recovering my liberty, rest, and peace.

119:169-176 The psalmist desired grace and strength to lift up his prayers, and that the Lord would receive and notice them. He desired to know more of God in Christ; to know more of the doctrines of the word, and the duties of religion. He had a deep sense of unworthiness, and holy fear that his prayer should not come before God; Lord, what I pray for is, what thou hast promised. We have learned nothing to purpose, if we have not learned to praise God. We should always make the word of God the rule of our discourse, so as never to transgress it by sinful speaking, or sinful silence. His own hands are not sufficient, nor can any creature lend him help; therefore he looks up to God, that the hand that had made him may help him. He had made religion his deliberate choice. There is an eternal salvation all the saints long for, and therefore they pray that God would help their way to it. Let thy judgments help me; let all ordinances and all providences, (both are God's judgments,) further me in glorifying God; let them help me for that work. He often looks back with shame and gratitude to his lost estate. He still prays for the tender care of Him who purchased his flock with his own blood, that he may receive from him the gift of eternal life. Seek me, that is, Find me; for God never seeks in vain. Turn me, and I shall be turned. Let this psalm be a touchstone by which to try our hearts, and our lives. Do our hearts, cleansed in Christ's blood, make these prayers, resolutions and confessions our own? Is God's word the standard of our faith, and the law of our practice? Do we use it as pleas with Christ for what we need? Happy those who live in such delightful exercises.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.

176. Though a wanderer from God, the truly pious ever desires to be drawn back to Him; and, though for a time negligent of duty, he never forgets the commandments by which it is taught.

lost—therefore utterly helpless as to recovering itself (Jer 50:6; Lu 15:4). Not only the sinner before conversion, but the believer after conversion, is unable to recover himself; but the latter, after temporary wandering, knows to whom to look for restoration. Ps 119:175, 176 seem to sum up the petitions, confessions, and professions of the Psalm. The writer desires God's favor, that he may praise Him for His truth, confesses that he has erred, but, in the midst of all his wanderings and adversities, professes an abiding attachment to the revealed Word of God, the theme of such repeated eulogies, and the recognized source of such great and unnumbered blessings. Thus the Psalm, though more than usually didactic, is made the medium of both parts of devotion—prayer and praise.

Ver. 176. I have gone astray like a lost sheep: this is meant either,

1. Of sinful errors. I have too often swerved from the path of thy precepts through mine own infirmity, or the power of temptation. Or,

2. Of penal errors. I have been banished by the power and tyranny of mine enemies from all my friends and relations, and, which is far worse, from the place of thy worship and presence, and forced to wander hither and thither, hiding myself in mountains, and caves, and woods, exposed to a thousand snares and dangers.

Seek thy servant, as the shepherd doth his wandering sheep, and bring me back into thy fold.

I have gone astray like a lost sheep,.... In desert places, as it is the nature of sheep to do (o). A sheep he was, a sheep of Christ, given him by the Father; known by him, and that knew him; knew his voice, and followed him; a sheep of his hand, and of his pasture; one of the lost sheep of the house of Israel, who had been lost in Adam, though recovered by grace; and had gone astray before conversion, but now returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of souls; and since conversion had gone astray from the Shepherd and fold, from the word and precepts of it, through inadvertence, the prevalence of corruption, the snares of the world, and the temptations of Satan; which he both deprecates and owns, Psalm 119:10; though it may be understood, as it is by many interpreters, of his being forced, by the persecutions of his enemies, to wander from the courts of God, and from place to place:

seek thy servant; as a shepherd does his sheep when gone astray, which will not return of itself unless sought after: thou art my Shepherd, as if he should say, look me up, restore my soul; suffer me not to wander from thee, and go astray from thy word and ordinances: and when he calls himself his servant, it carries in it an argument for being looked up and sought out; since he was his servant, not by nature, but by grace; not by force, but willingly; he was his and devoted to his service. And another follows:

for I do not forget thy commandments; he retained a knowledge of them, an affection for them, and a desire to observe them; though he had gone astray from them, either in a criminal way, through the power and prevalence of sin, or against his will, through the force of persecution.

(o) So Aristotle observes, Hist. Animal. l. 9. c. 3. the same word that is used for feeding sheep is also translated "wander", Numbers 14.33. so "errant" is used by Virgil for feeding with security, Bucolic. Eclog. 2, Vid. Servium in ib.

I have {e} gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments.

(e) Being chased to and fro by my enemies, and having no place to rest in.

176. I have gone astray like a lost sheep] So apparently the Ancient Versions, but the Massoretic accentuation connects like a lost sheep with seek, and suggests the rendering, If I go astray, seek thy servant like a lost sheep; for &c. It need not surprise us if, after all his professions of fidelity and constancy, even including an explicit declaration that in spite of intimidation he had not gone astray from God’s commandments (Psalm 119:110), the Psalmist concludes with a confession of weakness and failure, actual or possible, and acknowledges that he has “erred and strayed from God’s ways like a lost sheep”; while at the same moment he pleads as the reason why God should not forsake him that he has not forgotten God’s commandments. The confession of failure is not inconsistent with the profession of devotion. As in Psalm 19:12-14, which may have been in the Psalmist’s mind, the thought of the law naturally leads up to the thought of his own frailty and need to be brought back when he wanders. Cp. Isaiah 53:6; Psalm 95:10. If he has erred, it is a temporary and involuntary aberration: his will and purpose to serve God are unchanged, and he prays that God will not abandon him.

It seems however more in accordance with the general spirit of the Psalm to suppose that the Psalmist is describing his outward circumstances rather than his spiritual state, the helplessness of his condition rather than his moral failures. He is a wanderer in the wilderness of the world; like a sheep that has been separated from the flock he is exposed to constant dangers, and therefore he beseeches God not to leave him to wander alone, but in accordance with His promise (Ezekiel 34:11 ff.) to seek for him, for amid all these dangers he does not forget God’s law. So Israel in the Dispersion is compared to a strayed sheep, Jeremiah 50:6; Jeremiah 50:17; cp. Isaiah 27:13.

lost] The word means ‘strayed and in danger of perishing.’

Verse 176. - I have gone astray like a lost sheep (comp. ver. 67). Some see in this verse nothing but a reference to the outward circumstances of the psalmist's life. But this is certainly not the idea generally attached in Scripture to the image of the "lost sheep" (see Isaiah 53:6; Jeremiah 1:6; Luke 15:4-7; 1 Peter 2:25). Dean Johnson's exposition is probably correct, "I have wandered far from thee and from home, as a sheep lost and ready to perish in the wilderness." Seek thy servant. "Seek him, lest he be not able of himself to seek thee; and bring him again to thy fold." For I do not forget thy commandments. In my worst wanderings I have not fallen away wholly from thee. Thy Law has been ever in my thoughts. I have not "forgotten" it, but meditated on it and longed for it (vers. 15, 20, 40).

Psalm 119:176The eightfold Tav. May God answer this his supplication as He has heard his praise, and interest Himself on behalf of His servant, the sheep that is exposed to great danger. The petitions "give me understanding" and "deliver me" go hand-in-hand, because the poet is one who is persecuted for the sake of his faith, and is just as much in need of the fortifying of his faith as of deliverance from the outward restraint that is put upon him. רנּה is a shrill audible prayer; תּחנּה, a fervent and urgent prayer. ענה, prop. to answer, signifies in Psalm 119:172 to begin, strike up, attune (as does ἀποκρίνεσθαι also sometimes). According to the rule in Psalm 50:23 the poet bases his petition for help upon the purpose of thankful praise of God and of His word. Knowing how to value rightly what he possesses, he is warranted in further supplicating and hoping for the good that he does not as yet possess. The "salvation" for which he longs (תּאב as in Psalm 119:40, Psalm 119:20) is redemption from the evil world, in which the life of his own soul is imperilled. May then God's judgments (defective plural, as in Psalm 119:43, Psalm 119:149, which the Syriac only takes a singular) succour him (יעזּרני, not יעזרני). God's hand, Psalm 119:173, and God's word afford him succour; the two are involved in one another, the word is the medium of His hand. After this relationship of the poet to God's word, which is attested a hundredfold in the Psalm, it may seem strange that he can say of himself תּעיתי כּשׂה אבד; and perhaps the accentuation is correct when it does not allow itself to be determined by Isaiah 53:6, but interprets: If I have gone astray - seek Thou like a lost sheep Thy servant. שׂה אבד is a sheep that is lost (cf. אבדים as an appellation of the dispersion, Isaiah 27:13) and in imminent danger of total destruction (cf. Psalm 31:13 with Leviticus 26:38). In connection with that interpretation which is followed by the interpunction, Psalm 119:176 is also more easily connected with what precedes: his going astray is no apostasy; his home, to which he longs to return when he has been betrayed into by-ways, is beside the Lord.
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