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Straying from God

Psalm 119:176 (ESV) … “I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant, for I do not forget your commandments.”

This last verse takes us somewhat by surprise. One would have thought that, after 175 verses devoted to the Word of God, this singer would have become a super-saint. Far from it. The older we grow, the further along we get in the life of faith, the more we realize the entrenched wickedness and treachery of our hearts.

In this last verse we have a final glimpse of this unknown singer before he vanishes into the anonymity from which he emerged. We see him:

1. Straying

We hear first an honest confession from a transparent soul: “I have gone astray like a lost sheep.” It is the nature of a sheep to stray. It does not do it to be wicked or wanton. It does it because that is what a sheep is like. Likewise, it is human nature to go astray. Nobody has to take a course in theology to know that. Our sin nature is bent that way. It is not necessarily that we deliberately make up our minds to neglect our daily quiet time, the place of prayer, the gathering of God’s people. We just allow the crowding concerns of everyday life to loom too large. We do what comes naturally. We stray.

Then we see him:

2. Praying

“Seek Thy servant,” he says. He feels his lostness keenly. He is lonely, vulnerable, afraid. He doesn’t know how to get back where he belongs. He adds something which perhaps he means as an inducement: “For I do not forget Thy commandments.” It is more in the nature of an indictment. There is far more excuse for a sinner to stray than there is for a saint. To have God’s Word stored up in our hearts, to be able to write a Psalm 119, to know the secret of victory and praise, to know the reality of a new life and still to stray, that is a serious matter—much more serious than to be lost out of ignorance of God’s Word.

There the singer ends the psalm, on a somewhat doleful note. But at least he is still praying. And the Holy Spirit does not end it all there. He goes on to add new psalms, new books, a New Testament. He goes on to tell of One who came “to seek and to save that which was lost.”

We may lose sight of Him and stray like a foolish sheep, but He does not lose sight of us.[1]

[1] Phillips, J. (2012). Exploring Psalms 89–150: An Expository Commentary (Vol. 2, Ps 119:176). Kregel Publications; WORDsearch Corp.


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