Deal bountifully with thy servant, that I may live, and keep thy word.
“Deal bountifully with thy servant.” He takes pleasure in owning his duty to God, and counts it the joy of his heart to be in the service of his God. Out of his condition he makes a plea, for a servant has some hold upon a master; but in this case the wording of the plea shuts out the idea of legal claim, since he seeks bounty rather than reward. Let my wage be according to thy goodness, and not according to my merit. Reward me according to the largeness of thy liberality, and not according to the scantiness of my service. The hired servants of our Father have all of them bread enough and to spare, and he will not leave one of his household to perish with hunger.
If the Lord will only treat us as he treats the least of his servants we may be well content; for all his true servants are sons, princes of the blood, heirs of life eternal. David felt that his great needs required a bountiful provision, and that his little desert would never earn such a supply; hence he must throw himself upon God’s grace, and look for the great things he needed from the great goodness of the Lord. He begs for a liberality of grace, after the fashion of one who prayed, “O Lord, thou must give me great mercy or no mercy, for little mercy will not serve my turn.”“That I may live.” Without abundant mercy he could not live.
It takes great grace to keep a saint alive. Even life is a gift of divine bounty to such undeserving ones as we are. Only the Lord can keep us in being, and it is mighty grace which preserves to us the life which we have forfeited by our sin. It is right to desire to live, it is meet to pray to live, it is just to ascribe prolonged life to the favour of God. Spiritual life, without which this natural life is mere existence, is also to be sought of the Lord’s bounty; for it is the noblest work of divine grace, and in it the bounty of God is gloriously displayed.
The Lord’s servants cannot serve him in their own strength, for they cannot even live unless his grace abounds towards them.“And keep thy word.” This should be the rule, the object, and the joy of our life. We may not wish to live and sin; but we may pray to live and keep God’s word. Being is a poor thing if it be not well-being. Life is only worth keeping while we can keep God’s word; indeed, there is no life in the highest sense apart from holiness: life while we break the law is but a name to live.The prayer of this verse shows that it is only through divine bounty or grace that we can live as faithful servants of God, and manifest obedience to his commands.
If we give God service it must be because he gives us grace. We work for him because he works in us. Thus we may make a chain out of the opening verses of the three first octaves of this psalm: verse I blesses the holy man, verse 9 asks how we can attain to such holiness, and verse 17 traces such holiness to its secret source, and shows us how to seek the blessing. The more a man prizes holiness, and the more earnestly he strives after it, the more will he be driven towards God for help therein; for he will plainly perceive that his own strength is insufficient, and that he cannot even so much as live without the bounteous assistance of the Lord his God.