Theme: Living an Upright Life
In this last section of Psalm 119, we are reminded of our own need as poor sheep, and learn how the Lord will answer our prayers to supply what we lack.
Scripture: Psalm 119:169-176
In the last verses of Psalm 119, the psalmist lists what he lacks unless God is his shepherd. He is lacking in five areas, including understanding, salvation or deliverance, and the ability to worship God rightly, which we have already covered. In today’s study, we conclude with points four and five. 
4. Power to live an upright life (vv. 173, 174). The next two verses might be seen as asking God’s help in dealing with his enemies. But if the writer is thinking along spiritual lines, as I have been suggesting, then when he prays, “May your hand be ready to help me” (v. 173), what he is probably thinking of is power to obey the “precepts” and “law” of God which he, in fact, mentions next (vv. 173, 174). 
How are we going to live an upright life? Not by our own power or determination certainly. The Apostle Paul knew the futility of that, which is why he wrote, “I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin….For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate to do…. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature….What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:14, 15, 18, 24). Thankfully, Paul knew the answer to his own question. Do we? The answer is, “Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! (v. 25). Clearly, if we really believed that we are unable to live for God by ourselves and yet really wanted to do it, we would come to God for help, as Paul does. We would pray, “Lord, help me to live an upright life.” 
5. Strength to persevere (v. 175). And we would keep on praying, for we would want to do it not just for the present moment, but to our life’s end. We would pray as the psalmist, “Let me live that I may praise you, and may your laws sustain me” (v. 175). 
We have been looking at what the psalmist means when he ends this great psalm by calling himself a lost sheep. In a sense, he has been anticipating the teaching of Jesus, who said, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Nothing does not mean a little something. It means nothing, nothing at all. Yet all is not hopeless since, although in ourselves we can do nothing, it is also true that, as Paul said, “I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength” (Phil 4:13). 
I think the psalmist is telling us this as he gets to the very end. For although he has described himself as lost, a lost sheep, and although he has confessed his need for understanding, deliverance, right worship, an upright way of life and perseverance, and although he even needs God to seek him since he will never find the way to God himself, nevertheless, he remains God’s “servant” (v. 176). A poor, lost, weak, sinful, yes, even an unprofitable servant (Luke 17:10), but still a servant of God. And even though he has not been able to keep God’s commandments well, he has not forgotten them and knows that he will yet keep them—by the grace and power of his Master.
What a great blessing! And what a blessing for us if we, like the psalmist, are also God’s servants. Charles Bridges wrote, “I cannot forbear to plead, that although a rebellious prodigal, I am still thy servant, thy child. I still bear the child’s mark of an interest in thy covenant…. Let me then lie humbled and self-abased. But let me not forget my claim—what he has done for me.”1
The meaning of these last two verses has been captured in a stanza by Richard Mant, an author cited by Charles Spurgeon in The Treasury of David: 
Though like a sheep estranged I stray,
Yet have I not renounced thy way.
Thine hand extend; thine own reclaim;
Grant me to live, and praise thy name.2
When Jonah was praying from inside the great fish, he summarized what he had learned of God by saying, “Salvation comes from the LORD” (Jonah 2:9). That was an important lesson, and it is the last important teaching of this psalm. What does the shepherd do with such weak, sinful and helpless people as ourselves? Jesus said that when the sheep are lost the shepherd hunts until he finds them (Luke 15:3-7). Indeed, he said of his own mission, “The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10). 
1Charles Bridges, Psalm 119: An Exposition (Edinburgh, Scotland, and Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1977), p. 480. 
2Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, vol. 3a, Psalms 111-119 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1968), p. 440. 
Study Questions: 

Identify the spiritual level of verses 173 and 174. 
What does the image of the lost sheep anticipate? 
Where does salvation come from? What are some implications of that in terms of our view of God and of ourselves? 

Application: In what ways do you struggle to live an upright life? Ask the Lord for grace to be more holy in these areas. Praise the Lord for evidences of the sanctifying work of his Spirit within you.
Key Point: What does the shepherd do with such weak, sinful and helpless people as ourselves? Jesus said that when the sheep are lost the shepherd hunts until he finds them. 
For Further Study: Download and listen for free to Donald Barnhouse’s message from Romans 8, “Sheep That Conquer.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)

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