This prayer appears to have been much upon David's heart, and in its substance and object it is again repeated. Nor does he fail to acknowledge the answer to it. The believer, like David, is a man of large expectations. As regards himself—his own daily provocations and backslidings—he cannot stand upon his own ground. But when he brings with him the name, the blood, the intercession of Jesus; as soon could God deny His own beloved Son, as resist the supplication of those who present this all-prevailing plea. Not only so, but—is He not His own gift to His children, as the pledge of every other gift? And what other pledge can they need, to encourage them to draw near with the largest desire, and the most heavenly expectation? We may, indeed, be too bold in our manner of approach to God; but we cannot be too bold in our expectations from Him. Standing as we do upon such high and sure ground, it is equally dishonorable to Him, and impoverishing to ourselves, to ask only a little of Him. Rather let us, according to His own command, "open our mouths wide; and He will fill them." Rather let us expect that He will deal—not only favorably—but bountifully with His servants—that, as "our God, He will supply all our need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus."
And, indeed, the most experienced believer cannot forget, that he is in himself still the same poor, weak, empty, helpless creature as at first. Nothing, therefore, short of a bountiful supply can answer his continual neediness. And such a supply is always at hand. The act of prayer increases the power to pray. The throne of grace is a well, which no power or malice of the Philistines can stop up. We need not say, "We have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep." Faith will enable us "with joy to draw out of this well of salvation." Let us bring our empty vessels, until "there is not a vessel more." Yes—believer—there is indeed a bountiful supply of grace—of every kind—suited to every need—grace to pardon—grace to quicken—grace to bless. Oh! see, then, that you come not empty away. Remember—who it is that pleads before the throne. Remember—that the grace you need is in His hand. From eternity He foreknew your case. He laid your portion by. He has kept it for the time of need; and now He only waits for an empty vessel, into which to pour His supply. He is ready to show you, how infinitely His grace exceeds all thoughts—all prayers—all desires—all praises.
And say—what has been the fruit of your pleading, waiting expectancy at "the throne of grace?" Have you not returned thence with a fresh spring of devotedness in His service, with every selfish thought forgotten in the desire, that you "may live, and keep His word?" Nothing touched or moved your reluctant heart, but the apprehension of bountiful redeeming love. This makes obedience easy—delightful—natural—in a manner unavoidable. It "constrains" to it. The man now lives—not the animal life of appetite—not the sensual life of vanity and pleasure—but the only life that deserves the name. He lives singly, supremely "to Him who died for him, and rose again." He "lives, and keeps His word." His motto and character now is, "To me to live is Christ." He values life only by his opportunities of serving his God. The first archangel knows not a higher object of existence. And how encouraging the reflection, that in this glorious object the lowest servant in the household of God is an equal participant with the most blessed inhabitant of heaven!
"Deal bountifully with your 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 your goodness, and not according to my merit. Reward me according to the largeness of your 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, you 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 favor 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 your 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.