We have just seen the choice of the man of God, and the rule by which he acted upon it. Now we see his perseverance—first choosing the way—then sticking to it. While he complained of "his soul cleaving to the dust," he would yet say—I have stuck to Your testimonies. Thus did he illustrate the apostle's delineation of the Christian's two hearts (as a converted African expressed it), "I delight in the law of God after the inward man; but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin, which is in my members. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin." In the midst, however, of the most painful conflicts, the child of God holds fast his confidence. He feels that he hates the sin that he commits, and loves the Savior, whom, in spite of himself, he dishonors; so that, with all his sins and unworthiness, he fears not to put in his claim among the family of God.
But, reader, seriously ask yourself—How did you become a Christian? Was it by birth and education, or by choice? If indeed by grace you have been enabled to "choose the way of truth," then be sure you firmly stick to it; or better, far better, that you had not made choice of it at all. "No man having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.—If you continue in My word, then are you My disciples indeed. It had been better for you not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after you had known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to you." Yet, praised be God for the security of perseverance! He who enabled you to "put your hand to the plough" will keep it there in the habit of faith, firm and steadfast. "The Lord will perfect that which concerns you."
Yet this "cleaving to the Lord," can only be maintained by unceasing conflict. The length and weariness of the way, and the slowness of your progress, are sources of constant and harassing trial. Revert, then, to the ground of your original choice. Was it made under the Lord's light and direction? This reason may well bind you to "stick to" it. For are not the ways of God as pleasant—is not Christ as lovely—is not heaven as desirable—as at the beginning? No—have you not even more reason to adhere to your choice, than you had to make it? It was formed before at least you could fully know for yourself. Now "you have tasted"—you have the seal of experience. Is not the crown more joyous in the nearer prospect?
Backslider! "has God been to you a wilderness, and a land of darkness," that you virtually give your testimony after trial—'Satan is the better master, and I will return to him?' The world is the happiest path; and I will walk in it. This is, indeed, choosing a murderer in the stead of a Father, "forsaking the fountain" for the "broken cistern." Oh! must there not be repentance in this path? May that repentance come before it be too late! Ponder who it was, that befriended you in the moment of a dreadful extremity, and snatched you as "a brand from the burning." Ponder the endearing proofs of His love—condescending to become a man, "a man of sorrows," and to die in the agony of the cross, bearing for you the eternal curse of God. And does not gratitude remind you, what returns of faithful service are due from a creature so infinitely indebted to Him? Surely the steadfast perseverance with which His heart cleaved to His costly work, may serve to put to shame your unsteadiness in "sticking to His testimonies."
Believer! you are determined to abide by your choice—but not in your own strength. Remember him, who one hour declared, that he would sooner die with Christ than deny Him; and the next hour denied Him with oaths and curses. Learn, then, to follow up your resolution with instant prayer, "O Lord, put me not to shame." Leave me not to myself, lest I become a shame to myself, and an offence to Your Church. "I will keep Your statutes. O forsake me not utterly." Dependence upon the Lord, in a deep sense of our weakness, is the principle of perseverance. Never will he shut out the prayer of His faithful servant. He has promised, "My people shall never be ashamed;" and therefore, taking firm hold of His promise, you may "go on your way rejoicing."
"I have stuck unto your testimonies,"—or, I have cleaved; for the word is the same as in verse 25. Though cleaving to the dust of sorrow and of death, yet he kept fast hold of the divine word. This was his comfort, and his faith stuck to it, his love and his obedience held on to it, his heart and his mind abode in meditation upon it His choice was so heartily and deliberately made that he stuck to it for life, and could not be removed from it by the reproaches of those who despised the way of the Lord. What could he have gained by quitting the sacred testimony? Say rather, what would he not have lost if he had ceased to cleave to the divine word? It is pleasant to look back upon past perseverance and to expect grace to continue equally steadfast in the future. He who has enabled us to stick to him will surely stick to us.
In these days, when so many make their boast of "advanced thought," it may sound singular to speak of sticking to God's testimonies; but whether singular or not, let us imitate the man of God. Perseverance in the truth when it is unfashionable is the test of a real believer. The faith of God's elect wears constancy as its crown. Others may gad abroad after the novelties of human opinion; but the true-born child of God glories in saying to his heavenly Father—"I have stuck unto your testimonies."
"O LORD, put me not to shame." This would happen if God's promises were unfulfilled, and if the heart of God's servant were suffered to fail. This we have no reason to fear, since the Lord is faithful to his word. But it might also happen through the believer's acting in an inconsistent manner, as David had himself once done, when he fell into the way of lying, and pretended to be a madman. If we are not true to our profession we may be left to reap the fruit of our folly, and that will be the bitter thing called "shame." It is evident from this that a believer ought never to be ashamed, but act the part of a brave man who has done nothing to be ashamed of in believing his God, and does not mean to adopt a craven tone in the presence of the Lord's enemies. If we beseech the Lord not to put us to shame, surely we ought not ourselves to be ashamed in the presence of the adversary.
The prayer of this verse is found in the parallel verse of the next section (39): "Turn away my reproach which I fear." It is evidently a petition which was often on the Psalmist's heart A brave heart is more wounded by shame than by any weapon which a soldier's hand can wield.