Delight in the Lord as our portion, naturally leads us to entreat His favor as "life," and "better than life," to our souls. And if we have said that we would keep His words, we shall still entreat His favor—to strengthen and encourage us in His way. We shall entreat it with our whole hearts, as though we felt our infinite need of it, and were determined to wrestle for it in Jacob's spirit, "I will not let You go, except You bless me." If we have known what unspeakable happiness it is to be brought into the favor of God "by the blood of Christ;" and if by "Him also we have access unto that grace wherein we stand," how shall we prize the sense of Divine favor, the light of our Father's countenance! We shall never be weary of this source of daily enjoyment. It is to us as the light of the sun, which shines every day with renewed and unabated pleasure. We "joy in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement." Mercy, however, is the source of that favor which we entreat; and the word is the warrant of our expectation—Be merciful to us according to Your word. As sinners, we need this favor. As believers, we entreat it in the assurance that praying breath, as the breath of faith, will not be spent in vain. Any indulged indolence, or neglect, or unfaithfulness—relaxing our diligence, and keeping back the whole heart from God—will, indeed, never fail to remove the sunshine from the soul. But the blood of Christ still opens the way of return to the backslider, even though he may have wandered, as it were, to the ends of the earth. For "if from thence you shall seek the Lord your God, you shall find Him, if you seek Him with all your heart and all your soul.""A whole heart" in seeking the Lord, is the seal of the Lord's heart in returning to us, "I will rejoice over them"—says He, "to do them good; and I will plant them in this land assuredly, with my whole heart, and with my whole soul."
Reader! if you are a child of God, the favor of God will be to you the "one thing needful." In other things, you will not venture to choose for yourself; "for who knows what is good for man in this life?" But in this choice you will be decided. This grand, incomparable desire will fill your heart. This will be to you as the portion of ten thousand worlds. Nothing will satisfy besides.
You may, indeed, be a child of God without the enjoyment of the blessing; but not so, if you be content to be without it. If the wise sovereignty of our God is pleased to withhold it, still the child in submission will entreat it. Much more, when it is withdrawn in righteous chastening of carelessness or folly, will the cry be reiterated upon the ground of the covenant—Be merciful to me according to Your word.
"I entreated your favor with my whole heart." A fully assured possession of God does not set aside prayer, but rather urges us to it; he who knows God to be his God will seek his face, longing for his presence. Seeking God's presence is the idea conveyed by the marginal reading, "your face," and this is true to the Hebrew. The presence of God is the highest form of his favor, and therefore it is the most urgent desire of gracious souls: the light of his countenance gives us an foretaste of Heaven. Oh that we always enjoyed it! The good man entreated God's smile as one who begged for his life, and the entire strength of his desire went with the entreaty. Such eager pleadings are sure of success; that which comes from our heart will certainly go to God's heart. The whole of God's favors are ready for those who seek them with their whole hearts.
"Be merciful unto me according to your word." He has entreated favor, and the form in which he most needs it is that of mercy; for he is more a sinner than anything else. He asks nothing beyond the promise, he only begs for such mercy as the word reveals. And what more could he want or wish for? God has revealed such an infinity of mercy in his word, that it would be impossible to conceive of more. See how the Psalmist dwells upon favor and mercy, he never dreams of merit. He does not demand, but entreat; for he feels his own unworthiness. Note how he remains a suppliant, though he knows that he has all things in his God. God is his portion, and yet he begs for a look at his face. The idea of any other position before God than that of an undeserving though favored one never entered his head. Here we have his "Be merciful unto me" rising with as much intensity of humble pleading as if he still remained among the most trembling of penitents. The confidence of faith makes us bold in prayer, but it never teaches us to live without prayer, or justifies us in being other than humble beggars at mercy's gate.