"I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant,
for I do not forget your commandments."
When I was a young Christian in college; perhaps even before I really knew Christ in my heart, I remember staying one night on the floor of the dorm room of two friends of mine from Christian fellowship. Hearing them talk about the Lord was actually upsetting to me. I knew that whatever it was they were experiencing, I had yet to experience it. My heart was still in turmoil. Theirs seemed so at peace.
I got up off the floor at one point and rolled up my sleeping bag. They asked where I was going. I said that I couldn't stand it any longer. The older one, Jim said, "If you walk out that door now, you'll never come back." Knowing he was right, I unrolled my bag again and lay down.
I have often thought that was the real beginning of my walk with God.
Still, I would like to challenge the statement he made that night, because I firmly believe that I was never seeking God. He was seeking me, and still is. There have been many, many times I have "walked out the door" on God and pursued my own selfish ambitions and aspirations. But look! I am still here, walking with Christ. What has happened?
The Psalm tells us plainly. There is a process: A confession, a prayer, a realization.
The Psalmist first comes naked before God, "I have gone astray like a lost sheep." You can't be much more plain than that. I blew it! There are sheep with more sense than me. It is only when we understand the senseless depravity of our sin (think of a sheep not coming for something as basic as food and you'll get the idea) that we begin to recognize our need of God. That night in the dorm I had my hand on the doorknob because I wanted to know if I was important to two friends. I had not yet come to ask the same question of God.
Next, the writer cries out to God in the midst of the knowledge of his sin, "Seek your servant!" Now before any of you begin to think this man is ordering God around, recognize the three words of the statement for what they are. Seek. This is not a command, it is a plea. Have you ever been lost on a dark road on a stormy night? There is nothing quite so comforting as a cell phone... with a signal. One night some years ago I got a desperate call from a friend who was lost in Delaware somewhere. "I'm in Wilmington on I-95 North. I have completely missed Philadelphia. Do you have any idea where I am?" He called me because he trusted me. He called me because he had traveled with me many times. He called me because he knew that I knew the way and would delight in telling him. Your. The Psalmist is also bold to say the first word because he knows to Whom he belongs. At times of crisis, loss, or lostness, I may not know much, but I always still know who God is and who I am before him. Servant. That's strange. I thought he just admitted to having strayed away like a lost sheep. How does he now call himself a servant? Wouldn't it be a bit more humble if at least he had called himself and unworthy or unprofitable servant? But this man understands that nothing he has done; not all his wanderings; not all his sin has changed anything about who he is before God. Remember the Prodigal Son? His father couldn't have cared less about the lost money, the lost reputation, the lost time. He just wanted his son back -- and always and irrevocably called him my son. And don't forget Romans 8:38-39 while you're at it.
The conclusion is startling as well. "I do not forget your commandments." But, you say, he HAS forgotten God's commandments. That's how he got into this jam in the first place. Well... actually... no. He has forgotten to observe what he cannot forget. Once you knew God and knew any -- even the smallest part -- of his Word, you can't forget what you have known. Unless they cut off your head or you endure the loss of memory through Altzheimer's (and even then, I have known people who remembered the Word they had memorized when they could not remember their children's names), the Word of God remains near you. It is in your heart (Romans 10:8).
Are you feeling lost today? Don't know the way out of the mess you've made of your life? Don't worry. You're in good company. I've been there too. Now would be a good time for this wonderful, redemptive prayer: "Seek...your...servant."
Pastoral Relief and Retreat
- Wethersfield, CT, United States
- I am Pastor at Poquonock Community Church, Congregational (CCCC) in Windsor, CT. My wife Jama and I live in Wetherfield, CT. We'd like to invite you to Terre Haute -- High Ground -- That's what Jama and I call the retreat space on our property. We offer free intentional get-away retreats. We'll feed you and house you and give you space to be with the Lord. All are welcome; no questions asked. This blog is my daily devotional journal. I write it because it is so easy to go for weeks without ever taking the time to be alone with God. Writing helps me develop a discipline I need.