Psalm 17:5
The psalmist seems to have been one of the children of Israel scattered abroad. From the midst of a strange country he looks with a wistful eye towards the far-off land of his youth. Tried and persecuted by the worldly and profane, he takes refuge under the sheltering wings of Jehovah, his father's God. If he was not David, he has the spirit of David. There are foreshadowings and foregleams of gospel times, in the ideas as to "the world," the "loving-kindness," and saving power of the Lord; and the blessed hope of satisfaction in God. This verse leads us to consider the visits of God in the night.

I. REFRESHMENT. The divisions of time have to do with man (Genesis 1:5; Psalm 104:20).

"God has set labour and rest,
As day and night to men successive,
And the timely dew of sleep." When night comes, it brings, not only relief from toil, but needed rest in sleep. In this we see the mercy of God. Like the sunshine and the rain, sleep is a common gift from God to men. Sleep also often brings return of health. How often is it said of some beloved one, with trembling hope, "If he sleep, he shall do well" (John 11:12)!

II. PROTECTION. We associate the day with safety (John 11:9). On the other hand, night is the season when not only wild beasts, but lawless men, seek their prey (Psalm cir. 20, 21; Job 24:14-17; 1 Thessalonians 3:7). There may be dangers unseen and unknown (Psalm 91:5, 6). Besides, there are perils from evil thoughts and the wiles of the wicked one. But come what will, God is our sure Defence. He visits us in love and mercy. He watches over us with untiring vigilance (Psalm 121:3). The angel of judgment may be abroad, but under the shelter of the blood of the covenant we are safe. Even though God should say, "This night thy soul shall be required of thee," it will be in love, and not in wrath. Even should we be taken away in our sleep, it will be to light, and not to darkness. Hence we may say, "I will lay me down in peace, and sleep; for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety" (Psalm 4:8).

III. INSTRUCTION. God has access to us at all times. He speaks to us continually by day, when our ears are open; but he also speaks to us, as he sees cause, by night, in dreams and visions, and when he holds our souls waking. Of this we have many examples in the Bible, and who is there who has not had some knowledge of this in his own experience? Dreams and visions are, for the most part, vain things; but there are even dreams and visions that have been found to be visits of God and turning-points in life. But it is when we have hours of sleeplessness that precious opportunities occur of communing in our hearts with God. Then there is not only quietness, but solitude. We are alone with God, and if we recognize his presence and hearken to his Word, we shall have cause to say, with thankfulness, "Thou hast visited me in the night." Sleeplessness, if prolonged, if it becomes a habit, is a sore evil; but sleepless hours may be turned to great profit. We have then the opportunity for quiet thought, for self-examination, for converse with God. Perhaps the past, with its joys and sorrows, rises before us, or we are troubled about the present or the future; but God is ever near, to counsel and to comfort us. "He giveth songs in the night" (Job 35:10). "One practical lesson at least may be remembered as bearing on this subject - the duty of storing the mind, while we are yet comparatively young and strong, with that which, in the hours of sleeplessness and pain, will enable us to rise up to God. A mind well stored with Holy Scripture, with good prayers and hymns, need never feel that the waking hours of the night are lost. We may do more, for the soul's true sanctification and peace, than many others in their own brief earthly pilgrimage" (Canon Liddon). - W.F.

Hold up my goings in Thy paths, that my footsteps slip not.
The blessing of sanctified affliction is that we are made to see our weakness. David here seems as a little child, ready to fall, stretching out its hand and crying to its Father, "Hold up my goings," etc.

I. THE BELIEVER'S POSITION IS OFTEN A VERY SLIPPERY ONE. Christ told us, "in the world ye shall have tribulation," and this is part of it. We are sent into the world to glorify God's holy law. And this we do by a life of simple faith in Jesus.

II. IT IS SO EVEN IN THE PATHS OF GOD. Even in His very paths. Liberty may degenerate into licence; holy caution into legalism; activity into neglect of communion with God, and that into neglect of service. Reliance in Christ to forgetfulness of the Spirit of Christ; and even joy in affliction to an overlooking of our sin, which is the cause of it.

III. THE PETITION. "Hold up my goings," etc.

1. It is the very picture of helplessness. "I can do nothing, cannot stir a step, without Thee." Oh! to be brought here. The omnipotence of weakness.

2. It is the language of faith. In ver. 6 he says, "I know that Thou wilt hear me." How simple but how strong this faith.

3. There is also the testimony of an upright conscience.

4. The memory of God's past dealings with him.

(J. H. Evans, M. A.)

We cannot ascertain at what period of his life David wrote this prayer. It was probably before his lamentable fall If so, we are ready to say he must have forgotten it after he had written it, for otherwise his fall could not have happened. But let us make this prayer our own.

I. TRUE RELIGION IS A WALKING OR GOING ON IS GOD'S PATHS. Think of a country with many tracks in. it perhaps, but without any marked roads or paths; a country like one immense down or waste, where in the main men go hither and thither just as they will. Now this is how most men regard the world and their own condition in it. But God appears and marks out certain ways or paths in this world, and bids us inquire for them and keep to them. And this is true religion — obedience to this Divine call. It is a ceasing to live at random, to live as God dictates.


1. A lively apprehension of the evil consequences of falling. An ordinary man does not care, he knows nothing of the malignity of sin. If for a moment sin has disturbed him by reason of some unusual transgression, the effect has been very shallow, very transient. Not so is it with the traveller in God's ways. He knows how evil and bitter a thing sin is.

2. A consciousness of his proneness to fall. Liability is not a word strong enough. All, even the holiest creatures, are liable to fall — witness Adam and the once holy angels — and even in the holiest places. But in us there is a direct tendency to fall.

3. A belief in the ability and willingness of God to thus hold us up. "Thou wilt hear me, O God," so he says in the next verse. There is such a thing as dwelling, if not too frequently, yet too exclusively on our weakness and danger. This is better than ignorance of them, and much better than knowing them, to be careless about them; but it comes far short of the perfection or completeness of true religion. That sees not alone the evil in us, but also the fulness of help for us which there is in God. Let us think much of the helping hand of God.


1. By mercifully removing occasions of falling out of our way.

2. By calling the sustaining graces of His servants into exercise. This a more honourable way for us.

3. By sending such afflictions as are calculated to keep them from falling.

4. By keeping alive a spirit of prayer within us for His upholding. As long as God keeps you prayerful, humbly and earnestly prayerful, be the ground what it may that you go over, you are safe.

(C. Bradley, M. A.)

Religion is intercourse maintained between God and us. What condescension on the part of God. They lose much who are strangers to Him. Let us observe David, and learn to pray as he prayed.

I. SEE HIS COURSE. "My goings." Religion does not allow a man to sit still. All religion is vain unless he is, so to speak, set a-going — unless he says, "I will walk in Thy truth." His goings are in God's paths.

1. Those of His commands.

2. Of His ordinances.

3. Of His dispensations.

II. HIS CONCERN RESPECTING THIS COURSE. "Hold up my goings," etc. It is the language —

1. Of conviction. He know the injury that would result from a fall or even a slip in religion.

2. Of apprehension, for he knew his footsteps were prone to slide.

3. And of weakness; he knew he could not keep himself.

4. Of confidence, for he was sure that God could and would hold him up.

(W. Jay.)

In considering the feelings that breathe in this prayer we note that they express —

I. A VEHEMENT DESIRE TO WALK IN GOD'S WAYS. There is a sense in which all men desire to walk in God's ways. For they know the consequences of disobedience, how it provokes His anger and involves punishment. They dislike obedience, but they desire its rewards. Like a hireling, they labour at their task, but only for its promised hire. Could they only be assured that they could get the wages without the work they would gladly leave it alone. But those who have been pardoned through the blood of Jesus, though they have no fear of punishment, yet desire to walk in all the commandments of the Lord, doing what is well-pleasing in His sight.

II. A DISTRESSING SENSE OF WEAKNESS IS DISCOVERED AND BEMOANED IN HIMSELF. It is "when he would do good," i.e. when he desires, and in proportion as he desires, to do good that he is conscious of the evil present with him. If he does not much desire to walk in God's ways he will not be much distressed at his failures. But if his desire be vehement it is far otherwise with him.

III. THE CRY. OF ONE WHO BELIEVES THAT THE LORD IS ABLE AND WILLING TO HOLD HIM UP. It is the cry of faith, not alone of desire. And the lesson of the whole is, that would we be upheld, our cry must be of vehement desire, of deep sense of need, and of firm faith.

(W. Grant.)

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