I cling to your testimonies, O LORD;
let me not be put to shame!
Psalm 119:31 ESV
Continuing on from the psalmist’s previous two declarations to put away false ways and to walk in the way of faithfulness through knowing and following God’s law, the writer now cries for the LORD to keep him from being put to shame as he clings to God’s testimonies.
I cling to your testimonies, O LORD. After resolving to follow God’s commandments faithfully, the psalmist now simply declares that he will cling to God’s testimonies. Again, we should remember that by speaking of the Scriptures as God’s testimonies we particularly have in mind what God has revealed about Himself. Thus, when we speak of God’s testimonies, we have a different focus than when we speak of His commandments, even though both are found in God’s Word. Thus, although he has set God’s rules before him, his hope is in God’s own testimonies of Himself. He clings to God’s own faithfulness as a man after a shipwreck clings to a piece of driftwood. He has no security in his ability to remain faithful to the LORD; otherwise, he would be clinging to his devout righteousness. Instead, the psalmist understands that he will fall into sin yet again, so he clings only to God’s revealed steadfast love and mercy.
Let me not be put to shame! Shame is the result of sin, and even when societies attempt to glory in the shame of their sins, the lunacy only becomes more evident to everyone else, rather like a man locking himself in a prison cell and screaming that he is free. As a sinner, the psalmist knows the pain of shame, and more frighteningly, he also knows the dulling effect of sin upon shame over time. He, therefore, cries out to the LORD, knowing that he cannot keep himself from sin and shame. His confidence is upon who God is, not upon his own attempted righteousness.
Is this not a marvelous picture of the gospel within the Old Testament? God’s greatest testimony of Himself is found in the person of Jesus Christ, the God-man who gave His life as a ransom for the debt of our sins. We have no amount of discipline within us sufficient to cut off sin at its roots within our hearts. Thus, we do not look within; we look out to Christ. We cling like frightened children to their fathers to our Savior who “endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). Christ alone is all our hope and peace.