Before I was afflicted I went astray - Many have been humbled under affliction, and taught to know themselves and humble themselves before God, that probably without this could never have been saved; after this, they have been serious and faithful. Affliction sanctified is a great blessing; unsanctified, it is an additional curse.
Before I was afflicted - The Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate, “Before I was humbled.” The Hebrew word has the general sense of being afflicted, and may refer to any kind of trial.
I went astray - The Hebrew word means to wander; to err; to do wrong; to transgress. Numbers 15:28; Job 12:16. It here means that he forgot his duty; that he fell into sin; that he departed from what was right; that he embraced erroneous views; that he lived in the neglect of his soul, the neglect of duty, and the neglect of God. Prosperity had not led him to fulfill duty; to seek salvation; to trust in God. This was, in his case, as it is in thousands of others, the experience of his life. Hence, affliction often becomes so necessary to check us when we are going astray, and so useful in recalling us to the ways of duty and of truth.
But now have I kept thy word - Since I was afflicted. The effect has been to recall me from my wanderings, and to turn me to paths of duty and holiness. This is an effect often - very often - experienced; this is language which can be used by many a child of God. Of those who are the children of God it may be said that they are “always” benefited “sooner” or “later” by afflictions. It may not be at the time of the affliction (compare Hebrews 12:11), but the “ultimate” effect is in all cases to benefit them. Some error is corrected; some evil habit changed; some mode of life not consistent with religion is forsaken; pride is humbled; the heart is quickened in duty; habits of prayer are resumed or formed; the affections are fixed on a better world; the soul is made more gentle, calm, humble, spiritual, pure. Afflictions are among the most precious means of grace. They are entirely under the direction of God. They may be endlessly varied, and adapted to the case of every individual.
God knows every heart, and the best way to reach any heart. By sickness; by disappointment; by loss of property; by bereavement; by blighted hopes; by the ingratitude of others; by the unkindness of professed friends, and the malice of enemies; by domestic troubles; by the misconduct of children - perhaps the most severe of all human ills, and the hardest to bear; in ten thousand ways God can reach the heart, and break and crush it, and make it ready for the entrance of truth - as the farmer breaks and pulverizes the soil by the plow and the harrow, so that it shall be prepared to receive the seed. Compare the notes at Isaiah 28:24-29. Among those things for which good men have most occasion for thankfulness are afflictions; and when we lie down on the bed of death, and look over life and the divine dealings with us through life, as the glories of heaven are about to open upon us, we shall feel that among the chiefest mercies of God are those dealings of his holy hand, trying at the time, which kept us from going astray, or which recalled us when we had wandered from him - and “that in our life, now closing, there has not been one trial too much.”