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A Plea for Mercy


Remember, O L ord, what has befallen us;

look, and see our disgrace!


Our inheritance has been turned over to strangers,

our homes to aliens.


We have become orphans, fatherless;

our mothers are like widows.


We must pay for the water we drink;

the wood we get must be bought.


With a yoke on our necks we are hard driven;

we are weary, we are given no rest.


We have made a pact with Egypt and Assyria,

to get enough bread.


Our ancestors sinned; they are no more,

and we bear their iniquities.


Slaves rule over us;

there is no one to deliver us from their hand.


We get our bread at the peril of our lives,

because of the sword in the wilderness.


Our skin is black as an oven

from the scorching heat of famine.


Women are raped in Zion,

virgins in the towns of Judah.


Princes are hung up by their hands;

no respect is shown to the elders.


Young men are compelled to grind,

and boys stagger under loads of wood.


The old men have left the city gate,

the young men their music.


The joy of our hearts has ceased;

our dancing has been turned to mourning.


The crown has fallen from our head;

woe to us, for we have sinned!


Because of this our hearts are sick,

because of these things our eyes have grown dim:


because of Mount Zion, which lies desolate;

jackals prowl over it.



But you, O L ord, reign forever;

your throne endures to all generations.


Why have you forgotten us completely?

Why have you forsaken us these many days?


Restore us to yourself, O L ord, that we may be restored;

renew our days as of old—


unless you have utterly rejected us,

and are angry with us beyond measure.

The Prophet shews, in this verse, that the remedy is in God’s hand whenever he is pleased to succor his people. He, then, exalts here the power of God, as though he had said, that God is not without power, but that he can, whenever he pleases, help his people. This is not, indeed, a sufficient ground for confidence, yet it is the beginning of hope; for whence is it that despair weakens us, so that we cannot call on God? because we think that it is all over with us; and whence is this? because we impiously confine the power of God; nay, we in a manner, through our unbelief, repel his power, which would otherwise be exerted in our behalf. As, then, we thus close the door against God, when we extenuate his power, and think that our evils will prevail; it is, therefore, as I have said, the beginning of hope to believe that all the issues of death are in God’s hand, and that were we a hundred times swallowed up, yet he, by stretching forth his hand to us, can become the author of salvation to us at any moment.

This is now the argument which the Prophet handles, when he says, Turn us, O Jehovah, and we shall be turned; that is, “If thou, O Jehovah, be pleased to gather us, salvation is already certain to us.” And he does not speak here of repentance. There is, indeed, a twofold turning or conversion of men to God, and a twofold turning of God to men. There is all inward turning when God regenerates us by his own Spirit; and turning with respect to us is said to be the feeling of true religion, when, after having been alienated from him, we return to the right way and to a fight mind. There is also all exterior turning as to God, that is, when he so receives men into favor, that his paternal favor becomes apparent; but the interior turning of men to God takes place when they recover life and joy.

Of this second turning, then, does the Prophet now speak, Turn us, O Jehovah, and we shall be turned; that is, If thou, Jehovah, lookest on us, our condition will immediately become prosperous, for in thy hand there is a sure salvation for us.” As, then, the Jews were at that time like the dead, the Prophet says, that if it pleased God to gather them, they could in a moment, as they say, have been restored, as it is said also in the Psalms,

“Thou takest away life, and all things change; send forth thy Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.” (Psalm 104:29, 30.)

As, then, God renews the face of the earth and restores it by only looking at it, hence now the Prophet says, that the Jews, though they had been destroyed, could yet be immediately restored, if it were the will of God to receive them into favor. 239239     The meaning of this sentence is,” says Grotius, “Restore us to thy favor, that we may be restored to our ancient state.” This being evidently the meaning, the rendering ought to be this, —
   Restore us, O Jehovah, to thyself, that we may be restored.

   And as Calvin, as well as Grotius, says, the following line is a confirmation, —

   Renew our days as of old.

    — Ed.

He adds, Renew our days as of old. This is an explanation of the former clause — the renewing of days was restoration to their former state. God had been for many ages the deliverer of his people; under David had been their greatest happiness; under Solomon also they had greatly flourished; but from the time when God had redeemed his people, he had given, as we know, many and constant proofs of his favor and mercy. As, then, God’s goodness had, by so many evidences been made conspicuous, the Prophet now says, Renew our days as formerly, that is, “Restore us to that happiness, which was formerly a testimony of thy paternal favor towards thy people.” We now then perceive the meaning of the Prophet.

But it ought to be noticed, that he grounds his hope on the ancient benefits of God; for as God had formerly redeemed his people, had often helped the miserable, had poured forth on them, posterity fullness of blessings, hence the Prophet encourages himself to entertain good hope, and suggests also to others the same ground of confidence. We see that this was done often by David; for whenever he mentions ancient testimonies of God’s favor towards his people, he hence gathered, that God would extend the same goodness and kindness to posterity. It follows, —

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