|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
5:17-22 The people of God express deep concern for the ruins of the temple, more than for any other of their calamities. But whatever changes there are on earth, God is still the same, and remains for ever wise and holy, just and good; with Him there is no variableness nor shadow of turning. They earnestly pray to God for mercy and grace; Turn us to thee, O Lord. God never leaves any till they first leave him; if he turns them to him in a way of duty, no doubt he will quickly return to them in a way of mercy. If God by his grace renew our hearts, he will by his favour renew our days. Troubles may cause our hearts to be faint, and our eyes to be dim, but the way to the mercy-seat of our reconciled God is open. Let us, in all our trials, put our whole trust and confidence in his mercy; let us confess our sins, and pour out our hearts before him. Let us watch against repinings and despondency; for we surely know, that it shall be well in the end with all that trust in, fear, love, and serve the Lord. Are not the Lord's judgments in the earth the same as in Jeremiah's days? Let Zion then be remembered by us in our prayers, and her welfare be sought above every earthly joy. Spare, Lord, spare thy people, and give not thine heritage to reproach, for the heathen to rule over them.
Verse 21. - Turn thou us, etc. Not "bring us back to thee," i.e. to the sacred land (as Thenius), for it is not a speech of the exiles, but of the Jews left behind, at least for the present, in Judea. "Turn thou us" means "Bring us into a state of reconciliation with thee" The next petition, Renew our days as of old, means, "Restore the old happy mode of life, each man with his own vine and his own fig tree, undisturbed by the fear of invasion, and rejoicing in the sense of the favour of Jehovah." The first petition has the priority because only on repentance and recovered purity of heart and life can Jerusalem rise from her ashes. Isaiah had said this long ago (Isaiah 1:26, 27), and the elegiac poet repeats it (comp. Jeremiah 31:18).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Turn thou us unto thee, O Lord, and we shall be turned,.... This prayer expresses the sense they had of their backslidings from God, and distance from him; of their inability to turn themselves to the Lord, or convert themselves; and of their need of divine grace, and of the efficacy of that to effect it; see Jeremiah 31:18; for this is to be understood not only of returning them to their own land, and to the external worship of God in it; but of turning them to the Lord by true and perfect repentance, as the Targum; of the conversion of their hearts and the reformation of their lives:
renew our days as of old; for good, as the Targum adds. The request is, that their good days might be renewed; that they might enjoy the same peace and prosperity, and all good things in their own land, as they had done in days and years past: first they pray for repentance; then restoration.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
21. (Ps 80:3; Jer 31:18). "Restore us to favor with Thee, and so we shall be restored to our old position" [Grotius]. Jeremiah is not speaking of spiritual conversion, but of that outward turning whereby God receives men into His fatherly favor, manifested in bestowing prosperity [Calvin]. Still, as Israel is a type of the Church, temporal goods typify spiritual blessings; and so the sinner may use this prayer for God to convert him.
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