Turn us again, O God, and cause your face to shine; and we shall be saved.
1. Three times is this prayer repeated, but with slight, though noticeable, difference. Here, in its first utterance, it is addressed only to God. But the second time (ver. 7) it calls on God as "God of hosts." The eye of faith saw the ministers of God's power around him, the hosts of the holy angels who waited to do his will. Then the third time (ver. 19) it is the "Lord God of hosts" on whom he calls, making mention of the covenant name by which God was known in Israel as especially their God. Hence our argument for faith. If God be our God, then he will help us. Thus "Faith's clay grows brighter as the hours roll on; and her prayers grow more full and mighty." Prayer warms to its work, and in it. Often we begin with but scant store of trust, but as we pray on our hope and confidence grow. Therefore be instant in prayer.
2. Note the opening words of this prayer. It is "turn us," not our circumstances and conditions. Many people think that if these were right they would be right; but the truth is far more often just the other way: it is toe who want changing; if the Lord turn us, then all the rest will be of small import, and will be turned as much as will be for our good. And it is not a mere improvement, a patch on the old. garment, that is wanted - just a partial reformation here and there, but a complete change. "Ye must be born again." God must "turn us." An old sea captain replied to a faithful minister who, in seeking to lead him to God, told him that he had better sail from henceforth under another flag, "No," said the sailor, "that won't do; I mean to scuttle the ship, and get a new one altogether; there's nothing else to be done. I've tried to mend the other often enough." He was right. No partial amendment will save any soul. And God must turn us. There is a human side in man's salvation, but there is still more a Divine side, and the first work is of God. He ever seeks us before we seek him. And when he fully saves a man, it is along the lines suggested by our text. There are three stages in the work.
I. GOD TURNS US. And he does this:
1. By giving us repentance. Too many keep calling on men to "only believe." Christ and his apostles never bade men "only believe," when they sought salvation. But Christ commanded that "repentance and faith" should be preached, not faith only. Where, as with the Philippian gaoler, the apostle said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ," etc., it was because repentance had already taken place, the man was really repentant at that moment. And whenever God turns a soul to himself, it is by way of repentance. This means that the soul sees its sin, feels and grieves over it, renounces it before God and man.
2. My leading us to faith. Not the mere belief of any doctrine about Christ, but more than that - the actual committal of himself to Christ for salvation; actually trusting him to pardon, accept, and save. Now, this is the complete spiritual change which the word "turn" implies. It is the first great step in the soul's salvation. Then -
II. GOD TURNS US AGAIN. The prayer is, "Turn us again. Now, what does this mean?
1. It may be the prayer of a penitent backslider. This psalm contemplates Israel as such. And unless the backslider is turned again, he cannot be saved. He must come back to God. But:
2. It is the prayer of one who seeks full salvation. After repentance and faith, which constituted the great first step in salvation, and which do save a man if he abide therein, there is given a higher gift to him who heartily desires it. It is called in Acts 8., 18., 19., speaking of the Samaritan converts, of Apollos, and of the twelve disciples of John at Ephesus, the receiving of the Holy Ghost" It is a distinct and further and most blessed gift, qualifying for service, and uplifting the soul to a stage of experience which it has not known as yet. It separates the soul from sin, secures the clean heart, and wins the fulfilment of that glorious promise in Ezekiel 36:25, and the many others like unto it. The believer is made "pure in heart," and the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses him from all sin. This comes from the receiving of the Holy Ghost. We are delivered from that miserable round of sinning and repenting, which the mass of professing Christians wearily travel, and, instead thereof, a life is lived in which the "whole spirit, soul, and body is preserved blameless." It is the "abundant life" which our Lord came to give.
III. GOD CAUSES HIS FACE TO SHINE. This tells of "the joy" of God's salvation, that walking in the light which ensures that here and now the days of our mourning are ended. It is that holy, happy, joyful, winsome religion which is what our God intended us to have, which not a few have enjoyed, and which waits for all those who truly seek it. Then, when all this is, then "we shall be saved." God will be glorified, we ourselves filled with the love of God, and our fellow men will be blessed through us as otherwise they cannot be. Then will our religious life answer to the beautiful description given in vers. 8-11. "Amen, even so, come, Lord Jesus." - S.C.
Parallel VersesKJV: Turn us again, O God, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.