O LORD, I have heard your speech, and was afraid: O LORD, revive your work in the middle of the years…
The utterance of God made the prophet afraid. The period of chastening must be fulfilled. But one thought fills the prophet's mind: during this period of suffering the work of God might be revived. God in His wrath remembers mercy most when He does not stay His chastening, but deepens penitence, stirs up prayer, creates heart-searching and earnest endeavours after a new life.
I. THE FIRST PART OF THE PRAYER IS THAT GOD WOULD REVIVE HIS WORK. We believe in a God who works, now and always, both in the natural and in the spiritual. God not merely wills, He works. Work occupies a foremost place in the Divine arrangement. God's works on matter illustrate and explain His working on mind. There is one feature common to both the natural and the spiritual sphere, the requirement of human co-operation. God waits on man's working. On account of the sin and sloth and heedlessness of man, God's work declines, and God seems to withdraw. It is here that a place for revival is found. And explanation of it includes both the Divine sphere and the human. God's working in nature goes on in cycles. So does man's working all through. Uniformity of action would not be adapted to man. The fluctuation which covers the regions of politics, literature, science, and art, extends also to religion. Religious earnestness is under the same law. An enthusiasm is awakened at times for the supreme object of religion which it is not in human nature to sustain. The departure of such a period may be either the deepening and broadening of the channels of life, or it may be a period of stagnation. This is true of the individual, as well as of society at large. Revival is a fervour or intensity resolved on the highest aims, a deeper sense of the meaning of life, a determination to subordinate all to God. The fact that such times in a community are often characterised by excitement, and by a kind of contagion in which religion seems to be less a matter of individual conviction than a diffused influence is, again, only in accordance with the laws of human nature. Why should the spread of religious conviction not be aided by the contagion of feeling? May not genuine and deep feeling be aroused in this way? Why may not the surging of a vague enthusiasm through the hearts of men work great things in religion as in other matters? If religion is a genuinely human thing; if it is in the true sense the most human of all, must it not partake of the usual characteristics of human feeling? What a force there is in the expression of the text, Make Thy work to live: put life into Thy work. How often the work seems to have everything but life. Life comes, and all is changed. God's working is the hope of the natural world, and equally of the spiritual. We wait for God. And our waiting utters itself. It is an eager, earnest feeling that pours itself out in supplication. It is in this way that our energy most fully unites itself with the Divine.
II. THE PRAYER IS ALSO THAT GOD WOULD "MAKE KNOWN." That is, reveal Himself and Divine truth. The prayer is, that God would not only work but reveal; that God would show men the reality. Clouds lie between them and the spiritual and eternal. It is well that these two things are joined together, reviving of God's work, and making known.
III. What weight is given to the prayer by the addition, "in the midst of the years"? There is an argument, or plea, in the thought, that many years are gone beyond recall, and that so many years fewer are to come. The irrevocable past, as it rises before us, brings bitter regrets. How different those years might have been! The words seem suggestive of the confusion and dark. ness of time. And the fleetingness and evanescence of the years rise before us in contrast to the immutable and eternal of the Divine life.
(J. Leckie, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: O LORD, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O LORD, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy.