Turn us again, O God, and cause your face to shine; and we shall be saved.
Turn us again, O God, and cause thy face to shine. The expression, "turn us," seems to have been used in the prayers of the captives in Babylon; they are represented as saying, "Turn again our captivity, O Lord, as the streams in the south!" The exiles are not praying for repentance, but for a change in their circumstances - a change in the evident relations of God to them. Their captivity seemed to them God's turning them away from him. What they asked was a gracious returning to them. Putting the sentence in modern form, it would read, "Turn to us again, O God, and cause thy face to shine, and we shall be saved." Some render, "O God, restore us!" which conveys the same idea.
I. GOD'S TURNING AWAY DECLARES THE NEED FOR DIVINE JUDGMENTS. If we estimated life aright, we should think more of the presence and working of God in our life, as the Overruler, Restrainer, Guide, who is ever moulding and moderating our impulse, ever putting straight what we bend awry. And then we should regard aright God's holding aloof, turning away, "drawing up into a cloud," and leaving us to the miseries of our own self-ordering; which miseries would become his correcting judgments. This point may be effectively illustrated by God's word to Moses when Moses was interceding in the matter of the golden calf. God proposed to withdraw his own Presence as Guide, Restrainer, and Overruler; and Moses knew well that would prove the severest of judgments. The same thing may be shown in the case of King Saul. It is figured as the withdrawal of God's Spirit from him. Left without Divine restrainings and overrulings, Saul runs down into woes that are Divine judgments. So with Israel in captivity. They had so grieved God that he had "turned away," and left them to follow their own political devices. They sought Assyria, or they sought Egypt, and they would not seek Jehovah. They must come under Divine judgments, and learn through them; but they brought the judgments on themselves. And God's turning and leaving them alone was at once the necessary thing, and the most merciful thing. When men are wilful, Divine severities are Divinest mercies.
II. GOD'S TURNING TOWARDS SHOWS THE TIME HAS COME FOR DIVINE RESTORINGS. It is the sign that men have learned the lesson of their judgments and calamities, and have come to a better mind. They have began to realize what God turned away means and involves; they have begun to want the sight of God's face again, and the cheer of the shine or smile on his face. And when that is man's mood, God can turn round, and can enter again on those guiding, overruling, and restraining relations, which then are rightly esteemed. Bunyan illustrates, in his 'Holy War,' very effectively the turning away of Emmanuel, the consequent misery of Mansoul, the awakening desire for Emmanuel, and his gracious return. - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: Turn us again, O God, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.