Suppliants in deep misery flee to the mercy-seat. A
graphic allegory portrays the Church. May we bear fruit as lively branches
of the true Vine!
1-2. "Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, You who lead
Joseph like a flock; You who dwell between the cherubim, shine forth. Before
Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh, stir up Your strength, and come and save
In terms tender and urgent the heavenly Shepherd is
implored to watch over His beloved flock. He is invoked, also, as the God
whose presence sanctified the mercy-seat. When the tabernacle moved the
tribes of Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh brought up the rear, and so were
the nearest to the cherubim overshadowing the Ark. Thus the symbol of His
presence was adjacent to these tribes. Let us profit by this invocation. In
our distresses—and they may be very many—let us think of the Good Shepherd,
and remind Him of His tender love. Let us think of our God upon His
mercy-seat, and beseech Him to manifest His strength.
3. "Turn us again, O God, and cause Your face to
shine; and we shall be saved."
The confession is implied that we drink the cup of sorrow
because of our wanderings from God. The supplication sounds, that He would,
in His full mercy, bring us back, and chase away our gloom by the shinings
of His smile. If He vouchsafes to grant this mercy, perils and destruction
flee away, and we stand immovably on salvation's ground.
4-7. "O Lord God of Hosts, how long will You be angry
against the prayer of Your people? You feed them with the bread of tears;
and give them tears to drink in great measure. You make us a strife unto our
neighbors; and our enemies laugh among themselves. Turn us again, O God of
hosts, and cause Your face to shine; and we shall be saved."
Penitential prayer had sued, but answers lingered.
Fast-flowing tears bedewed the cheeks. Needful food was mingled with bitter
tokens of affliction. In importunity God is besought no longer to delay His
aid. Not only did a wounded conscience utter words of sorrow. The
surrounding nations also marked their calamities, and heaped derision on the
downcast people. The cry is renewed, Turn us again, O God of hosts, and
cause Your face to shine; and we shall be saved. If delay occurs, let it
quicken our earnestness.
8-11. "You have brought a vine out of Egypt; You have
cast out the heathen, and planted it. You prepared room before it, and
caused it to take deep root, and it filled the land. The hills were covered
with the shadow of it, and the boughs thereof were like the goodly cedars.
She sent out her boughs unto the sea, and her branches to the river."
In the midst of suffering it is salutary to revisit times
of joy and gladness. Israel recalls God's early favor. He brought His people
like a tender plant from Egypt's soil. He removed the heathen, and planted
it in earth's loveliest spot. Here it took root and sent forth luxuriant
branches. Such mercies now were recalled by their mourning hearts. The
contrast awakened a plaintive cry.
12-16. "Why have you then broken down her hedges, so
that all those who pass by the way do pluck her? The boar out of the wood
wastes it, and the wild beast of the field devours it. Return, we beseech
You, O God of hosts; look down from heaven, and behold, and visit this vine;
and the vineyard which Your right hand has planted, and the branch that You
made strong for Yourself. It is burnt with fire; it is cut down; they perish
at the rebuke of Your countenance."
The present desolation shows a terrible reverse.
Protecting barriers are leveled. All passengers may pillage as they please.
Wild animals may devour the fruits. Again prayer beseeches God to return and
visit His ravaged vine. In remembrance of former mercies, let us pray that
He who has begun a good work in us will perform it until the day of Christ.
17-19. "Let Your hand be upon the Man of Your right
hand, upon the Son of Man whom You made strong for Yourself. So will not we
go back from You; quicken us, and we will call upon Your name. Turn us
again, O Lord God of hosts, cause Your face to shine; and we shall be
Hope now brightens. The eye rests on Jesus. God is
besought to uphold His beloved Son endued with all strength to save us. He
will restore our souls. Quickened by His grace, prayers shall continue to
wrestle with Him for renewed support. Repetition proves the earnestness of