Return Us, Lord, to Yourself!

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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Please let us return! Give us new days, like those long ago.

Lamentations 5:21

In almost all of the previous 152 verses of Lamentations, we have listened to the laments of an anonymous writer. He has chronicled in detail the woes of Judah as the nation was overthrown by the Babylonians. He spares no words in expressing his grief over what has happened. God’s judgment has fallen deservedly on his people. Their lives have been devastated.

Lamentations does not include extensive prayers for divine intervention. The writer does not cry out to God to save him and his people from their predicament. The only consistent request in Lamentations is for God to pay attention to Judah’s plight (for example, 1:20; 5:1).

Yet, right at the end of the book, the writer does seek God’s help. But does he pray for the restoration of the nation? No. Does he ask for the rebuilding of the temple? No. Rather, he prays for a restoration of the peoples’ relationship with God: “Return us, LORD, to yourself” (5:21). The verb translated here as “return” is one often used to depict human repentance. But, notice that in this case, God is the only one who has the power to return his people to himself. If God does not intervene on their behalf, the people have no hope.

The concluding verses of Lamentations describe not just the condition of the Jews under Babylonian rule but also our own condition. Our sin has separated us from God and his life. We have no hope apart from him. Thus, we might also pray, “Return us, LORD, to yourself.” The good news is that this is exactly what God has done in Jesus Christ. He has accomplished what we could not accomplish, erasing the stain of our sin and drawing us back into relationship with him.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Are you ever tempted to think that you can make things right with God through your own efforts? What gets you to the point of praying, “Return me, Lord, to yourself”? When have you experienced God’s mercy that returned you to relationship with him?

PRAYER: Gracious God, sometimes I am tempted to think that I can manage on my own, even when it comes to my relationship with you. So I try hard, and then even harder, only to fall short. Then I realize what the writer of Lamentations also realized. Only you can save! Only you can return me to yourself.

How thankful I am, Lord, that you have done this very thing through Christ. And how glad I am that when I wander away from you now, you reach out to return me to yourself.

All praise be to you, God of mercy, God of grace. Amen.