I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offense, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me early.
This whole chapter, with the following one, contains a pathetic remonstrance, of God's. just quarrel with. His people; aggravated by much long-suffering and lenity, and many warnings, verbal and real, on His part, and much stubbornness, impenitence, and multiplied provocation on theirs; He using all means to reclaim and save them, and they using all means to despise Him, and ruin themselves. In the text we have the Lord concluding upon a severe course, as being necessary, and likely to be more effectual for their conversion.
I. THE PROCURING CAUSE OF GOD'S AFFLICTING HIS PEOPLE.
1. The procuring cause is made up of these two — sin and impenitence.
(1) We may see how unwilling God is to afflict His people. Judgments are termed "His strange work." but mercy is His darling attribute. He will not leave them, unless they drive Him away.
(2) We see where the true blame of the many sufferings and miseries of the Church is to be found. The abounding of sin, and the want of repentance, these make her troubles to abound. This is our folly, that usually we abuse all God's goodness, and will not part with our sins, till we smart, for them, and be beaten from them. We pull punishment out of God's hand.
II. GOD'S WAYS OF AFFLICTING HIS PEOPLE. Upon the withdrawing of His gracious presence, as necessarily follows affliction, as mist upon the setting of the sun. This was heavier than all His corrections. No evil does the child of God fear so much, or feel so heavy, as God's absenting and withdrawing Himself in displeasure
III. THE END OF GOD'S THUS AFFLICTING HIS PEOPLE.
1. God's intention in the means. To bring them to a sorrow for their offences, and an ingenuous confession of it. If He withdraw Himself it is not to leave them for ever and look at them no more. On the contrary, it is that they may learn whether it is better to enjoy Him or their sins.
2. The efficacy of the means for reaching it. There is moral fitness in great affliction to work a diligent seeking of God, before neglected, and acknowledgment of sin, before unfelt. Affliction sets men in upon themselves, calls in their thoughts, which, in a fair season, more readily dissipate and scatter themselves abroad. When a man is driven by force from the comforts of the world, then, if he have any thoughts concerning God, these begin to work with him. When a man is straitened on all hands by a crowd of troubles, and finds no way out, then he finds his only way is upward.
Parallel VersesKJV: I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me early.