12. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.
12. Et invocabitis me et ibitis; et orabitis me, et exaudiam vos.
Jeremiah pursues the same subject, even that the Jews, after having undergone the punishment allotted to them by God, would at length return to their own country and find God merciful, and hence learn that their chastisement in exile would prove useful to them. He had indeed in the last verse explained this with sufficient clearness, but he now expresses the manner; and that would be by calling on God. he uses two words, Ye shall call on me, he says, and pray. The verb put between these two hlktm, elcatem, is regarded almost by all as referring to a right course of life, as though the Prophet had said, that those who before wandered after their own lusts would now walk in the way of God, that is, in his Law; but this seems to me to be too forced an explanation. I doubt not then, but that the Prophet here indirectly reproves the indifference of the people in not immediately acknowledging that they were chastised by God's hand, that they ought in due time to repent. To go then or to walk is the same thing, in my judgment, as though he had said, |After having suffered the exile, not of one year, but of seventy years, ye shall then begin to be wise.|
It was not only sloth but stupidity, that they were not subdued by God's scourges so as to call on him; but as they were of a disposition so rude and refractory the Prophet here briefly reminds them that many years had been necessary to subdue them, as twenty or thirty years were not sufficient. We now then understand the design of the word hlq, elek, to walk. The meaning then is, that after having profited under the scourges of God, they would become humble so as to deprecate his wrath.
But there is added a promise, that God would hear them. It may however appear, that God promised conversion even in the first clause; and, no doubt, prayer is the fruit of repentance, for it proceeds from faith; and repentance is the gift of God. And further, we cannot call on God rightly and sincerely except by the guidance and teaching of the Holy Spirit; for he it is who not only dictates our words, but also creates groanings in our hearts. And thus Augustin, writing against the Pelagians, understands the passage, and proves that it is not in the power of man either to convert himself or to pray; |for God,| he says, |would in vain promise what is in the power of man to do; and this is the promise, ye shall pray; it then follows, that we do not pray through the impulse of our own flesh, but when the Holy Spirit directs our hearts, and in a manner prays in us.| I do not, however, know whether the Prophet intended to speak in so refined a manner. From other passages of Scripture it is easy to prove, that we cannot pray to God, except he anticipates us by his own Spirit. But as to this passage, I prefer to take a simpler meaning, that God would hear, when they began to pray; but yet he shews that it would not be after a short space of time, because they were almost untameable, and would not repent until after many years. It follows, --