1. Come, and let us return unto the Lord: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up.
1. Venite et convertamur ad Jehovam, quia ipse rapuit et sanabit nos; percussit et alligabit plagas nostras.
In the last chapter the Prophet said, that the Israelites, after having been subdued by chastisements and judgments, would again turn back from following error to seek God. But as terror drives men away from approaching God, he now adds, that the measure of afflictions would not be such as would discourage their minds and produce despair; but rather inspire them with the assurance, that God would be propitious to them: and that he might set this forth the better, he introduces them as saying, Come, let us go to the Lord: and this mode of speaking is very emphatical.
But we must know that the reason here given, why the Israelites could return safely and with sure confidence to God, is, that they would acknowledge it as his office to heal after he has smitten, and to bring a remedy for the wounds which he has inflicted. The Prophet means by these words, that God does not so punish men as to pour forth his wrath upon them for their destruction; but that he intends, on the contrary, to promote their salvation, when he is severe in punishing their sins. We must then remember, as we have before observed, that the beginning of repentance is a sense of God's mercy; that is, when men are persuaded that God is ready to give pardon, they then begin to gather courage to repent; otherwise perverseness will ever increase in them; how much soever their sin may frighten them, they will yet never return to the Lord. And for this purpose I have elsewhere quoted that remarkable passage in Psalm 130, With thee is mercy, that thou mayest be feared;' for it cannot be, that men will obey God with true and sincere heart, except a taste of his goodness allures them, and they can certainly determine, that they shall not return to him in vain, but that he will be ready, as we have said, to pardon them. This is the meaning of the words, when he says, Come, and let us turn to the Lord; for he has torn and he will heal us; that is, God has not inflicted on us deadly wounds; but he has smitten, that he might heal.
At the same time, something more is expressed in the Prophet's words, and it is this, that God never so rigidly deals with men, but that he ever leaves room for his grace. For by the word, torn, the Prophet alludes to that heavy judgment of which he had before spoken in the person of God: the Lord then made himself to be like a cruel wild beast, |I will be as a lion, I will devour, I will tear, and no one shall take away the prey which I have once seized.| God wished then to show that his vengeance would be dreadful against the Israelites. Now, though God should deal very sharply with them, they were not yet to despair of pardon. However, then, we may find God to be for a time like a lion or a bear, yet, as his proper office is to heal after he has torn, to bind the wounds he has inflicted, there is no reason why we should shun his presence. We see that the design of the Prophet's words was to show, that no chastisement is so severe that it ought to break down our spirits, but that we ought, by entertaining hope, to stir up ourselves to repentance. This is the drift of the passage.
It is further needful to observe, that the faithful do here, in the first place, encourage themselves, that they may afterwards lead others with them; for so the words mean. He does not say, |Go, return to Jehovah;| but, Come, let us return unto Jehovah We then see that each one begins with himself; and then that they mutually exhort one another; and this is what ought to be done by us: when any one sends his brethren to God, he does not consult his own good, since he ought rather to show the way. Let every one, then, learn to stimulate himself; and then, let him stretch out his hand to others, that they may follow. We are at the same time reminded that we ought to undertake the care of our brethren; for it would be a shame for any one to be content with his own salvation, and so to neglect his brethren. It is then necessary to join together these two things, -- To stir up ourselves to repentance, -- and then to try to lead others with us. Let us now proceed --