“Turn thou us unto thee, O LORD, and we shall be turned; renew our days as of old” (Lamentations 5:21).
The Book of Lamentations was written by the prophet Jeremiah after the people of Judah had been carried captive into Babylon, and Jerusalem itself was burned down by Nebuchadnezzar’s army. Even though the Jews were the people of God and Jerusalem the city of God, their long-continued compromise with pantheistic idolatry and its associated evils finally had brought down God’s wrath on them, and they were now suffering its consequences.
Jeremiah, in the five doleful chapters of this book, expresses great sorrow over their sufferings, yet also confesses their sins, seeking forgiveness and restoration. God's people had experienced a glorious beginning, but then the paganism of the surrounding nations had captivated them; they had forgotten God, and this was the result.
Jeremiah, on behalf of his people, was pleading for them, and confessing for them, and praying for them: “Renew our days as of old,” he cried, concluding his great lamentation. God eventually did just that, for “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).
An older contemporary of Jeremiah, the prophet Habakkuk had prayed in similar fashion: “Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy” (Habakkuk 3:2).
Perhaps it would be in order for us today, if we, like Israel, have been compromising with the paganism of our own day, to paraphrase this prayer and adapt it for ourselves: “O Lord, revive thy work at this beginning of the year; at this New Year make it known once again; in wrath remember mercy!” Jeremiah prayed: “Turn thou us unto thee, O LORD; and we shall be turned; renew our days as of old.” HMM