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Restore Us, Lord, to Yourself! A Devotion for Good Friday

April 14, 2022 • Life for Leaders

Scripture – Lamentations 5:21-22 (NRSV)

Restore us to yourself, O LORD, that we may be restored;
+++renew our days as of old—
unless you have utterly rejected us,
+++and are angry with us beyond measure.

Focus

In the book of Lamentations, we read a simple prayer: “Restore us to yourself, O LORD, that we may be restored.” This prayer assumes that only God can mend our relationship with God. Restoration is a gift of God’s grace, a grace we remember on Good Friday. God acted to restore us through the death of Christ on the cross. When we accept this gift and put our trust in God, we are restored in our relationship with God, and we become partners with God in the restoration of all things.

Today’s devotion is part of the series Lamentations in Lent.

Devotion

As we have worked our way through the 150+ 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 God’s own 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 plead with God to defeat the Babylonians? No. Does he pray for the restoration of the nation? No. Does he ask for the restoration of the temple? No. Rather, the writer of Lamentations prays for the restoration of the people’s relationship with God: “Restore us to yourself, O LORD, that we may be restored” (Lamentations 5:21). The verb translated here as “restore” has the literal meaning of “return.” This verb is often used to depict human repentance, turning away from sin and back to God. But notice that in Lamentations 5:21, God is the only one who has the power to return the people to God. If God does not intervene on their behalf, the people have no hope, none at all.

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 from the life that comes from our relationship with God. We have no hope apart from God and God’s grace, none at all. Thus, we might also pray, “Restore us to yourself, O LORD, that we may be restored.”

Today is Good Friday, the day on which we remember Christ’s death on the cross. We recollect not just the event of Jesus’s crucifixion, however, but also and especially its meaning. On this day above all days we call to mind the truth conveyed in 2 Corinthians 5:21: “For our sake [God] made [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” God determined that Christ would bear the penalty for our sin. Why? So that we might have right relationship with God—and through God with the rest of creation, including people.

If we were to render the profound truth of 2 Corinthians 5:21 in the language of Lamentations, we might say, “For our sake God made Christ to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might be restored to God and with God participate in the restoration of all things.” The cross of Christ is God’s answer to our fervent prayer, “Restore us to yourself, O LORD, that we may be restored.”

As we remember the way in which God has restored us, we are struck by the reality of suffering, not our suffering in this case, but the suffering of Jesus, the suffering of God the Son. We ponder the mystery of God the Son crying out to God the Father, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” As Martin Luther once said, “God forsaken by God, who can understand that?”

The wondrous mystery of the restoring death of Christ is expressed dramatically in the words of Charles Wesley, who wrote the hymn, “And Can It Be That I Should Gain?” I conclude this Good Friday devotion with verses 1, 2, and 5 of that hymn:

And can it be that I should gain
An int’rest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain?
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

’Tis mystery all! The Immortal dies!
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love Divine!
’Tis mercy all! let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.
’Tis mercy all! let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more. . . .

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine!
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness Divine,
Bold I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Bold I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

Reflect

Are you ever tempted to think that you can make things right with God through your own efforts? If so, why? If not, why not?

What gets you to the point of praying, “Restore me to yourself, O LORD, that I may be restored”?

When have you experienced God’s mercy that returned you to a relationship with him?

Act

Set aside some time today to reflect on the cross of Jesus and its implications. You may wish to read one or more of the passion narratives from the Gospels (Matthew 26-27; Mark 14-15; Luke 22-23; John 18-19).

Pray

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 restore me to yourself.

How thankful I am, Lord, that you have done this very thing through Christ. On this day in particular, I am thankful for the cross, for the pouring out of your love through Christ.

God, using the words of Lamentations I pray, “Restore me to yourself, O LORD, that I may be restored.” I don’t neglect the ways in which I have already experienced restoration by your grace. But I recognize that more is needed. And so I pray, “Restore me to yourself, O LORD, that I may be restored.”

All praise be to you, God of mercy, God of grace. All praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ, who gave your life for the world, including me. Amen.

Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Good Friday Reflection: An Artist in the Dark


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