Return, O LORD, how long? and may you have compassion concerning your servants.
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Augustine of Hippo
14. And as when they became so well known, as to despise these things, and by setting their affections on things eternal, gave a testimony through their sufferings (whence they are called witnesses or martyrs in the Greek), they endured for a long while many bitter temporal afflictions. This man of God giveth heed to this, and the prophetic spirit under the name of Moses continues thus, "Return, O Lord, how long? and be softened concerning Thy servants" (ver. 13). These are the words of those, who, enduring many evils in that persecuting age, become known because their hearts are bound in the chain of wisdom so firmly, that not even such hardships can induce them to fly from their Lord to the good things of this world. "How long wilt Thou hide Thy face from me, O Lord?" occurs in another Psalm, in unison with this sentence, "Return, O Lord, how long?" And that they who, in a most carnal spirit, ascribe to God the form of a human body, may know that the "turning away" and "turning again" of His countenance is not like those motions of our own frame, let them recollect these words from above in the same Psalm, "Thou hast set our misdeeds before Thee, and our secret sins in the light of Thy countenance." How then does he say in this passage, "Return," that God may be favourable, as if He had turned away His face in anger; when as in the former he speaks of God's anger in such a manner, as to insinuate that He had not turned away His countenance from the misdeeds and the course of life of those He was angry with, but rather had set them before Him, and in the light of His countenance? The word, "How long," belongs to righteousness beseeching, not indignant impatience. "Be softened," some have rendered by a verb, "soften." But "be softened" avoids an ambiguity; since to soften is a common verb: for he may be said to soften who pours out prayers, and be to whom they are poured out: for we say, I soften thee, and I soften toward thee.