I will go and return to my place - I will abandon them till they acknowledge their offenses. This had the wished-for effect, as we shall see in the following chapter; for they repented and turned to God, and he had mercy upon them. These two verses are considered as instances of the true sublime.
I will go and return to My place - As the wild beast, when he has taken his prey, returns to his covert, so God, when He had fulfilled His will, would, for the time, withdraw all tokens of his presence. God, who is wholly everywhere, is said to dwell “there,” relatively to us, where he manifests Himself, as of old, in the tabernacle, the temple, Zion, Jerusalem. He is said to “go and return,” when He withdraws all tokens of His presence, His help, care, and providence. This is worse than any affliction on God‘s part, “a state like theirs who, in the lowest part of hell, are “delivered into chains of darkness,” shut out from His presence, and so from all hope of comfort; and this must needs be their condition, so long as He shall be absent from them; and so perpetually, except there be a way for obtaining again His favorable presence.”
Till they acknowledge their offence - o“He who “hath no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live,” withdraws Himself from them, not to cast them off altogether, but that they might know and acknowledge their folly and wickedness, and, seeing there is no comfort out of Him, prefer His presence to those vain things.” which they had preferred to Him To say, that God would hide His Face from them, “until they should acknowledge their offence,” holds out in itself a gleam of hope, that hereafter they would turn to Him, and would find Him.
And seek My Face - The first step in repentance is confession of sin; the second, turning to God. For to own sin without turning to God is the despair of Judas.
In their affliction they shall seek Me early - God does not only leave them hopes, that He would show forth his presence, when they sought him, but He promises that they shah seek Him, i. e. He would give them His grace whereby alone they could seek Him, and that grace should be effectual. Of itself affliction drives to despair and more obdurate rebellion and final impenitence. Through the grace of God, “evil brings forth good; fear, love; chastisement, repentance.” “They shall seek Me early,” originally, “in the morning,” i. e., with all diligence and earnestness, as a man riseth early to do what he is very much set upon. So these shall “shake off the sleep of sin and the torpor of listlessness, when the light of repentance shall shine upon them.”
This was fulfilled in the two tribes, toward the end of the seventy years, when many doubtless, together with Daniel, “set their face unto the Lord God to seek by prayer and supplication with fasting and sackcloth and ashes” Daniel 9:2-3; and again in, those “who waited for redemption in Jerusalem” Luke 2:25, Luke 2:38, when our Lord came; and it will be fulfillment in all at the end of the world. “The first flash of thought on the power and goodness of the true Deliverer, is like the morning streaks of a new day. At the sight of that light, Israel shall arise early to seek his God; he shall rise quickly like the Prodigal, out of his wanderings and his indigence.”