Restore us to yourself, O LORD, that we may be restored! (Lamentations 5:21).
Of this verse, Matthew Henry rightly acknowledges that repentance is granted, not mustered within ourselves. Rather, we need God’s good and faithful grace to obey him as we ought, from a heart of obedience and joy. Henry says,
[This verse acknowledges man’s] own weakness and inability to turn themselves. There is in our nature a proneness to backslide from God, but no disposition to return to him till his grace works in us both to will and to do. So necessary is that grace that we may truly say, “Turn us or we shall not be turned”, but shall wander endlessly; and so powerful and effectual is that grace that we may as truly say, “Turn us, and we shall be turned”; for it is a day of power, almighty power, in which God’s people are made a willing people.
God alone has the ability to make his people a willing people. Without this gracious enabling, we will not and cannot obey God as we ought. This is because our sin runs deeper than we even think possible.
But, when God grants repentance (2 Tim 2:25), we can be sure and know that God secures for us an obedience from his hand, and not our own. In fact, the essence of the New Covenant is that God now grants what he commands. No longer does he hold a standard impossible for his people to meet. Actually, in Jesus, he gives us that standard as a gift in faith. More than that, he gives us a new heart, willing and ready to be turned. As Augustin said, “command what you will, and give what you command”.
God alone grants repentance.