And the LORD turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before.
Since God is immutable He acts always upon the same principles, and hence His course of action in the olden times to a man of a certain sort will be a guide as to what others may expect who are of like character. God does not act by caprice, nor by fits and starts. We are not all like Job, but we all have Job's God. Though we have neither risen to Job's wealth, nor will, probably, ever sink to Job's poverty, yet there is the same God above us if we be high, and the same God with His everlasting arms beneath us if we be brought low; and what the Lord did for Job He will do for us, not precisely in the same form, but in the same spirit, and with like design. If, therefore, we are brought low tonight, let us be encouraged with the thought that God will turn again our captivity; and let us entertain the hope that after the time of trial shall be over we shall be richer, especially in spiritual things, than ever we were before.
I. First, then, THE LORD CAN SOON TURN HIS PEOPLE'S CAPTIVITY. That is a very remarkable expression — "captivity." It does not say, "God turned his poverty," though Job was reduced to the extremity of penury. We do not read that the Lord turned his sickness, though he was covered with sore boils. A man may be very poor, and yet not in captivity, his soul may sing among the angels when his body is on a dunghill and dogs are licking his sores. A man may be very sick, and yet not be in captivity; he may be roaming the broad fields of covenant mercy, though he cannot rise from his bed. Captivity is bondage of mind, the iron entering into the soul. I suspect that Job, under the severe mental trial which attended his bodily pains, was, as to his spirit, like a man bound hand and foot and fettered. I mean that, together with the trouble and trial to which he was subjected, he had lost somewhat the presence of God; much of his joy and comfort had departed; the peace of his mind had gone. He could only follow the occupation of a captive, that is, to be oppressed, to weep, to claim compassion, and to pour out a dolorous complaint. Poor Job! He is less to be pitied for his bereavements, poverty, and sickness, than for his loss of that candle of the Lord which once shone about his head. Touch a man in his bone, and in his flesh, and yet he may exult; but touch him in his mind — let the finger of God be laid upon his spirit — and then, indeed, he is in captivity. The Lord can deliver us out of spiritual captivity, and that very speedily. Some feel everything except what they want to feel. They enjoy no sweetness in the means of grace, and yet for all the world they would not give them up. They used at one time to rejoice in the Lord; but now they cannot see His face, and the u most they can say is, "Oh, that I knew where I might find Him!" Therefore, mark well this cheering truth — God can turn your captivity, and turn it at once. Some of God's children seem to think that to recover their former joy must occupy a long period of time. It is true, that if you had to work your passage back to where you came from it would be a weary voyage. He will vouchsafe to you the conscious enjoyment of His presence on the same terms as at first, that is, on terms of free and sovereign grace. Did you not at that time admit the Saviour to your soul because you could not do without Him? Is it not a good reason for receiving Him again? Was there anything in you when you received Him which could commend you to Him? Say, were you not all over defilement, and full of sin and misery? And yet you opened the door, and said, "My Lord, come in, in Thy free grace: come in, for I must have Thee, or I perish." Having begun to live by grace, wouldst thou go on to live by works? Well do I know what it is to feel this wondrous power of God to turn our captivity. The Lord does not take days, months, weeks, or even hours to do His work of revival in our souls. He made the world in six days, but He lit it up in an instant with one single word. He can do the same as to our temporal captivity. Now, it may be I address some friend who has been a great sufferer through pecuniary losses. The Lord can turn your captivity. When Job had lost everything, God readily gave him all back. "Yes," say you, "but that was a very remarkable case." I grant you that, but then we have to do with a remarkable God, who works wonders still. If you consider the matter you will see that it was quite as remarkable a thing that Job should lose all his property as it was that he should get it back again. If you had walked over Job's farm at first, and seen the camels and the cattle, if you had gone into his house and seen the furniture and the grandeur of his state, and if you had gone to his children's house, and seen the comfort in which they lived, you would have said, "Why, this is one of the best-established men in all the land of Uz. I have heard of great fortunes collapsing, but then they were built on speculations. They were only paper riches, made up of bills and the like; but in the case of this man there are oxen, sheep, camels, and land, and these cannot melt into thin air. Job has a good substantial estate, I cannot believe that ever he will come to poverty." Surely if God could scatter such an estate as that He could, with equal ease, bring it back again. But this is what we do not always see. We see the destructive power of God, but we are not very clear about the up-building power of God. Yet surely it is more consonant with the nature of God that He should give than take, and more like Him that He should caress than chastise. Does He not always say that judgment is His strange work? When the Lord went about to enrich His servant Job again, He went about that work, as we say, con amore — with heart and soul. He was doing then what He delights to do, for God's happiness is never more clearly seen than when He is distributing the largesses of His love. Why can you not look at your own circumstances in the same light? The Lord can turn the captivity of His people. You may apply the truth to a thousand different things. You Sunday school teachers, if you have had a captivity in your class, and no good has been done, God can change that. You ministers, if for a long time you have ploughed and sowed in vain, the Lord can turn your captivity there. You wives who have been praying for your husbands, you fathers who have been pleading for your children, and have seen no blessing yet, the Lord can turn your captivity in those respects.
II. THERE IS GENERALLY SOME POINT AT WHICH THE LORD INTERPOSES TO TURN THE CAPTIVITY OF HIS PEOPLE. In Job's case, I have no doubt, the Lord turned his captivity, as far as the Lord was concerned, because the grand experiment which had been tried on Job was now over. The suggestion of Satan was that Job was selfish in his piety — that he found honesty to be the best policy, and therefore he was honest — that godliness was gain, and therefore he was godly. The devil generally does one of two things. Sometimes he tells the righteous that there is no reward for their holiness, and then they say, "Surely, I have cleansed my heart in vain and washed my hands in innocency"; or else he tells them that they only obey the Lord because they have a selfish eye to the reward. God puts His servants sometimes into these experiments that He may test them, that Satan himself may know how true-hearted God's grace has made them, and that the world may see how they can play the man. Good engineers, if they build a bridge, are glad to have a train of enormous weight go over it. I am sure that if any of you had invented some implement requiring strength you would be glad to have it tested, and the account of the successful trial published abroad. "Do your worst or do your best, it is a good instrument; do what you like with it"; so the maker of a genuine article is accustomed to speak; and the Lord seems to say the same concerning His people. "My work of grace in them is mighty and thorough. Test it, Satan; test it, world; test it by bereavements, losses, and reproaches: it will endure every ordeal." And when it is tested, and bears it all, then the Lord turns the captivity of His people, for the experiment is complete, Most probably there was, in Job's character, some fault from which his trial was meant to purge him. If he erred at all, probably it was in having a somewhat elevated idea of himself and a stern manner towards others. A little of the elder brother spirit may, perhaps, have entered into him. When, through the light of trial, and the yet greater light of God's glorious presence, Job saw himself unveiled, he abhorred himself in dust and ashes. You see, the trial had reached its point. It had evidently been blessed to Job, and it had proved Satan to be a liar, and so now the fire of the trial goes out, and like precious metal the patriarch comes forth from the furnace brighter than ever. I will try and indicate, briefly, when I think God may turn your trial.
1. Sometimes He does so when that trial has discovered to you your especial sin.
2. Perhaps, too, your turning point will be when your spirit is broken. We are by nature a good deal like horses that want breaking in, or, to use a scriptural simile, we are as "bullocks unaccustomed to the yoke." Well, the horse has to go through certain processes in the menage until at last it is declared to be "thoroughly broken in," and we need similar training. You and I are not yet quite broken in, I am afraid.
3. Sometimes, again, trial may cease when you have learned the lesson which it was intended to teach you, as to some point of Gospel truth. "It is enough; I have taught my child the lesson, and I will let him go."
4. I think, too, it may be with some of us that God gives us trouble until we obtain a sympathetic spirit. How can a man sympathise with trouble that he never knew? How can he be tender in heart if he has never been touched with infirmity himself? If one is to be a comforter to others, he must know the sorrows and the sicknesses of others in his measure.
5. In Job's case the Lord turned his captivity when he prayed for his friends. Prayer for ourselves is blessed work, but for the child of God it is a higher exercise to become an intercessor, and to pray for others. Prayer for ourselves, good as it is, has just a touch of selfishness about it; prayer for others is delivered from that ingredient.
III. That BELIEVERS SHALL NOT BE LOSERS FOR THEIR GOD. God, in the experiment, took from Job all that he had, but at the end He gave him back twice as much as he had. If a man should take away my silver and give me twice the weight in gold in return, should I not be thankful? And so, if the Lord takes away temporals and gives us spirituals, He thus gives us a hundred times more than He takes away. You shall never lose anything by what you suffer for God. If, for Christ's sake you are persecuted, you shall receive in this life your reward; but if not, rejoice and be glad, for great is your reward in heaven. You shall not lose anything by God's afflicting you. You shall, for a time, be an apparent loser; but a real loser in the end you shall never be. We serve a good Master, and if He chooses to try us for a little we will bear our trial cheerfully, for God will turn our captivity ere long.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And the LORD turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before.