After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD restored his prosperity and doubled his former possessions.
I. THE REVERSAL.
1. A true reversal. Job's troubles have come to an end. That was a long avenue of fire which he was made to pass through; but the terminus was reached at last. Man may be "born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward" (Job 5:7); but he is not born to everlasting trouble. St. Paul writes of "our light affliction, which is but for a moment" (2 Corinthians 4:17). Present distress is not a presage of future evil. The very blackness of the clouds that gather about our heads in the dark hour prevents us from seeing the distant prospect where sunshine awaits those who are faithful in trial. There is room for hope, even if we see no light, for though trouble may be lengthy, love outlasts it; "the mercy of the Lord endureth for ever."
2. A Divine reversal. Satan inflicted the blows, though with the permission of God. It is God himself who brings back prosperity. Through whatever channels and instruments evil may come upon us, good comes from the hand of God. Satan simply disappears from the drama. His bold assertions are so absolutely refuted, and he is so completely discomfited, that he passes into oblivion. In the day of the Lord, God's action is everything.
II. ITS OCCASION. Why did the reversal come when it did? Why not earlier? Why not later? The note of time is significant. God reversed the fortune of Job "when he prayed for his friends."
1. In humility. Job was first brought very low. His fidelity had been severely tested, and it had stood the strain. Job did not "curse God and die." Satan's charge was abundantly refuted. Job was not serving God only for the profits accruing from religion. Disinterested devotion was proved to be possible. Yet Job was not faultless. At least there were advantages to be gained by discipline. It would have been cruel to have used him as an unconscious example for the settlement of a question with which he had no concern, like the victim of vivisection. This was not the case. Elihu showed how God trained and educated his children in the school of affliction. Job had been to that school, and there he had learnt humility and a true appreciation of the greatness of God, whom man cannot judge.
2. In kindness. Job bears no grudge against his three friends. He intercedes for them in genuine concern for their condition under the wrath of God. When he shows a forgiving spirit God is most merciful to him. This is not the formal return of payment; but it is a gracious reward, and it is a favour shown to one who is fit to accept it. For we are never so fit to receive good fortune as when we are chiefly occupied in kindly concern for others. Selfish prayers do not bring a blessing. We are most blessed when we forget ourselves in praying for others.
III. ITS EFFECTS. Job's fortune is doubled. God never blesses imperfectly. He does not simply mend and patch up the broken life. He heals and renews and blesses with superabundant kindness. Job's fortune was but external. This was according to the ideas of primitive time& Christ has led us to look for higher blessings. The Christian Job may never recover his property or his health; and yet in his afflictions he may receive his greatest heritage of blessing from Heaven. But whatever be the form of God's blessing, it is great and wonderful. The Christian has more than a Paradise regained. The second Adam brings a kingdom of heaven that is more precious than the lost Eden. The soul that has been tried by fire has a richer inheritance in God than it ever had in the old days of peace. The discipline of sorrow is the key to wonderful treasures of heavenly joy. - W.F.A.
And the Lord turned the captivity of Job.
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.)
Sermons by Monday Club.The Book of Job resembles a drama. An English biblical scholar calls it "the Prometheus or the Faust of the most complete age of Jewish civilisation." What, as illustrated in the story of Job, is the ripe result of affliction?
1. A true knowledge of God (ver. 2). He had assumed that he, a finite man, could understand the mystery of God's providence. He had held a theory of religion which made prosperity the reward of goodness, and suffering the effect and evidence of sin, and which denied that the latter could ever befall the godly. By the calamities which overtook him, while conscious of his integrity, this theory had been violently shaken. It seemed to him that the Almighty had set him up as a mark for His arrows, without any cause. In the stupor of his distress and amazement he had sat down in the ashes in silent misery and brooded like one in a trance over the perplexing mystery. His heart ran over in the fulness of its sorrow, and he uttered a cry of regret that he had ever been born. It seemed to him that God had utterly forgotten and cast off His child. No other composition so describes the wrestlings of a distressed human spirit with the mystery of sorrow, none breathes out such longings for death as a refuge and escape from trouble. In his conception God was a being of arbitrary purposes and action, who governed the world in veiled obscurity, remote, inaccessible to tender appeal, regardless of man's weal or woe. Out of the darkness we hear him call to the incomprehensible and invisible One. Who has not this feeling of uncertainty and remoteness toward God when in great trouble the soul gropes in the darkness for Him? Job reckoned not that man is incapable of judging the meaning of God's dark providences; that within the range of God's view there might be broad zones of light, though to his narrow vision all was dark; and that within the resources of God's omnipotent power there might be found stores of relief and goodness that should give a way of escape from his trouble far better than that offered by the grave. To this larger and truer view, however, he was brought at last. As we read the book from the beginning to the end, we can perceive the change of view gradually going on. In the struggle of his mind with the mystery of his sorrow, another conception of God is seen slowly shaping itself in his thoughts. God is not indifferent to our sorrows, neither does He recklessly inflict on us pain.
2. A second fruit of his affliction was a feeling of humility and penitence for his sin (vers. 3-6). All his upbraidings of God had been like the complaint of a foolish child. His proper place was only that of an humble inquirer. God alone was able to answer the problems that environed his existence. He was humbled to the dust before the new view of God which dawned upon him. Spiritual conceit vanishes at the sight of the Holy One. The night of sorrow produces more than the day of prosperity.
3. The sufferer's manifest acceptance with God (vers. 7-10). Job was approved of God, while his three friends, who had seemed to be the special champions of God's truth, are condemned. The temper of the friends had grown more harsh, and their conduct more and more reprehensible. They sin against charity and truth. A lesson underlies the restoration. Job's earthly possessions may, without his being aware of it, have had too large a place in his heart. Now Job was able to use the world as not abusing it. One thought in conclusion. It is that when trouble comes and lies heavy on us, the thing to be done is not to long for death, or to accuse God of cruelty and injustice, but to be patient and wait for deliverance.
(Sermons by Monday Club.)
When he prayed for his friends.
I. First, then, BY WAY OF COMMENDING THE EXERCISE, let me remind you that intercessory prayer has been practised by all the best of God's saints. Take Abraham, the father of the faithful. How earnestly did he plead for his son Ishmael! "O that Ishmael might live before Thee!" With what importunity did he approach the Lord on the plains of Mamre, when he wrestled with Him again and again for Sodom. Remember Moses, the most royal of men, whether crowned or uncrowned; how often did he intercede! But further, while we might commend this duty by quoting innumerable examples from the lives of eminent saints, it is enough for the disciple of Christ if we say that Christ in His Holy Gospel has made it your duty and your privilege to intercede for others. When He taught us to pray, he said, "Our Father," and the expressions which follow are not in the singular, but in the plural — "Give us this day our daily bread." If in the Bible there were no example of intercessory supplication, if Christ had not left it upon record that it was His will that we should pray for others, and even if we did not know that it was Christ's practice to intercede, yet the very spirit of our holy religion would constrain us to plead for others. Dost thou go up into thy closet, and in the face and presence of God think of none but thyself? Surely the love of Christ cannot be in thee, for the spirit of Christ is not selfish. No man liveth unto himself when once he has the love of Christ in him. I commend intercessory prayer, because it opens man's soul, gives a healthy play to his sympathies, constrains him to feel that he is not everybody, and that this wide world and this great universe were not, after all, made that he might be its petty lord, that everything might bend to his will, and all creatures crouch at his feet. It does him good, I say, to make him know that the cross was not uplifted alone for him, for its far-reaching arms were meant to drop with benedictions upon millions of the human race. I do not know anything which, through the grace of God, may be a better means of uniting us the one to the other than constant prayer for each other. Shall I need to say more in commendation of intercessory prayer except it be this, that it seems to me that when God gives any man much grace, it must be with the design that he may use it for the rest of the family. I would compare you who have near communion with God to courtiers in the king's palace. What do courtiers do? Do they not avail themselves of their influence at court to take the petitions of their friends, and present them where they can be heard? This is what we call patronage — a thing with which many find fault when it is used for political ends, but there is a kind of heavenly patronage which you ought to use right diligently.
II. We turn to our second point, and endeavour to say something BY WAY OF ENCOURAGEMENT, that you may cheerfully offer intercessory supplications. First, remember that intercessory prayer is the sweetest prayer God ever hears. Do not question it, for the prayer of Christ is of this character. In all the incense which now our Great High Priest puts into the censer, there is not a single grain that is for Himself. His work is done; His reward obtained. Now, you do not doubt but that Christ's prayer is the most acceptable of all supplications. Remember, again, that intercessory prayer is exceedingly prevalent. What wonders it has wrought!
III. A SUGGESTION AS TO THE PERSONS FOR WHOM WE SHOULD MORE PARTICULARLY PRAY. It shall be but a suggestion, and I will then turn to my last point.
1. In the case of Job, he prayed for his offending friends. They had spoken exceedingly harshly of him. They had misconstrued all his previous life, and though there had never been a part of his character which deserved censure — for the Lord witnessed concerning him, that he was a perfect and an upright man yet they accused him of hypocrisy, and supposed that all he did was for the sake of gain. Now, perhaps, there is no greater offence which can he given to an upright and a holy man, than to his face to suspect his motives and to accuse him of self-seeking. Carry your offending ones to the throne of God, it shall be a blessed method of proving the trueness of your forgiveness.
2. Again, be sure you take there your controverting friends. These brethren had been arguing with Job, and the controversy dragged its weary length along. It is better to pray than it is to controvert. You say, "Let two good men, on different sides, meet and fight the matter out." I say, "No! let the two good men meet and pray the matter out." He that will not submit his doctrine to the test of the mercy seat, I should suspect is wrong.
3. This is the thing we ought also to do with our haughty friends. Eliphaz and Bildad wire very high and haughty — Oh! how they looked down upon poor Job! They thought he was a very great sinner, a very desperate hypocrite; they stayed with him, but doubtless they thought it very great condescension. Why be angry with your brother because of his being proud? It is a disease, a very bad disease, that scarlet fever of pride; go and pray the Lord to cure him; your anger will not do it; it may puff him up, and make him worse than ever he was before, but it will not set him right. But particularly let me ask you to pray most for those who are disabled from praying for themselves. Job's three friends could not pray for themselves, because the Lord said He would not accept them if they did. He said He was angry with them, but as for Job, said He, "Him will I accept." Do not let me shock your feelings when I say there are some, even of God's people, who are not able to pray acceptably at certain seasons.
IV. I have to EXHORT YOU TO PRAY FOR OTHERS. Do you always pray for others? Do you think you have taken the case of your children, your church, your neighbourhood, and the ungodly world before God as you ought to have done? I begin thus, by saying, how can you and I repay the debt we owe to the Church unless we pray for others? How was it that you were converted? It was because somebody else prayed for you. Now, if by others' prayers you and I were brought to Christ, how can we repay this Christian kindness, but by pleading for others? He who has not a man to pray for him may write himself down a hopeless character. Then, again, permit me to say, how are you to prove your love to Christ or to His Church if you refuse to pray for men? "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren." Christians are priests, but how priests if they offer no sacrifice? Christians are lights, but how lights unless they shine for others? Christians are sent into the world, even as Christ was sent into the world, but how sent unless they are sent to pray?
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. THE AGREEMENT OF THIS FACT WITH THE TEACHING OF SCRIPTURE. Honour is always put on intercession. It may be said that we see not how the blessing of one can be effected by the fervency or carelessness of another. But this reasoning would put an end to all prayer and effort. For who can explain how our requests can affect the Divine will, or change the course of events?
II. THE ENCOURAGEMENT HERE HELD FORTH TO US. Clear is the duty of intercession. Great is the honour, that we who are unworthy to pray for ourselves should be admitted as petitioners for others. Yet all will feel the need of encouragement in this duty. Sometimes by reason of sin and temptation the Christian cannot come to God in prayer. The best thing to do at such times is, pray for his friends. Thus his heart will be insensibly enlarged, and his spirit drawn heavenward. Whatever raises us out of our miserable slavery to ourselves augments devotional feeling. Some feel themselves desolate in the world, as if none knew their sorrows, or cared for their souls. But if they were frequent in intercession, the comfortable truth would come home to them, that all the children of God are, in private and public worship. really praying for them. Others sigh for a wider field of activity; but if they would give themselves to prayer for other workers, they would understand that they bear no mean or needless office in Christ's Church. In mutual and common prayer we shall find deliverance from the jealousies, suspicions, enmities and divisions which cramp and mar the spiritual life of the Church and her members.
(M. Biggs, M. A.)
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. It saves us from the tyranny of an overweening self-conceit. Self-conceit blinds its victims. It blocks the doorway to true knowledge. It robs us of sympathy. Work for others rescues us from that dangerous tyrant, "Myself."
2. It rescues us from the slavish monotony and narrowness of a selfish life. We are told of a little street waif who was once taken to the house of a wealthy English lady. Looking about on the unaccustomed splendour, the child asked, "Can you get everything you want?" The mistress of the mansion replied, "Yes, I think so." "Can you buy anything you would like to have? Yes." The keen little eyes looked at her pityingly as she said, "Don't you find it dull?" Many a man and many a woman, given up to a life of simply looking after self, have found it intolerably dull, and have yawned themselves out of life from pure monotony.
3. It frees us from captivity to covetousness. Some men are human sponges that absorb all the good things of life they touch, but never give up anything unless they are squeezed so tight that they can't help doing it. God saves us frequently from this meanest of tyrants, by setting us to work to distribute what He has given us, for the benefit of others. Self-forgetfulness in work for others does also some positive things for us. It beautifies the character.
(L. A. Banks.)
(T. De Witt Talmage.)
(T. De Witt Talmage.)
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