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.
"The Lord turned the captivity of Job." So, then, our longest sorrows have a close, and there is a bottom to the profoundest depths of our misery. Our winters shall not frown forever; summer shall soon smile. The tide shall not eternally ebb out; the floods retrace their march. The night shall not hang its darkness forever over our souls; the sun shall yet arise with healing beneath his wings — "The Lord turned again the captivity of Job." Our sorrows shall have an end when God has gotten His end in them. When Satan is defeated, then shall the battle cease. The Lord aimed also at the trial of Job's faith. Many weights were hung upon this palm tree, but it still grew uprightly. Another purpose the Lord had was His own glory. And God was glorified abundantly. Job had glorified God on his dunghill; now let him magnify his Lord again upon his royal seat in the gate. God had another end, and that also was served. Job had been sanctified by his afflictions. His spirit had been mellowed. Thou hast had a long captivity in affliction. He shall make again thy vineyard to blossom, and thy field to yield her fruit. "The Lord turned again the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends." Intercessory prayer was the omen of his returning greatness. It was the bow in the cloud, the dove bearing the olive branch, the voice of the turtle announcing the coming summer. When his soul began to expand itself in holy and loving prayer for his erring brethren, then the heart of God showed itself to him by returning to him his prosperity without, and cheering his soul within.
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.)
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.