How Was Zion’s Captivity Turned?

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Hi N____,

Thank you for asking about the meaning of the phrase, “turned the captivity of Zion”, and how that phrase applies in your life.

You reference:

Psa 126:1  A Song of degrees. When the LORD turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream.

Here is a verse of scripture which will give you a very good feel for what the scriptures mean by the phrase “turn the captivity…”:

Job 42:10  And the LORD turned the captivity of Jobwhen he prayed for his friends: also the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before. 

So it is clear that this phrase “turn the captivity” addresses that time in our lives when God has dealt with us as He dealt with Job, and has caused us to go through months of torment which He brings upon us through the channel of our own sins, which are not our own, but are really God judging our flesh in this age as he did Job. There is a series of studies on iswasandwillbe.com which deal with God’s method of operation in dealing with overt and hidden sins in our lives. Job’s sin was the hidden sin of self-righteousness, and it is one of the most insidious of sins which is common to all men.

Job 7:3  So am I made to possess months of vanity, and wearisome nights are appointed to me.
Job 7:4  When I lie down, I say, When shall I arise, and the night be gone? and I am full of tossings to and fro unto the dawning of the day.
Job 7:5  My flesh is clothed with worms and clods of dust; my skin is broken, and become loathsome.

Job 40:6  Then answered the LORD unto Job out of the whirlwind, and said,
Job 40:7  Gird up thy loins now like a man: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me.
Job 40:8  Wilt thou also disannul my judgment? wilt thou condemn me, that thou mayest be righteous?

While we all tend to turn the grace and the sovereignty of God into lasciviousness to begin with, it is nevertheless a very central doctrine of scripture that God creates all good and all evil and that nothing that happens does so without His hand sending Satan to accomplish that event:

Gen 45:4  And Joseph said unto his brethren, Come near to me, I pray you. And they came near. And he said, I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt. 
Gen 45:5  Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life.
Gen 45:6  For these two years hath the famine been in the land: and yet there are five years, in the which there shall neither be earing nor harvest.
Gen 45:7  And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance.
Gen 45:8  So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.

Does God agree with Joseph? Yes, indeed He does:

Isa 45:6  That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else. 
Isa 45:7  I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things

God does not pass the buck on sin. He makes clear that sin and Satan are just tools in His hand, and Satan does and can do only what he is sent to accomplish:

Job 1:9  Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought?
Job 1:10  Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land.
Job 1:11  But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.
Job 1:12  And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD.

Satan did exactly what he was sent to do and not one thing more. He destroyed all Job had worked a lifetime to acquire, but he did not lay a finger upon Job’s body…

…until God sent him to do just that:

Job 2:4  And Satan answered the LORD, and said, Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life.
Job 2:5  But put forth thine hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face.
Job 2:6  And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life. 
Job 2:7  So went Satan forth from the presence of the LORD, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown.

Satan again does exactly what he is sent to do and not one thing more. Satan says, “Put forth your hand…” and God tells Satan “He is in your hand”. What does this tell a man of God? This is what it tells us:

Isa 63:17  O LORD, why hast thou made us to err from thy ways, and hardened our heart from thy fear? Return for thy servants’ sake, the [captivity of the] tribes of thine inheritance.

Eph 1:11  In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:

This agrees with what Joseph told his brothers about their sins against him in Gen 45:4-8, and it accords with what Paul tells us about sin in our lives in Rom 7:

Rom 7:17  Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 
Rom 7:18  For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.
Rom 7:19  For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
Rom 7:20  Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 
Rom 7:21  I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.
Rom 7:22  For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:
Rom 7:23  But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 
Rom 7:24  O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
Rom 7:25  I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

God is working all things, including all sin, “after the counsel of His own will”. He has deliberately given man an experience of evil, and has made us all to err from His ways, and hardened our hearts from His fear for the express purpose of humbling us and crushing the beastly flesh we all are and bringing us to see our desperate need for a Savior:

Psa 107:21  Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!
Psa 107:22  And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing.
Psa 107:23  They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters;
Psa 107:24  These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep.
Psa 107:25  For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. 
Psa 107:26  They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble.
Psa 107:27  They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits’ end.
Psa 107:28  Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses.
Psa 107:29  He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still.
Psa 107:30 Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven. 
Psa 107:31  Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!

Ecc 1:13 I applied my heart to inquiring and exploring by wisdom concerning all that is done under the heavens: it is an experience of evil Elohim has given to the sons of humanity to humble them by it. (CLV)

It is God who “commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves” that bring us all “to our wits’ end”, as He did with Job. Then He “turns [our] captivity” when we repent of our self-righteous sins, and we forgive and pray for those who have offended us. “Then are [we] glad because the [waves] be quiet; so he bringeth [us] unto [our] desired haven”. That is the meaning of “we were like them that dream.”

There are several other Biblical phrases which all mean the same thing. There is the phrase “return the captivity”:

Hos 6:11  Also, O Judah, he hath set an harvest for thee, when I returned the captivity of my people.

The phrases “bring again the captivity” and “return to their former estate” is all saying the same thing.

Eze 16:53  When I shall bring again their captivity, the captivity of Sodom and her daughters, and the captivity of Samaria and her daughters, then will I bring again the captivity of thy captives in the midst of them:
Eze 16:54  That thou mayest bear thine own shame, and mayest be confounded in all that thou hast done, in that thou art a comfort unto them.
Eze 16:55  When thy sisters, Sodom and her daughters, shall return to their former estate, and Samaria and her daughters shall return to their former estate, then thou and thy daughters shall return to your former estate. 

All of these examples, Job, Joseph’s brothers, Israel, Sodom, Samaria, and you and I, all come to know God, then we “lose [our] first love” because we are all “carnal… babes in Christ”. We all “fall from grace”, and only after we have been humbled and are able to confess our own self-righteousness and our own sins, are we capable of being used to show mercy to those whose unbelief have given us our faith:

Rom 11:30  For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: 
Rom 11:31  Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. 

What a wonderful blessing is given to those whose captivity God has returned! Just look at the rest of Psalm 126:

Psa 126:1  A Song of degrees. When the LORD turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream.
Psa 126:2  Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, The LORD hath done great things for them.
Psa 126:3  The LORD hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad.
Psa 126:4  Turn again our captivity, O LORD, as the streams in the south. 
Psa 126:5  They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. 
Psa 126:6  He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him. 

This is all repeated by our Lord in these words:

Mat 5:11  Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 
Mat 5:12  Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

I hope this helps you to understand how you can apply Psalm 126 in your life.

Your brother whose captivity is being returned,

Mike

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