Captivity is a word often used in the Bible. In historical contexts, it speaks of the many times Israel was captured by -or under the oppression of- its enemies. But captivity in the Bible also has a spiritual aspect. It is often used to describe any sorrow or trouble the believer wishes to be delivered from. These captivities include illnesses, epidemics, afflictions, trials, poverty, demonic temptations, sins. Many of these captivities affect all humans, not just believers. Not just good or bad people. Being oppressed is part of the troubles that humans have to deal with.
But for Christians, Jesus is the great Deliverer who "took captivity captive" by destroying the power of these captors. When he destroyed the power of the law by shedding his sacrificial blood for mankind on the cross, He also spiritually transported those who believe in Him. They are now new creatures who belong to a kingdom where the enemy cannot oppress us. And yet, even so, the believer still has to battle these oppressive giants in order to let all the blessings of this new kingdom prosper.
There are many passages which define the life of a believer as a war. There are passages about enemies, the whole armor of God, gaining territories, spiritual battles, not giving up the fight. And Jesus Christ is even referred to in several passages as the Captain of our Salvation, the one who sets His people free.
The Psalmist begins the psalm by talking about the surprise believers feel when they have suddenly been freed from some terrible captivity. They snare is suddenly broken and they are free. But being free from captivity now means one must occupy the land. So the war metaphor becomes a farming metaphor. Bible readers are aware of that metaphor as well, that in many ways warfare is farming.
Throughout the Bible the believer is asked to sow good deeds, to sow God's words, and to fight for a harvest. Metaphors such as watering the word with thanksgiving, breaking up one's fallow ground, and other such farming symbols imply that although the captivity is destroyed, the believer must now plant seed (as in the parable of the sower) in order to bring about a good harvest. For the believer, one must overcome the world by using God's word, which is the sword of the spirit.
The psalmist reminds us that "doubtless"...if we sow, we will reap. The captivity will be turned away. Harvest time, victory, and freedom from captivity will come.
1When the LORD turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream.
2Then 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.
3The LORD hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad.
4Turn again our captivity, O LORD, as the streams in the south.
5They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.
6He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.