A Study in Wisdom:
Job 1:5-6 (pt. 3)
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[Here we continue a reprint of a small portion of Joseph Caryl’s study in Job. Mr. Caryl wrote twelve volumes on the book of Job. His study is a great example of how deep one can dig into the truths of the Bible.]
Job 1:5-6 (part 3) -
Job’s Offering, by Joseph Caryl
5And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning and offered burnt offerings, according to the number of them all. 6For Job said, “It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually.
Now follows the ground or the reason of this act of Job, both in sanctifying them and in offering sacrifices for them. For Job said, “It may be my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts” (vs. 5).
Holy duties must be grounded upon reason. There must be a reason why we pray, before we pray; we must see cause for it, and great cause too. To pray out of custom and formality, to offer sacrifice only because it is a day of sacrifice, is not praying nor sacrificing. Job had a special reason, “For Job said, ‘It may be my sons have sinned’” (vs. 6).
Let us examine the reason a little, “It may be my sons have sinned.” Why is it that it comes to Job that his sons have sinned? What kind of sons had Job? Surely they were more than men, that the Father is but at a question, whether his sons have sinned or not? Solomon after an “If” concerning sin, resolves it into a conclusion (see I Kings 8:46). Says Solomon, “if they sin against thee” (here he makes a supposition, but you see he goes not one step from it before he makes a direct assertion) “for there is no man that sins not”: and yet Job puts it with an uncorrected “If” or, “It may be my sons have sinned.”
For the opening of this: Without all question Job was fully and thoroughly studied in that point of the universal corruption of man; his disputing (as we shall see afterwards in this book) sufficiently evince it. “What is man” (says he) “that he should be perfect, or he that is born of a woman that he should be clean?” (Job 15:14). Here, by sinning then, we are to understand something more than ordinary sinning. To sin sometimes is put for common and daily infirmities, such as do inseparably and inevitably cleave unto us, such as considering the state and condition wherein we are, “having corrupt flesh and blood about us,” we cannot be freed from. As a man who in the morning washes his hands and goes abroad about his business and affairs in the world, though he doth not puddle in the mire or rake among dung-hills: yet when he returns home again to dinner or at night, if he avail, he finds that he has contracted some uncleanness, and that his hands are foul; we cannot converse in an unclean and dirty world with our bodies, but some uncleanness will fasten upon them. So it is with the soul, the souls of the best, of the purest, of the holiest, though they do not rake in the dung-hill, and wallow in the mire of sin basely and filthily, yet they do from day to day, yea from moment to moment contract some filth and uncleanness. And in this sense it is that “there is no man that lives and sins not”. Every man has a fountain of uncleanness in him, and there will be ever some sin, some filthiness bubbling and boiling up, if not flowing forth.
Secondly, to sin is put for some special act of sin, that which in Scripture is called a fall: “If any man be overtaken with a fault, you that are spiritual shall restore him” (Gal. 6:1). And in this sense the Apostle John says (which is a clear answer to this doubt, and does open the term) “I write to you little children, that you sin not” (I John 1:1). He did not write to them an impossible thing; he wrote to them about that which in a Gospel sense, they might attain to.
There are three degrees of sinning:
1. There is one kind of sinning, which is called a daily infirmity, which the Saints of God, the best in this life are not freed from.
2. There is another kind of sinning, which is to sin willfully and with pure delight; and thus, “he that is born of God cannot sin” (I John 3:9).
3. There is another kind of sinning, which is called falling into sin, or the falls of the Saints, and sometimes we know they have fallen into great and scandalous sins. In this sense it is that the Apostle says: “Little children I write to you that you sin not” (I John 2:1). That is, though you have daily infirmities, yet take heed of scandalous sinnings.
So here in the Text, where it is said, “It may be my sons have sinned,” it is not meant either in the first or second sense; it is not meant as if he thought his sons were without infirmities, nor is it meant that he did suspect them of those sins (which are indeed incompatible with the state of grace) sins of perfect willfulness and of malice or the like: but it is of those sins in the middle sort. It may be my sons have sinned, that is, have sinned so as to provoke God and scandalize men in this their feasting, in their meeting together.
We may note from that first:
He that lives without gross sins, in a Gospel sense, lives without sin.
To be without great and gross sin is our holiness upon earth, to be without any sin, is the holiness of Heaven. He that lives without fault (as it is said of Zachary and Elizabeth, that they lived blamelessly) in Gospel account, is said to live without any sin at all.
Another point we may collect from this, “It may be my sons have sinned.” Certainly then Job’s sons were godly. If Job be at a question whether they have sinned, they were godly without question.
When a man lives so, that he leaves only a suspicion that he has sinned, we may be at a conclusion that he is sanctified. For other persons can do nothing else, but sin, even in holy actions, much more in civil or natural.
Again, “It may be my sons have sinned”, it was a suspicion in Job concerning his children. Hence observe,
It is no breach of charity to suspect ill of others, while we intend their good.
Indeed upon an “It may be…”, upon a peradventure to accuse and charge another, is very uncharitable; but upon a peradventure, or an “It may be…”, such a one, my child, or my friend, or my brother has sinned, to be put to pray for him, this is very charitable. A good heart turns its suspicions of others sinnings and failings into prayers and intercessions, that they may be pardoned; not into accusations and slanders, that they may be defamed. The use which Job made here of his suspicion of his sons sinning was to turn it into prayer and supplication for the pardon of their sin.
One thing further from this, “It may be my sons have sinned…”. Job knew of no evil that his sons had committed; he had no report that we read of that his sons had behaved themselves unseemly in their meetings and feastings; he only doubts, he only is jealous and afraid that they had: yet at this time he prays and sacrifices and labors a reconcilement for them. Note from hence,
A suspicion that we ourselves or others have sinned against God, is ground enough for us to seek a reconcilement for ourselves or others with God.
If you that are tender parents have but a suspicion, if there be but an, “It may be…”, that your child has the plague or taken the infection, will it not be ground enough for you to go presently and give your child a good medicine? If anyone of you have but a suspicion, that either yourselves or your friends have taken poison, though you be not certain of it, will it not be ground enough for you to take or to give an antidote presently. Sin is as a plague, it is as a poison, therefore while you have but a suspicion, either of yourselves or of others, that you have sinned or failed thus or thus; here is ground enough for you to take an antidote, to take a preservative, to seek all the means you can to heal your souls and to make your peace with God.
And if Job prayed thus, when he only suspected his sons had sinned: what shall we say of those parents, who are little troubled, when they see and know their sons have sinned.
It is safest to repent even of those sins we only fear we have committed: for then we shall be sure to repent of those we have committed. A scrupulous conscience grieves for what it suspects; a feared conscience is not grieved for what it is certain either itself or others have done amiss.