`And 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: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and renounced God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually.' Job 1: 5.
What a beautiful picture of a man in whose heart the fear of God lives! He fears lest his children sin against God or forsake Him in their heart. He is so deeply conscious of the sin of their nature, that, even when he does not know of positive transgression, the very thought of their having been in circumstances of temptation makes him afraid. He so fully realizes his position and privilege as father, that he sends for them to sanctify them, and takes upon himself the continual offering of the needed sacrifice. Job is here another example, among Bible saints, of a servant of God in whom faith in God takes up the whole home in its intercession, and whose fear of God extends to the sin of the children too. God could hardly have said of him, `There is none like my servant Job in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil,' if this element of true piety had been wanting. The book might have been complete without it, as far as the record of Job's patience and faith is concerned, but we should have missed the so much needed lesson — a man's entire consecration to God implies the consecration of the home life too. Let us study the lesson his example teaches.
1. A deep sense of the sinfulness and the sins of his children is one of the marks of a godly parent. It is to conquer and free from sin that God entered into the parental covenant with Abraham. It was on account of sin, and to deliver from its cause, that the blood of the lamb was sprinkled in the Passover. It was to lead from sin to the service of God, that parents were constituted the instructors of their children. In all God's dealings with us in redemption and grace, in His revelation in Christ and His Cross, He has one object — to save us from sin, and make us partakers of His holiness. And if the parent is to be God's fellow-worker, if the authority God delegates to him is to be used aright, and the blessing promised to him is to come true, it can only be if God finds the parent in harmony with Himself, hating sin with a perfect hatred, and seeking, above everything, to keep or cast it out of his home.
And have we not all to confess how superficial our views of sin are? And how easily we often are satisfied, while, under the appearance of what is good and loving, sin may be lurking, or our children be growing up renouncing God in their hearts! And how sadly wanting we are in that deep sense of the grief and dishonor to God which our children's sin is, and which ought to be the motive that urges us most strongly to plead for its forgiveness and strive for its putting away! Let parents ask God to give them a right sense of what sin is in their children, in its curse, its dishonor to God, its power. And let us ask Him to work in us a very deep and very clear conviction that His great object in taking us into covenant as His ministers to the children, is that sin may be cast out of them. This is the one thing that He aims at, that the power of Christ's victory over sin may be seen in them, that we and they and our home may be holy to the Lord.
2. Very special watchfulness, where there is special temptation, will be the natural fruit of such fear of sin. Job knew that at a time of feasting there would be special danger, and as often as the days of feasting were past, he sent for his sons and sanctified them. What an impression these children must have received of the fear of sin in their God-fearing father, and how it would waken in them the need of watchfulness and the fear of forgetting God! Every thoughtful parent knows how there are times and places when the temptations of sin come more speedily, and more easily surprise even the well-disposed child. Such are the times, both before and after a child goes into the company and the circumstances where he may be tempted, that a praying father and mother should do what Job did when he sent for his sons and sanctified them. A Christian man, only lately converted, has told of the indelible impression made by his mother taking him into her room, just as he was in full glee to start on his first long journey from home, and praying with him that he might be kept from sin.
Let us ask God to make us very watchful and very wise in availing ourselves of opportunities. There are times when conscience in a child is especially sensitive, and a word fitly spoken will sink deep into the heart. There are times when conscience has been slighted, and when a word or prayer will help to waken it up and restore its authority. A parent who is in sympathy with God's purpose as to destroying sin, and who holds himself at God's disposal, will be guided from on high as to when and how to speak, to awaken and strengthen in the child the consciousness of sin and its danger.
3. A godly parent has power with God to intercede. Job not only sent for his children to speak — he sanctified them, through the burnt-offerings he offered. The parent who has in baptism accepted the sign of the sprinkling of he blood for his child, who has sprinkled the blood on the doorposts of his home, has a right to plead that blood with God. His faith obtains pardon for the child. And he has a right to intercede for the grace that can save and sanctify. We have, through the whole course of God's dealings with parents, from Noah downwards, seen that God gives the parent the right and the power to appear and act in behalf of the child, and that such representative action is accepted. To lay hold of this clearly, is the very essence of parental faith; to act upon it, the secret of parental power and blessing. The whole family constitution is based upon this; all the other influence a parent is to exert depends much on his being clear on this point: I am the steward of God's grace to the child; I represent the child with God, and am heard on his behalf. This makes him confident in saying, I represent God with my child; I have God's help to give me influence and power. I have overcome the power of my child's sin in pleading with God for him; I am sure of conquering it in pleading with my child.
Dear parents! let us plead very earnestly that God may by His Spirit enlighten our hearts to know this our calling — as parents to intercede and prevail for our children. We want the Holy Spirit so to shine upon God's purposes with us, that in our family life, and the intercourse with our children, the first thing shall be, not the happiness of parental love and intercourse, not the care for the providing all the good gifts they daily need; not the thought of their education for a life of prosperity and usefulness, but the yielding ourselves to God's redeeming love, to be every day the ministers of its grace and blessing. Let us live to secure God's purpose — the deliverance from sin; let us act in the assurance that He will use us. And our family life, even though there be still the remains of sin in the home, shall evermore be lighted up with God's own presence, and with the joy of the heavenly home, of which it is the nursery and the image.
Gracious God! I humbly ask You to print deep in my heart the lessons Your holy Word was given to teach. May Job, who has taught Your saints so much of patience in the hour of trial, and of Your wondrous grace in delivering from it, be to all parents a lesson and a model of the God-fearing parent.
Teach us, we pray You, how this marks the fear of God in its full power and extent, when it trembles at the sins of the children, and intercedes for them, as its own. Oh, teach us, Lord! to fear sin as the one thing Your soul hates, and to make it our one care that the children sin not.
Teach us to realize our God-given position as intercessors, and to plead the blood for them as definitely and as believingly as for ourselves. May we know in faith that we are heard.
And teach us so in prayer to bring them with us, so to speak and pray at the right time and way, that from us they may learn both the fear of God and the confidence of faith. O God! if we are indeed Your children, may this element distinctly mark our piety and our faith, that they embrace and influence our homes as much as ourselves, that they stamp home and family life: wholly the Lord's. Amen.