We see in Job's history the workings of God in the soul in bringing it to Himself, and the exercises the heart passes through when learning itself in the presence of Satan and in the presence of God Himself.
"The Lord accepted Job." It does not say that the Lord accepted his acts, or his works, or anything connected with him; but that He accepted himself And that is just what we want. The moment our souls are really awakened to a sense of what God is and of what we are, we then want to know that we are accepted of God. Till that is known, we may try to bring our acts and our works to clothe ourselves with them; but when we have really come into God's presence, we clothe ourselves with nothing, and then we get the sense of the divine favour.
The converse of this is also true. We know that our works are unholy; and when our souls are truly awakened, we look at ourselves as being the spring of these unholy works; and thus we learn that in heart and spirit and nature we are far from God. Then I am grieved, not only for my sins, but because it is I who committed them. And this is a present thing. If I am looking at my works, I may put them off till the day of judgment; but for myself, personally, I cannot be satisfied without the sense of the present and immediate acceptance of God. I must know that I am at this moment standing in His favour.
It is not said that God accepted Job till the end of his trials. And what had his friends done for him during the sifting through which he was passing? Well might he say, "Miserable comforters are ye all." They had no true apprehension of God's character, and so were unable to understand His dealings with a soul. They had no proper sense of sin, and therefore knew not that, if God would deal in blessing with man, it must be entirely on the ground of grace. They did not know how to meet his case; and though they had said many true things, yet they had not said one single right thing in its application to Job, for they did not understand him.
Job had never really been brought into the presence of God. There had been a certain work in his soul, which produced fruits. But in chapter 29 we evidently see that he had been walking in the sense of blessings from God, and in a measure in the sense of the fruits of grace produced in his heart. He was resting in what he was to others, and not in the favour of God Himself. He owned God, it is true, and bowed under His hand; but notwithstanding he had never been truly in His presence, and consequently his heart had never been searched out. It was not a question of fruits, but a question of what he was. So God goes on dealing with job, till in the very thing in which Job was most famous he is brought to nothing. Job, the most patient man, curses the day of his birth. Why is this? Because we must be broken down - we must be brought to the sense of what we are, as well as of what we have done; and then God can deal with us out of His own heart. Thus God's dealings with us are intended to bring out really what we are before our own eyes in His presence, in the presence of that eye which looks on while we see what sinners we are. Thus God went on dealing with Job till Job was brought to say, "I am vile, I abhor myself."
31 In chapter 23, we see Job's confidence in God, and his desire for God, although the stroke was bitter. He said, "Oh! that I knew where I might find him!" He did not attempt to keep away from God. He had that kind of sense of what God was that he wanted to get to Him, "even to his seat." It is true he speaks of "ordering his cause before him"; but in chapter 9 where he is speaking of man being justified before God, he says, "If he contend with me, I cannot answer him one of a thousand"; and again, "If I justify myself, my own mouth shall condemn me," Here we find that Job was thinking of being in God's sight. There was not the wretched hypocritical attempt to keep away from God; there was the consciousness of having to do with God; and in heart he desired to get to Him, though his conscience kept him away. Thus there was much more truth in Job than in the see-saw truths of his friends; for conscience was in full exercise in him, and not at all in them.
There was also more grace in Job's heart now than when he was floating along in prosperous circumstances. It was, in truth, trying and miserable work; but still he was finding out what was in him. And what grace it is in God that He should take up a heart, and thus wring it out, that the soul might be brought, such as it is, into immediate dependence on Himself!
32 The sinfulness of Job was brought out, so that he could not say it was not there. The sinfulness of his heart was brought upon his conscience; it had come fully out; and a terrible thing that is. We know what it is to the unconverted man; it makes him reckless in iniquity. Let a man think that he has lost his character, and he will then run loose in wickedness. When a man comes to this, it thoroughly breaks him down. It is one thing for a man to lose his character with himself, but it is another and a very different thing to lose it with his neighbour. But when Job has lost his character, when it is entirely gone, then God comes in.
After all the sifting, Job is brought into God's presence, and then "Jehovah accepted Job." In God's presence his mouth is stopped; then he said, "I am vile"; "I will lay my hand on my mouth." But Job must be brought farther, because God is to bring him to Himself; he must be brought to confess not only that there is no good in him, but that there is a great deal of evil. And this he does, as in verse 3, "I have uttered that I understood not." For now it is not a question of condemnation but of sin. When the sinner has judged himself, the fear of condemnation has passed away. "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee: wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." Thus Job takes God's side against himself. He laid himself before God, and abhorred himself; and then he repents in dust and ashes; for it is only in the presence of God that we learn repentance. In its fullest sense true repentance is, when our sin is so thoroughly brought out that we are taking God's side of the question in judging ourselves, and in justifying Him. Then it is that He justifies us, and makes us accepted in the Beloved. Then it was that "Jehovah accepted Job." And blessed is the man whom the Lord accepteth. May we indeed feel the need of Him, and not rest in the hypocritical quiet of keeping out of His presence!