“Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.”
“James wants to so fire the souls of his people that they will swim triumphantly in the river of grace. May it be so for us as well! James’ opening command grates like fingernails across the chalkboard of contemporary culture: ‘Submit yourselves, then, to God.’” –R.K. Hughes
Rather than following the whims of lust and selfishness, the humble, grace-dependent Christian is to give himself in totality to the service and glory of God. Such self-submission is the mark of humility and the supreme Christian responsibility. “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6,7).
James 4:7a: “Therefore submit to God.”
Why did James use the word “therefore?” Because only the humble receive the grace of God. We must drop our pride, arrogance and haughtiness. To be a partaker of God's grace we must daily choose to submit, to surrender our will, our desires, to God's will, which is good and acceptable and perfect. Only the lowly person, the humble man or woman will willingly surrender his or her rights to God. Pride ever fights against surrendering!
The Greek word for submit is huppotasso, meaning, to place under, be subject to. It is a deliberate act of placing of oneself under the control of another. This word also implies that the one who is subordinate is ready and willing to obey his or her superior's commands.
“The act of yielding to power or authority; surrender of the person and power to the control or government of another...a yielding of one’s will to the will or appointment of a superior without murmuring. Entire and cheerful submission to the will of God is a Christian duty of prime excellence.” –1828 Webster’s Dictionary
“Submission to God is an emptying of self-sufficiency. Humility offends the devil because it betrays his original sin – pride. The foundation of victory in the Christian life lies at submitting to the ultimate authority of God over our lives. There is no Christian liberty without that premise. Capacity to live the Christian life means that we have capacity for God. It rests on a volition that submits to God’s system of values as ultimate.” –Richison
Verse 7b: “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”
Before we can stand before Satan, we must bow before God. This is the other side of the basic demand to submit. Submit first, then resist! “Resist” means to defend oneself against the devil not to attack him. On the other hand to cower before the devil is to invite sure defeat.
Believers do not fear the devil. He is a defeated foe, and has only as much power against us as we allow him to have. 1 John 4:4, “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”
The devil is far more intelligent and powerful than we are, so we cannot resist him in the strength of the flesh. Our example in combating Satan is the Lord Jesus who defeated the devil's temptations by citing appropriate passages from God's Word.
Ephesians 6:11-14 NLT, “Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness.”
The Greek word for “resist” is anthistemi meaning to arrange in a battle which pictures a face to face confrontation, to resist effectively! Don't put this off. Don't delay. It even conveys a sense of urgency! It was used to refer to an army arranging in battle against the enemy force. It means to set one's self against, to stand firm against, to oppose, to resist by actively opposing pressure or power, or to withstand, to be opposed with a firm determination. –preceptaustin.org
Verse 8a: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”
“Draw near to God” by entering His courts with prayer, praise and thanksgiving, by spending time with Him in His Word, and by spending time with Him in corporate worship. “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.” (Psalm 100:4). But James doesn’t mean that one hour of Sunday worship is the same as to “draw near.” To be sure, worship on Sunday can be a special time of drawing near to God, but the practice of drawing near needs to saturate, and permeate our lives throughout the week. If we only draw near to worship God on Sunday, we are not really drawing near, but only making an occasional visit. Isaiah 29:13 NLT, “Isaiah 29:13, “And so the Lord says, ‘These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. And their worship of me is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote.”
In context, “friendship with the world” (James 4:4) results in straying from God. James warns about being “double minded,” (James 1:8). Jesus' warns that “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24). James is saying, as recipients of great grace, we must counter the anti-God influences of this world, and even our own fallen flesh, and draw near to God.
There is a place of quiet rest, near to the heart of God;
A place where sin cannot molest, near to the heart of God.
There is a place of comfort sweet, near to the heart of God;
A place where we our Savior meet, near to the heart of God.
There is a place of full release, near to the heart of God;
A place where all is joy and peace, near to the heart of God.
O Jesus, blest Redeemer, sent from the heart of God;
Hold us, who wait before Thee, near to the heart of God.
–Cleland B. McAfee, 1903–
“I withdrew to my usual place of retirement, in great tranquility. I knew only to breathe out my desire for a perfect conformity to Him in all things. God was so precious that the world with all its enjoyments seemed infinitely vile. I had no more desire for the favor of men than for pebbles. At noon I had the most ardent longings after God which I ever felt in my life. In my secret retirement, I could do nothing but tell my dear Lord in a sweet calmness that He knew I desired nothing but Him, nothing but holiness, that He had given me these desires and He only could give the thing desired. I never seemed to be so unhinged from myself, and to be so wholly devoted to God. My heart was swallowed up in God most of the day.” —David Brainerd, eighteenth-century missionary to the American Indians
The steps taken to “draw near to God” are extremely important. For example, Moses was instructed not to draw near until he took off his sandals. Exodus 3:5: “Then He said, “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.”
Listen to the narrative, “And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed. Then Moses said, ‘I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.’ So when the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, ‘Moses, Moses!’” Moses turned aside from the task at hand to see this uncommon phenomenon, and that was when the Lord spoke to him from the burning bush. Just seeing a burning bush without being consumed by the flame would have been a fantastic sight, but instead, Moses stopped what he was doing and turned aside and encountered God.
First and foremost, drawing near to a Holy God is not a common or casual thing. I have a problem with those who approach God in an unholy manner, for example, “The old man upstairs.” When we come into God’s presence it is with reverential awe. He is the Sovereign of the Universe.
Though the ground Moses stood on was common and just a spot in the wilderness that Moses had probably walked on many times before, this time something was different. This time God was there!
Don’t you suppose that Moses must have thought, “my feet will be burned on this hot desert sand?” But he obeyed the voice of God. And the common ground suddenly became uncommon, holy ground. All he had to do was simply remove the commonplace, his sandals, and step onto “holy ground” and “draw near to God.” Removing his sandals was just a picture of removing all of the mundane, common things of life for something better, the very presence of God. I stood worshiping at a Promise Keepers event in the Georgia Dome Arena in Atlanta, when our worship leader asked us to take off our shoes, what an experience, 20,000 men standing barefoot in the presence of God, singing and praising God. We were “drawing near to God.” And God was there!
Hebrews 10:22-23, “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.”
Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”
Psalm 63:1, “O God, You are my God; early will I seek You; my soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You…”
Psalm 73:28, “But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all thy works.”
Psalm 84:2,”My soul longs, yes, even faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.”
“The nearer we come to God, the more graciously will He reveal Himself to us. When the prodigal comes to his father, his father runs to meet him. When the wandering dove returns to the ark, Noah puts out his hand to pull her in unto him. When the tender wife seeks her husband’s society, he comes to her on wings of love. Come then, dear friend, let us draw nigh to God who so graciously awaits us, yea, comes to meet us. Did you ever notice that passage in Isaiah 58:9? There the Lord seems to put Himself at the disposal of His people, saying to them, ‘Here I am,’ as much as to say: ‘What have you to say to me? What can I do for you? I am waiting to bless you.’ How can we hesitate to draw near? God is nigh to forgive, to bless, to comfort, to help, to quicken, to deliver. Let it be the main point with us to get near to God. This done, all is done. If we draw near to others, they may before long grow weary of us and leave us; but if we seek the Lord alone, no change will come over His mind, but He will continue to come nearer and yet nearer to us by fuller and more joyful fellowship.” –Spurgeon
Verse 8b: “Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts…”
James now calls for his readers to carry out a thorough moral, ethical, personal cleansing, for they had become stained with worldliness (James 1:27; 4:1-4) and only those pure in heart would be allowed to enter into the presence of God's holiness. Matthew 5:8, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
“Purify your hearts” speaks of the attitude and motives leading to the actions while “cleanse your hands” speaks of our actions. These two ethical/moral actions clean both the outside and the inside of the cup, bringing about both external and the internal cleansing. Jesus addressed the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, the “religious” people of His day: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matthew 23:25-28).
“Cleanse, purify” These two Greek verbs, katharizo and hagnizo are used in Scripture to indicate ritual cleansing, (a ceremonial cleansing for the priestly approach to God) but here James is obviously calling for far more than just going through the motions, as so often happens in religious rituals. James brings a moral connotation to denote a definite cleansing from the defilement of sin.
2 Corinthians 7:1, “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God..”
Psalm 24:3-5, “Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.”
Isaiah 1:17, “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, learn to do good…”
Verse 8c: “…you double-minded.”
“Double minded” (James 1:8) literally describes one who has two minds or one who is two-spirited. “In context it is the sin of being two-faced with God, of wavering inconsistency.” –Motyer
James sharply reproves those readers who had divided affections, on one side longing for the things of the world, while all the while trying to hold on to God! This spiritual schizophrenia is exactly what Jesus had warned against in Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.” Speaking on behalf of the Holy One of Israel, James is saying that God demands not only undivided affection (a single minded heart) but undefiled conduct (clean hands).
Verse 9a: “Lament and mourn and weep!” “Be miserable and mourn and weep…” (NASB).
“Lament and mourn and weep.” These three commands are added to “cleanse and purify” which call for decisive, obvious, and perhaps even public acts of contrition reflective of genuine repentance.
“Lament” to be afflicted, sorrowful, or wretched. It speaks of the emotions that emanate from torment, whether external or internal. In the present context it describes the expression of a person's grief and sense of brokenness. James commands them to “suffer misery, be sorrowful, be devastated, feel afflicted and miserable" over their sins.
Mourn” is grief and sorrow caused by profound loss, and is often associated with death or great tragedy. It is like funeral grief which is not a bad thought considering the fact that sin kills our fellowship with God! This is a grief so deep and so profound that it simply cannot be contained nor concealed. (as would or should occur as an outward manifestation of James' readers sense of wretchedness!)
The Greek word for “weep” is, klaio, meaning to cry with loud or audible weeping. It expresses mourning and sorrow of all kinds. The picture is a person who laments with sobbing. There is shedding of tears accompanied by external expression, wailing over the dead: “A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted, because they are no more” (Matthew 2:18). “So Jacob tore his clothes, and put sackcloth on his loins and mourned for his son many days” (Genesis 37:34). An outflow of tears is a healthy sign that one is broken over their sin.
“Sin must have tears. While we carry the fire of sin about with us—we must carry the water of tears to quench it! 'They are not blessed' (says Chrysostom) 'who mourn for the dead—but rather those who mourn for sin.' And indeed it is with good reason we mourn for sin, if we consider the guilt of sin, which binds over to wrath. Will not a guilty person weep, who is to be bound over to the penalty? Every sinner is to be tried for his life and is sure to be cast away—if sovereign mercy does not become an advocate for him.” –Thomas Watson, 1620–1686
How long has it been since you wept over something important? We weep over movies and television shows, but fail to weep over our sin. The condition of our world today should bring tears. The condition of broken homes, marriages, and lives should bring tears. The straying of our children into immoral lifestyles is a crying matter. If we will just begin to weep over our own sin, then it will bring a capacity to weep over important things!
It isn't good to brood about our sins nor to lament constantly over our shortcomings. But neither should we take them too lightly. To disobey the moral law of a holy God is a serious thing. Although as Christians we bask in the warm glow of divine forgiveness, we must never minimize the awful reality of sin.
Verse 9b: “Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.”
“James is not condemning legitimate laughter or joy but rather the flippant, trivial, worldly, self-centered, sensual kinds that unbelievers revel in, despite, and often because of, their sinful pleasures. It corresponds to Jesus’ warning: ‘Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep’ (Luke 6:25), and is the opposite of a beatitude given a few verses earlier that is recorded only in Luke: “Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh” (Luke 6:21). In both verses Jesus used a verb form of the noun that in the present text is rendered laughter.” –John MacArthur
“Laughter is sometimes desirable (Psalm 126:2), but not when it reflects worldly frivolity.” –Ryrie
My thoughts go to the children of Israel in Babylonian captivity. In Psalm 137:1-4, “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept when we remembered Zion. We hung our harps upon the willows in the midst of it. For there those who carried us away captive asked of us a song, and those who plundered us requested mirth, saying, ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’ How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?”
Please allow me to spiritualize and sermonize a bit here! God’s people were in captivity, out of their comfortable environment. They were living in a place where they did not fit in! So they wept, they mourned and they lamented over their condition. They could not laugh, nor sing any of their familiar songs.
How like people living in sin. They are miserable! In fact God’s people living in the foreign land of sin are far more miserable than those who are not God’s children, because the unsaved do not know any better. Jonathan Edwards, the great American pastor and theologian from the 1700’s, said that as a Christian, “I have had a vastly greater sense of my own wickedness and the badness of my heart than ever I had before my conversion.”
How can you sing God’s music in the foreign land of sin? How can you praise Him in the foreign land of anxiety, depression, worries, doubts, fears, anger, gossip, pride, bragging, fighting, flattery, lust, immorality and pornography, of which are sin. When God’s children are in sin it is outside of their comfort zone! So they avoid church and any of God’s people who might remind them of their sin.
The Lord wants us to mourn our sin,
To grieve what brings Him pain;
And if the sorrow changes us,
Our tears won't be in vain
Unless otherwise noted, the New King James Version of the Bible was used. Also The New Living Translation (NLT); The New American Standard Bible (NASB); The Message (MSG); The New Century Version (NCV); The Amplified Bible (AMP); The King James Ver
sion (KJV), The New Life Version (NLV); English Standard Version (ESV); J.B. Phillips New Testament; Easy to Read Version (ERV); Common English bible (CEB); NET Bible (NET) and The Living Bible (TLB). Contemporary English Version (CEV).