Living for the Glory of God ~ Vivir para la Gloria de Dios

Draw Nearer to God (James 4:8) ~ A Daily Devotion for February 20, 2014

“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” ~ James 4:8

Explanation of the Text: In today’s text we find commands 3-5 in the list of 10. The first is to draw near to God, with the indication that in doing so, He will also draw near to you. In resisting the devil in verse 7, James says to draw near to God. Since the beginning of creation, God desired relationship with His people. To draw near to God is to have an intimate relationship with Him. In counseling his son, David tells Solomon, “…know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you…” (1 Chronicles 28:9-10). “Drawing near to God was in the Old Testament a general expression for the one who sincerely approached God in penitence and humility.”[1] It begins with sincerity. A sincere desire, a sincere heart attitude to have fellowship with God. In verse 6, readers of James’ letter learn the need for humility, and it is this humility that leads to submission to God, eventually leading to a relationship (drawing near) with Him. If one is truly submitting to God, there will be a desire to know God, to mature in relationship with Him, and have ongoing, continuous fellowship together. Relationship requires that one be intentional. With God, it means being intentional in spending time to get to know the other person. It means being intentional in conforming to Christlike character. It means being intentional in submission to His will on a continuous basis. The word for draw near (ἐγγίζω) is also found in the LXX, often referring to the priests and the responsibilities they had on behalf of the people in the Tabernacle. It is also found in Isaiah 29:13, in which it is said the people draw near (ἐγγίζω) with their mouths, but their hearts are still far from God. In salvation, there should be a longing to know the savior in one’s life. It seems extraordinary that a person would seek salvation from God without wanting to know this very man who provided for salvation. Therefore, this following of Christ is knowing Him (John 10:14).

Previously, it has been established that wisdom is Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:30; See also notes from James 3:13-18). In the context of wisdom, Proverbs 8:17 notes that those “who seek me (wisdom) diligently will find me.” Wisdom is not hidden. Instead wisdom cries out in the streets (Proverbs 1:20-21). Likewise in Deuteronomy 4:29, Moses tells the people that they will seek God and find him. Therefore, have heart to know that if you seek God, he will be found. If you draw near to Him, He will draw near to you as James says. Relationship requires two people, and it can be trusted that God will always keep his part in the relationship.

Commands four and five go together, in which James says cleanse your hands you sinners and purify your hearts you double-minded. As the concept of drawing near to God came from the priesthood of the Old Testament, so does the idea of cleaning one’s hands. Because of the sin that dirties a person, this washing was performed so that the priest could enter the Tabernacle being cleaned from their impurities (Exodus 30:18-21). However, it should be noted that this was only ceremonial, but still instructed by God. The concept of clean hands as a representation for being holy can be found in Scripture throughout (Psalm 18, Isaiah 1, 1 Timothy 2). However, man cannot atone for unclean hands. Man cannot make himself holy. That requires the work of Jesus Christ. Therefore, the only way in which one can be cleansed is through a relationship with Jesus Christ, which comes from submitting to Him in humility (James 4:6-7).

The same concept manifested through cleansed hands comes out more directly in the related command to purify your heart. Again, true cleanliness, true purity does not happen apart from a relationship to Jesus Christ through His means of salvation. “In calling people to purify their hearts, James calls them to remove everything from their thoughts and actions that show them not single-mindedly pursuing God and His will in the world.”[2] The idea of being pure is found in being single-minded, focused on the things of God, rather than being double-minded, and thus divided between the things of God and the things of the world. Those who are double-minded try to be ones who are committed to both ways, to both good and evil.[3]

Examination & Application of the Text: To draw near to God requires a culmination of the teachings that James has instructed in this text, with each building off of the last. In humility, submit to God and draw near to Him. To draw near to God requires a drawing away from the world. It is a call to deny self and find life in the one who gives life. It is God who initiates this (Romans 8:28-29; Ephesians 2:8-9) and he has made the path easy to heed His call by relying solely on Him. However, this requires us to get rid of our own strength and our own will of doing things, and put complete trust in Him to carry us through. H.D.M. Spence notes that this path is the easiest of all, because not only has God initiated the call, but He also meets us half-way,[4] so that we do not bear the heavy burdens, but that they have already been borne for us. Therefore, draw near to God today, not in your own strength, but through the provision of God, trusting that He will also draw nearer to you.

[1] John F. MacArthur Jr., James, MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1998), 206.

[2] Craig L. Blomberg & Mariam J. Kamell, James, Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008), 194-195.

[3] Peter H. Davids, The Epistle of James: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982), 167.

[4] H.D.M. Spence-Jones, James, The Pulpit Commentary (New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909), 58.

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