“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 –
Commentary by Enduring Word
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you: The call to draw near to God is both an invitation and a promise. It is no good to submit to God’s authority and to resist the devil’s attack and then fail to draw near to God. We have it as a promise: God will draw near to us as we draw near to Him.
“When a soul sets out to seek God, God sets out to meet that soul; so that while we are drawing near to him, he is drawing near to us.” (Clarke)
What does it mean to draw near to God? Spurgeon considered a few ways:
· It means to draw near in worship, praise, and in prayer.
· It means to draw near by asking counsel of God.
· It means to draw near in enjoying communion with God.
· It means to draw near in the general course and tenor of your life.
In one way, this text illustrates the difference between the old covenant and the new covenant. In the old covenant, God told Moses to not come any closer to the burning bush and take off his shoes. Under the new covenant, God says to the sinner: “Draw near to Me and I will draw near to you.” Now the ground between God and the sinner has been sprinkled with the blood of Jesus, and we can come close to God on the basis of that blood.
This also shows what God wants to do for the sinner. It doesn’t say, “Draw near to God and He will save you” or “Draw near to God and He will forgive you,” though both of those are true. But what God really wants is to be near man; to have a close relationship and fellowship with the individual.
From the rest of the chapter we see the results of drawing near to God:
· Drawing near to God helps us to resist the devil.
· Drawing near to God helps us to become pure.
· Drawing near to God helps us to sorrow for sin.
· Drawing near to God helps us to speak well of other people.
· Drawing near to God helps us to think of eternal things.
Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! As we draw near to God, we will be convicted of our sin. So we lament and mourn and weep as appropriate under the conviction of sin, and we are compelled to find cleansing at the cross.
“The word used for sinner is hamartolos, which means the hardened sinner, the man whose sin is obvious and notorious.” (Barclay)
In using terms like lament and mourn and weep, “James speaks in terms of the Hebrew prophets’ language about the anguish of repentance.” (Moffatt)