How often have we memorized verses such as Jms 4:7-8a “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.” Nice verses. Sweet ones.
But what about the next words in the same sentence? “…Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.”
Then we pick up the next verses, memorize it and quote it to others: “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”
But these verses are all together, not separated as would like them to be. We wonder if the writer had a schizophrenic moment and his other personality jumped right into the middle of these sweet verses and threw a dark shadow on them.
But the issue is the context. These are not just general, nice admonitions but from beginning to end these are a call to a serious repentance. God’s people were ‘adulterating’ themselves by mimicking the yearnings of the world. Yet God’s overflowing grace allowed that they could repent from this adultery and this is what repentance was to look like: “Submit yourselves, then, to God…resist the devil…come near to God…grieve, mourn and wail…humble yourselves before the Lord and he will life you up.”
These “nice” admonitions are given a powerful punch when placed in context. And that is probably where they best remain.