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
There is a longing in our soul – A yearning that can only be satisfied by the nearness of God. In our sinful condition, that nearness is terror and judgement and certain death. But, oh, for the redeemed, it is life! It is the air we breathe! It is the light that vanquishes the darkness within us. God desires intimacy with us. He created us for fellowship. He calls to us… “draw near to me.” But he warns us “cleans your hands!” For God is a consuming fire. He is holy. We are living in a time when you are warned everywhere to “wash your hands” to avoid the spread of the virus plaguing the world. But there is a much deadlier virus that has infected every single one of us – sin. James calls us what we are… sinners. Throughout Judaism, the practice of handwashing is required. There is ritual handwashing before eating, before worshiping, before prayer, before reading Torah. There is a constant awareness of our sinfulness and God’s righteousness. James reaffirms that mindset here. He establishes God’s desire to be near to us and our need to be near to Him. And he reminds us immediately of the “otherness” of God. He is holy – we are sinful. But this hand cleansing is not ritual – it is not a dead religious tradition. It is the cleansing that Jesus speaks of in Matthew 15:1-9 when the pharisees rebuke him for failing to go through the outward ritual hand washing. He explains that true cleanness of hands consists in abstinence from the evil that defiles… that comes from within. And Psalm 24:4 “The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god.” And 1 Timothy 2:8 “I want men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing.” James goes on to warn us to “purify our hearts.” This purifying implies chastity or fidelity of heart… You shall love the Lord your God with ALL YOUR HEART. You might liken it to a husband or wife’s heart that has been compromised… we must always guard our heart. Likewise, God will not share us – He wants all of our heart. And finally, to be double-minded literally means to be divided in interest. Actually, he doesn’t warn us “not to be” double-minded – he just calls us double-minded. Because the fact is – we are. That is the whole reason we have to be wooed back to “draw near to God.” Because we lose our way. We get distracted. We allow other interests to pull us away.
Are you feeling dried up inside? Are you longing for peace and joy? Are you lonely? Are you afraid? Is your mind reeling from the confusion all around you? God wants to comfort you. He wants to be near you. He is calling to you… can you hear Him? He is saying “come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” So, wash your hands, purify your heart, and recognize your double-mindedness. Let go of any and all hurt, forgive every single person who has ever wronged you. And give God ALL of your heart. As you do, draw near to Him. He is waiting. He loves you.