Submit yourselves therefore 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. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
This morning was the final session of the James Bible study. I’ve been facilitating it for the past 16 weeks, with one group meeting on Tuesday evening and the other on Wednesday morning. Today’s passage is the only other “joy” one in the book of James, and it’s one of the tough ones.
As I read the words, I can hear Beth Moore’s voice from the video reading them aloud. It’s especially difficult to read a verse where we are instructed to turn our laughter into mourning and our joy into gloom, especially knowing that God’s Word also says “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing” (Psalm 30:11). The key is in who is taking the action – God is the one who turns our mourning into dancing. We, on the other hand, are called to repentance. In the context of the whole paragraph, it is clear that this is a call to repentance, not unlike Lamentations 5:15-16 –
The joy of our hearts has ceased;
our dancing has been turned to mourning.
The crown has fallen from our head;
woe to us, for we have sinned!
James is a tough book of the Bible – there’s a lot of law in it. But James was Jewish to the core, and much of what he wrote echoes the Old Testament and his older brother, Jesus. Not surprising that James would sound so much like our Lord, really.
Farewell for now, James. I plan to come back to study you again, because it’s been an amazing journey to dig into your life and your writing.