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 The Remedy to Worldliness: Part 4 - James 4:8

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PostSubject: The Remedy to Worldliness: Part 4 - James 4:8   The Remedy to Worldliness: Part 4 - James 4:8 EmptyWed Jul 23, 2008 9:13 am

The Remedy to Worldliness: Part 4 - James 4:8
Written by LaRosa Johnson
Wednesday, July 23, 2008

We are still in James 4:8 where we are taking a close look at the imperatives that are contained within. In our previous time together, we spent a good amount of time discussing what it means to "draw near" and walking through both the Old and New Testaments to get a comprehensive understanding of what that means. Our study today takes a look at the first half of the second sentence of verse 8, where James begins to discuss the matter of cleanliness. This is a very important matter for us to discuss and it is one that especially hits close to home with James' readers. If hearts and minds are ready, let us open the Word to James 4:8 and dive into the text.

Quote :
James 4:8 (NASB) - Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

"Cleanse your hands, you sinners." Our clause for today is just five words, but five words where you could very easily spend hours studying the details. The first three words in this sentence give us our imperative, "cleanse your hands;" while the remaining words serve as adjectives describing the recipients of this letter. The imperative is the word "cleanse" and comes from the Greek katharizo (Strong's #G2511). Used thirty times in the New Testament, katharizo generally carries with it the idea of cleansing, both physically and morally; this word is also used to refer to being ceremonially clean, which is important for us to note. What makes the idea of being ceremonially clean so important? Let us remember the audience that James has before him and all will become clear. James is writing this letter to a group of Jewish converts; in writing to Jews, being a Jew himself, James knew just how familiar his readers were with the Mosaic Law and the rituals and commands for being ceremonially clean and its importance in Jewish temple life, especially for the priests.

In order for us to have a proper understanding of what it means to "cleanse your hands," we're going to have to talk a walk through the Old Testament Scriptures, the only portion of God's Word available to James' readers. Part of the reason for our look at the Old Testament is because of the frequent use of katharizo in the Septuagint (LXX, the Greek translation of the Old Testament). Katharizo appears four times more (126 times) in the LXX than it does in the New Testament. With that as our basis, let's start with the institution of the Mosaic Law. Under the Mosaic Law, before a priest could approach God to offer any kind of sacrifice, he had to ceremonially wash his hands as a means of being acceptable in the sight of the Lord. One passage in particular that points this out is Exodus 30:19-21 where it speaks of the washing required for Aaron and his sons before they could enter the Tabernacle to offer sacrifices. The book of Leviticus is also a good resource for looking at the matter of cleansing, as it details all of the laws pertaining to sacrifice and the procedures that needed to be taken by the priests. It's also in this book that we find the ordination of Aaron and his sons as priests, which also included rituals of cleansing, as noted in our Exodus passage. Space does not allow for it here, but a thorough reading of Leviticus would be recommended as it will help you to see just how important ceremonial cleanliness was in the Mosaic Law and the steps required in order to be declared clean (healed, another minor use of katharizo; see: Matthew 8:2 & 10:Cool by the priests.

Elsewhere in the Old Testament, such as in the prophets and the psalms, we see katharizo taking on the aspect of being cleansed from sin or turning away from it. In Psalm 19:12, a psalm of David, katharizo (in the LXX) is translated as "acquit" in the English, and is derived from the Hebrew naqah (Strong's #H5352), and means to be clear, clean, or innocent. It is here that we see David seeking the Lord to cleanse him of any sins that he does not know about so that it will not rule over him. This is the same kind of ruling over that we saw in the James 4:1-4 where they were giving themselves over to their worldly desires. Instead of plunging in, we see David pleading with the Lord to keep him from sin and to also forgive sins that he has already committed. This is the kind of attitude that James is desiring for his readers to have in response to their sinful ways; he wants for them to repent and be cleansed of their sins. Other examples that we find in the Psalms include: 18:20; 24:4; 26:6; 51:2, 7; and 73:13. As I said, this is also seen in the prophets in texts such as: Isaiah 1:15, 16; Jeremiah 13:27; 40:8; Ezekiel 36:25, 33; 37:23; and Hosea 8:5 to name a handful. Now, most of these do not directly apply to us as present day believers, but the principle of being cleansed from sin still remains true today and is one that we need to be keenly aware of.

Now, the one thing that we have to remember in all of this is that cleansing and sacrifice in under the Mosaic Law was only a covering for sin, not a cleansing. Total cleansing only came through the atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross. It is passages such as 1 Peter 3:21 that make this fact perfectly clear for us when it says, "Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you--not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience--through the resurrection of Jesus Christ." We see here that it is not mere physical cleansing that saves us, as the Pharisees thought (Matthew 23:25; Mark 7:3), but it is through the spiritual cleansing of sin that comes from Jesus Christ (1 John 1:7). That is the point that needs to be made here with this imperative; we need to be reminded that we are sinners ("you sinners") in need of Christ's cleansing. This is not to say that we need salvation cleansing when we sin, as that cannot be removed (Romans 8:38, 39), but we do need the daily cleansing of sin that keeps us in fellowship with Him and His Spirit (1 John 1:6-9). This is the cleansing that James speaks of, since he is speaking to believers; they need to cleanse themselves of sin, through repentance, and return to fellowship.

As we can see, in closing, the concept of cleansing one's hands is a very important one derived from the Mosaic Law and it was something that James' readers would have been all too familiar with. In reading those words, they immediately recognized that they needed to be cleansed in the sight of God. Much of the Old Testament bears out this principle for us, and we can see it carried over very clearly in the work of Jesus Christ and the teaching of the apostles. For us, as present day believers, this needs to serve as our reminder to remain in a constant state of cleanliness before the Lord, repenting of sins immediately, so that we might remain in fellowship with Him. Our previous imperative told us to draw near to God, but that is a difficult thing to do when you are not walking in the light and keeping yourself clean. Rest assured, though, that we can come to God in confidence (Hebrews 4:16) knowing that He will forgive us our sins if we would just repent (1 John 1:9, again). Along with cleaning your hands, you also have to have a pure heart, and we will take a look at that next time. Until then, keep walking in the light!

devotion courtesy of Trailblazin Ministries

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The Remedy to Worldliness: Part 4 - James 4:8
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