Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double minded.
The heart is naturally at enmity with God. Hence humility is the first of Christian virtues: not that God wishes to see us debased, but that self-abasement is in accordance with the truth of our character, and is the way to exaltation. To use a very rude metaphor, just as a man cannot go up another hill till he has gone down the one on which he happens to be, so a soul cannot be exalted in God until it has thoroughly come down from self. And what is that exaltation which God accomplishes for the soul? It must be the only true and permanent exaltation. Exaltation in Satan's kingdom must be debasement, for it is exaltation in sin, and sin depresses and debases. The exaltation, then, in this case must be an illusion. The true exaltation must be in the truth. It must be in the region where God dwells. It must be in righteousness and holiness. Such an exaltation implies satisfaction and joy. It also implies its own continuance, because of its Divine character. It is man's finality in the kingdom of God as contrasted with his finality in the kingdom of Satan. There is one phrase especially in our text on which we desire to lay stress: "In the sight of the Lord." Our humility is to be wrought in His sight. This implies, in the first place —
1. That the humility is not a humbling of ourselves before our fellow-men. The abjectness and servility of one man to another are not pleasing to God. If we injure our fellow-man, we are to take the attitude of penitence before him. But, this exceptional case aside, no man is to humble himself before his fellow-man.
2. The believer's humility is therefore, in the second place, a true humility. It will not do to present to God the outward prostration for the inward repentance, the words of humility for the self-renunciation of the heart. A true humility is alive, and bears fruit in a new and holy life. A true humility sees the truth regarding itself, that the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked, and cries out for God. The man abandons self for God. He abhors self, and finds a refuge in Jesus Christ, who is made unto him wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption. This is the glorious "lifting up" which always accompanies a true humility. "What!" says an objector, "is that a true humility which is humble in order to be exalted?" Yes, it is. It would not be if the exaltation were to be in the line of the humility; that is, if the man was to be exalted in the very pride from which he humbles himself. But when the man is to be exalted by the Divine grace and the Divine Spirit, that is a true humility which foresees this exaltation, and acts in view of it. It is not a humility of despair, but of faith. It know its own worthlessness, but it knows also the Lord's grace.
3. The believer's humility, being in the sight of the Lord, implies a life in the sight of the Lord. He sees Him who is invisible, and his motives come from that source, so invisible to the world. The Lord's light shines on him, and that light reveals sin in the heart. He is never found justifying himself, or flattering himself with human purity and excellence. His comfort comes from no such proud and false source, but from resting his evil heart on the pardoning and cleansing love of his Redeemer. And in that love he finds a true holiness springing up in his soul.
4. The believer's humility implies a life of prayer. We cannot see God without praying to Him as the source of pardon and holiness, the only guardian and guide of the soul.
(H. Crosby, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.