Be Submitted, and He Will Exalt You

Exploring the Book of Ya’aqov, Pt. 18

Be submitted, then, to God; stand up against the Accuser, 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 two-minded ones! Be exceedingly afflicted, and mourn, and weep; let your laughter be turned to mourning, and the joy to heaviness. Be made low before the Master, and He will exalt you. (יַעֲקֹב Ya’aqov 4:7-10, mjlt)

The influence of the Accuser is invasive. Given the opportunity, it uncoils within us—tempting, misleading, scheming and lying its way deep into our lives. That ancient serpent, who has the power of death, is able to gain access to us through our “hostility with God” and our complicit “friendship” with the world (יַעֲקֹב Ya’aqov 4:4-6). We are scarcely aware that the world’s wooing is, in fact, such a violent assault on our souls. In the course of being so passionately pursued, we grow in pride and distance from God, being swept away not so much by an attack of the enemy as by our own failure to mount a defense. The Adversary’s endgame is our destruction, accomplished through the contamination of our hearts and minds; the remedy is to actively ward off his advances, accomplished only through our humility.

“Be submitted, then, to God,” is a straightforward resolution, yet for too many of us, this is easier said than done. Since we have created a two-front war for ourselves—between our love for the world and our enmity with the Maker—we must seek restoration to God while simultaneously stopping the Adversary’s forward progress. For that, we need only to “stand up against the Accuser,” and at the authority of our resistance, “he will flee from [us].”

Our tendency, however, is to either shrink from this advice, or to receive it as a call to arms. We either disbelieve in the necessity to do something about it, or we let fly all manner of fiery, spiritual warfare. Yet overcoming this snake calls for neither cowardice nor combat, but rather the unorthodox tactic of self-abasement.

Without fear or presumption, the reversal of our condition begins when we humbly “draw near to God.” By taking that first step and reinitiating contact with Him, we demonstrate our grief and regret at ever having conspired with the enemy. God sees our contriteness of heart through the integrity of our actions—it softens His hostility, and restores His trust toward us—and once again He begins to extend His protection. In our drawing near to Him, “He,” in turn, “will draw near to you.”

Now, in the presence of His holiness, we take responsibility for our defilement: “Cleanse your hands, you sinners! and purify your hearts, you two-minded ones!” Acknowledging that we have been sinners—having held both the foul and forbidden—we offer up our filthy hands in helplessness and surrender, bathing them in the waters of humility and forgiveness. Our hearts, however, have been hard—the loyalty of our minds, divided—so we must will-lessly choose full immersion in the pools of submission. Cleansed and purified, our soul is laid bare, as the remnants of the world are washed away in the purging showers of obedience.

“Be exceedingly afflicted, and mourn, and weep”—there is nothing left of us now. “Let your laughter be turned to mourning, and the joy to heaviness”—we must bear the weight of our consequences. Realizing not only the depth of our past compromise, but the hurt and sadness our unfaithfulness has inflicted upon God, we lay ourselves down to make restitution for our actions, putting upon ourselves the same affliction we caused Him. “Be made low before the Master,” let Him rise to fill your self-oppression, and then—near, cleansed and humbled—“He will exalt you.”

When we have truly faced our betrayal of God and been restored to His presence, no longer must we listen to the Accuser’s accusations. Our past sins are gone, our guilt washed away, and the influence of the Accuser holds no sway. Return to God, and He will receive you; admit what you have done, and the Accuser will turn and run. Lower yourself before the Master… and then let Him raise you up in the glory of your submission.

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