David and James 4
I am going to use the NLT translation and start from verse 1.
I think you did well in combining Ps 51 with James 4:8-10, since:
- v. 2 is also applicable to David during the Bathsheba affair:
You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them.
- David was having laughter and joy with Bathsheba. When Nathan confronted him and the Lord was about to kill David's child, David realized his sin and his laughter turned to sorrow and deep grief (v. 9)
- David humbled himself before the Lord (v. 10a), pleading with the Lord not to take his child's life and asking God to purify his hearts (v. 9 and Ps 51:10) and the Lord blessed him with another child (Solomon) (v. 10b)
Three useful contrasts
At least 3 contrasts are highlighted here:
- God is far from the proud/wicked vs. God is near to the humble: Both OT and NT consistently use this analogy (Example: Prov 15:29 vs. Ps 145:18 and Col 1:21 vs. James 4:8).
- Friendship with the world vs. friendship with God: the contrast between the world and God is prevalent throughout the NT, most stark contrast in John 15:18-21, esp. v. 19:
The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you.
- Laughter/joy with the world vs. Tears/sorrow/grief/sadness/gloom with God: Although there is also joy with God (example: John 15:11), in the pericope we are studying, it is talking about laughter and joy from friendship with the world being contrasted with David's godly sorrow over his sin once he realized that his worldly laughter brought him far from God.
Why David was mourning with tears?
David is usually a man after God's heart. In the Psalm he exemplifies someone who is close to God and acts with Godly character. When he was pursued by Saul for years he seek God's help all the time, and he so thoroughly respected the office of the King that he refused to kill Saul given many opportunities and even killed the Amalekite who helped killed Saul at Saul's request (2 Sam 1:1-16). When he became king he was not embarrassed to show his excitement by dancing for God (wildly?) in public as the ark was brought to Jerusalem. He wanted to build a temple for God too. All the right attitudes for a man after God's heart.
We can easily imagine that blindness caused by worldly desires temporarily brought him FAR from God and he acted very wickedly. After Nathan confronted him, his conscience's eyes were opened, and he must have immediately seen the gravity of what he had done. The decades of memory of being CLOSE to God would surely flood into his consciousness now, and I think this is what brought him tremendous sorrow described in James 4:8-10, which naturally brought a lot of tears too.
Is godly mourning always required when repenting?
As we all know, the essence of repentance is suggested by the meaning of metanoia, a change of heart, a 180 degree turn from walking in the path of wickedness that makes one getting farther and farther from God into walking in the path of righteousness that makes one getting closer and closer to God. So in a sense, the tears are optional, but is very natural to accompany the regret of being deceived by the world and the wastefulness of lost opportunities, not to mention the hurt we caused our loved ones, including hurting God's heart!
So, following David's example, there is this natural sequence:
- the worldly joy & laughter following our friendship with the world, which increases our pride (thumbing our nose at God's standard)
- awareness that the world deceived us and that we are far from God
- the decision to turn back (repentance)
- the flood of sorrow caused by recognizing the hurt we caused our loved ones and God
- the natural humbling of ourselves as we walk back towards getting closer to God
- the healing of God's forgiveness
Tears and sorrows over sin are not necessarily a precondition of repentance (step 3). It can accompany awareness (step 2) and can help our resolve for repentance (step 3). But tears and sorrows more naturally follows repentance (step 4) as we humbly and daily "undo" the effects of sin (dying to self, step 5) until our heart is cleansed (step 6).
In James 4:4-10, I think
- friendship with the world (step 1) and its consequences (enemy of God) is implied in verse 4.
- awareness of a better way (step 2) by being faithful with God is implied in verses 5-6, with solution in verse 7.
- repentance (step 3) is implied in verse 8a ("Come close to God, and God will come close to you.") since repentance implies shortening the distance between us and God. As the prodigal son walks home ("Come close to God"), the father runs toward him ("God will come close to you").
- sorrows (step 4) is implied in v. 9
- humbling ourselves (step 5) is implied in v. 10a
- restoration of our status as adopted son / daughter of God (step 6) is implied in v. 10b.