*Minor differences ignored. Grouped by changes, with first version listed as example.
Humble yourselves, or, be ye humbled. The conclusion of what is gone before is, that the grace of God then be ready to raise us up when he sees that our proud spirits are laid aside. We emulate and envy, because we desire to be eminent. This is a way wholly unreasonable, for it is God's peculiar work to raise up the lowly, and especially those who willingly humble themselves. Whosoever, then, seeks a firm elevation, let him be cast down under a sense of his own infirmity, and think humbly of himself. Augustine well observes somewhere, As a tree must strike deep roots downwards, that it may grow upwards, so every one who has not his soul fixed deep in humility, exalts himself to his own ruin.
Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord - Compare Matthew 23:12. See the notes at James 4:6. That is, be willing to take your appropriate place in the dust on account of your transgressions. This is to be "in the sight of the Lord," or before him. Our sins have been committed against him; and their principal aggravation, whoever may have been wronged by them, and great as is their criminality in other respects, arises from that consideration. Psalm 51:4, "against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight." Luke 15:18, "I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee." As the Being against whom we have sinned is the only one who can pardon, it is proper that we should humble ourselves before him with penitent confession.
And he shall lift you up - He will exalt you from the condition of a broken-hearted penitent to that of a forgiven child; will wipe away your tears, remove the sadness of your heart, fill you with joy, and clothe you with the garments of salvation. This declaration is in accordance with all the promises in the Bible, and with all the facts which occur on the earth, that God is willing to show mercy to the humble and contrite, and to receive those who are truly penitent into his favor. Compare Luke 15:22.
Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord - In James 4:7 they were exhorted to submit to God; here they are exhorted to humble themselves in his sight. Submission to God's authority will precede humiliation of soul, and genuine repentance is performed as in the sight of God; for when a sinner is truly awakened to a sense of his guilt and danger, he seems to see, whithersoever he turns, the face of a justly incensed God turned against him.
He shall lift you up - Mourners and penitents lay on the ground, and rolled themselves in the dust. When comforted and pardoned, they arose from the earth, shook themselves from the dust, and clothed themselves in their better garments. God promises to raise these from the dust, when sufficiently humbled.
Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord,.... Which is done, when men, before the Lord, and from their hearts, and in the sincerity of their souls, acknowledge their meanness and unworthiness, their vileness, sinfulness, and wretchedness, and implore the grace and mercy of God in Christ, as did Abraham, Jacob, Job, Isaiah, Paul, and the publican; and when they walk humbly with God, acknowledging they can do nothing without him; owning their dependence on his grace, and ascribing all they have, and are, unto it:
and he shall lift you up; this is God's usual way to lift up the meek, and exalt those that humble themselves; he lifts them from the dunghill, to set them among princes; he gives them a place, and a name in his house, better than sons and daughters; he adorns them with his grace; he clothes them with the righteousness of his Son, he grants them nearness to himself; and at last will introduce them into his kingdom and glory.
in the sight of the Lord--as continually in the presence of Him who alone is worthy to be exalted: recognizing His presence in all your ways, the truest incentive to humility. The tree, to grow upwards, must strike its roots deep downwards; so man, to be exalted, must have his mind deep-rooted in humility. In 1-Peter 5:6, it is, Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, namely, in His dealings of Providence: a distinct thought from that here.
lift you up--in part in this world, fully in the world to come.
*More commentary available at chapter level.