Throughout this series, we are learning from Deuteronomy 5:6-10 about a different type of jealousy: godly jealousy. In Part 1 we studied these verses to reflect on who God is. We learned that God as the Commander or LORD is unlike any other, is alive and loving, loyal and faithful. This foundation of who God is becomes the basis for the first commandment in v.7, “you shall have no other gods before me.” No other gods are like YHWH or have done as YWYH. Who God is earns him the right to exclusive worship. That truth should be enough. But, we can also look at what God does for further evidence of his worthiness to all praise.
We learn from these verses that God speaks. God’s loyal commitment to his people is demonstrated by the proclamation of His commandments. In Deuteronomy 5:22 we see that the Lord spoke in a “loud voice,” so as to make sure his commandments were heard by the whole assembly.
God’s faithfulness is also demonstrated when he speaks of his promises. He promised Abraham to make of him a great blessed nation (Gen.12:2-3). He promised deliverance of his people from the yoke of the Egyptians (Ex. 6:6-8). He promised to be with His people even through the difficulties of the desert (Ex. 15:26,19:4-6). God kept all of these and other promises. God ALWAYS does what he says.
It is easier for us to accept God’s promises than embrace his commandments. Yet both are of equal importance to God. This is important to ponder as we read verses 8-10 which contain both a commandment and a promise. That is because when God speaks, we should be willing to listen and expect Him to follow through.
The second commandment in verses 8 and 9a outlines how we must worship God. He reveals his expectations for undivided worship: “you shall not make for yourself an idol whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them;” It is very clear in this passage that our LORD forbids the creation and worshiping of any idols.
Idols of any form are “false gods” created by humans. The making of idols and the practice of worshiping “false gods” were widespread thousands of years ago, and they are still today. That is because the human heart is an idol-making machine. Tim Keller’s book, Counterfeit Gods does a great job at breaking down how easy it is for us to make counterfeit gods; even of “good things” that on the surface appear to satisfy our cravings, but in reality they leave us feeling more empty and disenchanted. God’s jealousy is an expression of his loving desire to release us from the bondage of false idols.
More importantly, making and worshiping “false gods” is the same as rejecting or hating the true and living God. Therefore, God speaks to warn us against certain actions, because doing them has dire consequences for ourselves and for those whom we love. He does not leave us to discover this on our own. He promises so that we will know how much he loves us. He commands to protect us from our own destructive tendencies. Who among us does not want to hear His voice?
The LORD gives these and other commandments not for the purpose of restricting life, but rather to lead to fullness of life. This is not unlike the list of guidelines I give to my teen-aged daughter. I do not wish to control her life. But because I know the dangers of this world, my wish is to protect her. When I perceive anything or anyone seeking to harm her, I become a jealous mother. Whereas my jealousy comes from my imperfect humanity, God’s jealousy comes from his perfect love. Therefore, the startling statement found in verse 9, “for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God” is meant to comfort and assure us of his undivided love toward humanity.
Our neglect to exclusively worship YWYH arouses his godly jealousy. Clearly, God’s jealousy is not like human jealousy. We will discuss this more fully on Part 4 of this series. Yet, we can already see that the truth of this statement is evident on what the prior verses reveal about who God is, but also what God does. On our next issue, in Part 3, we will study God’s warning and his promise found in the rest of verse 9 and verse 10. Disobedience has consequences. Faithfulness carries a great reward. Both are an expression of God’s steadfast, faithful, loyal, and wonderfully jealous, love.