The Bible teaches us that God is fully committed to a faithful relationship with his people. From beginning to end, God’s redemptive purpose is the binding thread of the Biblical meta-narrative. In the middle of Deuteronomy 5:9-10, God makes a remarkable self-revelation. He describes himself, “for I the LORD your God am a jealous God.” This statement can be alarming if we filter it through our understanding of human jealousy. It entices us to wrestle it to understand, accept or reject. Godly jealousy leaves us no neutral ground to stand on. It demands a response. A good response requires that we study the context in which God makes this self-revelation. It is found within the second of the twelve commandments, God’s law for His people.
In Parts 1-3 of this series we studied the words before and after this statement and learned that who God is and what He does earn him the “right” to exclusive service and worship. Also, we have learned that God’s faithful, merciful, good, committed and loyal love (the Hebrew word for this type of love is hesed) is fundamentally reassuring. Thus, we conclude this series with examining how God’s self-revelation as a “jealous God” is actually good news.
Sinful jealousy versus Godly jealousy
Paul portrays human jealousy as both a sinful and godly emotion. He calls us to live honorably, not in jealousy (Rom. 13:13, 2 Cor. 12:20, Ga. 5:20). In his letter to the Galatians, Paul calls sinful jealousy the “work of the flesh,” and warns his followers that those who live by the flesh will “not inherit the kingdom of God.” Human jealousy is portrayed as selfish, divisive, and bitter. However, Paul describes himself as “jealous for you with a godly jealousy” in his second letter to the Corinthian church (11:2). His desire was to present the Corinthian church “as a pure virgin” to Christ. Paul was afraid that the influence of deceivers would lead the church astray from their sincere and pure devotion to the Jesus he preached. By this Paul demonstrates godly jealousy. Also, Scripture demonstrates that human jealousy can also be a positive emotion, particularly when it represents a “selfless concern for another.” A good example is the priest Phinehas who is described by Yahweh as “jealous for the honor of his God” (Nu. 25:11-13).
About God’s jealousy:
God’s jealousy is holy, controlled and just. God’s claim to the exclusive allegiance of His people arises out of who He is and what he has done. He is selfless love. He is the only true God, the sovereign Lord of all creation. He is dedicated to generous grace, eternal love and faithfulness. He is fully committed to His creation. According to John 1:1, the Word that was there from the beginning became flesh. The incarnation of Jesus is proof of God’s jealous love toward His creation. Therefore, he alone deserves our exclusive and wholehearted devotion (see Psalms 95-97). God’s jealousy is fully justified because WE BELONG TO HIM! His very name is Jealous (Ex. 34:14). This is good news!
Godly jealousy is good news because it demonstrates God’s exclusive claim to our loyalty, above any other god or idol. He is the first and the last; apart from him, there is no other god. God is faithful and loyal toward us. What idol can provide God’s unique hesed, or fully satisfying love?
Brothers and sisters: be encouraged! These two commandments are the foundation of the good news of Jesus Christ. They demonstrate that in our own strength we cannot follow God’s law perfectly. The human heart is an idol-making machine. Too easily we are willing to worship things other than our loving God. We would be subject to His judgment were it not for the work of Jesus on the cross. By the grace of the Lord God Almighty, the Son of God died for our sins according to the scriptures; he was buried and resurrected on the third day. He did this so that we could receive “the promised eternal inheritance,” our LORD’s faithful love. We are set free from the bondage of sin to worship Him alone.
Other gods and idols compete for the honor that only belongs to Yahweh. Other world religions teach that Jesus was a good prophet or at best “another” god. They find the message of Jesus offensive: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Many have been martyred for proclaiming this message. Yet, as dedicated students of the Word, we must join the faithful prophets, apostles and teachers that defended the Lord’s name and message with their lives.
I am convinced that, like Paul, we must burn with a desire to warn and teach “everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” (Col. 1:28-29) We might not be prophets, super-apostles, or eloquent speakers. But we must keep in mind that Satan prowls like a lion looking to devour those whose faith is weak or confused. That our God is a jealous God is good news for He seeks to protect His children from the enemy.
I pray that you are encouraged to worship Yahweh and no other idol. I also pray that you are fortified to proclaim His name and preach His Word with godly jealousy against any thing, idea or person that rejects our only Lord God Almighty.
Q: Are you willing to risk your life to confront deceivers and smooth-talkers that lead Christians astray? How do you discern between human and godly jealousy?