OUR GOD, A JEALOUS GOD?
Pastor Vernon Giesbrecht
Along with my Bible reading, I’ve also been reading short devotionals drawn from J. I. Packer’s “Knowing God”, a classic book and favorite of mine. I have found his insights extremely helpful. “Knowing God Through the Year, a 365-Day Devotional” has taken short passages from his book which enlarge on key Scripture verses. Here are two verses.
“…for I the Lord your God am a jealous God…” (Exodus 20:5)
“For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” (Deuteronomy 4:24)
We read that and our sensibilities take offence. Probably to our unbelieving friends it sounds rather shocking. Even in our morally declining culture, jealousy has a wrongness about it. As J. I. Packer says it, “For we know jealously, the green-eyed monster, as a vice – one of the most cancerous and soul-destroying vices – whereas God, we are sure, is perfectly good. How then, could anyone imagine that jealousy is found in him?”
The first step in thinking about that question is to resist creating a God of our own imagining. We would probably ascribe attributes we only think as good. No, we rely on Holy Scripture to reveal the truth about God. So, there must be something right and good about the jealously of God. Just as God’s anger or wrath is justified against evil, so his jealousy must have a righteous quality about it. In us humans, these emotions have been corrupted by sin, but they are part of God’s perfect character.
“Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?” (Proverbs 27:4)
Human jealousy has an obsessive character about it. It is envy, covetousness, frustration, and “meanness” all rolled into one. “It is terribly potent, for it feeds and is fed by pride, the taproot of our fallen nature.” However, not all jealousy is evil, even in us humans. Packer gives us a key to understanding God’s jealousy – it is evident in us, as well, as God’s image bearers. God’s jealousy is a “…praiseworthy zeal to preserve something supremely precious.” Even in humans there is ”…a zeal to protect a love relationship.” When a husband-wife relationship is threatened, jealously rises to the surface. As a parent, when someone or something entices your child away from your love relationship, you become jealous. It is this kind of jealousy that God possesses.
“Scripture consistently views God’s jealousy as being…an aspect of his covenant love for his own people.” (Packer) In the Old Testament, it was his covenant love for Israel; in the New Testament (New Covenant), it is his covenant love for his redeemed people, those who have placed their trust in his Son, Jesus, for the full forgiveness of sins. This was his sovereign purpose, “to have a people on earth as long as history lasts and after that should have all his faithful ones of every age with him in glory.” All idols, any compromising relationships, disobedience, unfaithfulness – viewed by God as spiritual adultery – “provokes him (God) to jealously and vengeance.” He will spare nothing to win his “bride” back: stern action, punishment, even pouring out his wrath on his Son to preserve that covenant relationship. This was the extent of his love and his jealousy!
The Apostle Paul reminded the Corinthians in his first letter that their toleration and practice of immorality, their replacing other loves (idols) before their love for Christ, their grumbling – were all putting God’s jealousy to the test. “Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he? (1 Corinthians 10:22)
“Therefore thus says the Lord God: Now I will restore the fortunes of Jacob and have mercy on the whole house of Israel, and I will be jealous for my holy name.” (Ezekiel 39:25)
Yes, God judges those that defy his love, but he is also committed to restoring his erring people. Why? Because he “means his name to be known, honored, and praised.” He is jealous for his holy name. He will not give his glory to another. Today, if you have broken that trust with God, his covenant love is inviting you to experience the forgiveness found in the finished work of Christ. He wants you back to enjoy the full benefits of his grace and love. If your commitment to Christ is strong and growing, keep your faith grounded in and bask in the never-ending love of God.
We’ve sung these lyrics in our worship services. Here are just a few lines from the song “How He Loves.”, written by John Mark McMillan, and recently recorded by the David Crowder Band.
He is jealous for me.
Love’s like a hurricane. I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory.
And I realize just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.
And, oh, how He loves us, oh.
Oh, how He loves us.
How He loves us, oh.