A Jealous God
A Jealous God – What’s the Difference?
Is God a jealous God? God’s character is perfect, above reproach. He is holy, just, loving, merciful, and long-suffering, but is He also jealous? Shakespeare personifies jealousy as “the green-eyed monster which mocks.”1 Humans are adept at expressing jealousy with selfishness, suspicion, and distrust. We find jealousy repulsive because it creates tension and discord while damaging relationships. How does God display an intense emotion such as jealousy? We need to examine a side of jealousy that is often overlooked.
The marriage relationship is one way to understand the difference between sinful jealousy and righteous jealousy. A husband who responds with anger simply because he sees his wife talking to another man shows unreasonable domination and self-centeredness—sinful jealousy. Selfishness and insecurity control his possessiveness, rather than a commitment to his wife and the sanctity of their marriage vows.
Now suppose another person is trying to alienate a husband or wife’s affections, tempting either spouse to violate the purity of their marriage relationship. Just as God has established holy standards for marriage, He takes every commitment as binding (Hebrews 13:4). He expressed His devotion and dedication to Israel as permanent. “I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the Lord” (Hosea 2:19-20).
No dedicated husband or wife having integrity wants to share their spouse with a substitute—neither does God. God expects our exclusive devotion. When we give preference to anything instead of God, it is idolatry. We are committing spiritual adultery and God displays divine jealousy. “...Do not make for yourselves an idol in the form of anything the Lord your God has forbidden. For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God” (Deuteronomy 4:23-24). God is zealous for His holiness. Both in His wrath and His love, God remains holy.
A Jealous God – What’s In a Name?
One of the most vivid demonstrations of God’s love, jealousy, and wrath occurs as Moses descends from Mt. Sinai with the Ten Commandments in his hands. Forgetting their deliverance from Egypt and the Red Sea, the people of Israel chose idolatrous worship before a golden calf. God displayed His jealousy through His servant Moses who burned the calf, ground it into powder, scattered the powder on water, and commanded the Israelites to ingest it (Exodus 32:7-8, 19-20). God had chosen the Israelites to be His treasure—His holy people. God’s jealousy serves to guarantee His people’s ultimate deliverance and security, even during the harsh discipline the Israelites had to endure from time to time. Although the Israelites frequently displayed their spiritual infidelity towards God, He spared them because He is merciful, even though He is a jealous God.
God’s name exemplifies who and what He is. He is holy, deserving of glory. “...Among those who are near me, I'll show myself holy so that I'll be glorified before all people” (Leviticus 10:3). Jealousy is not a capricious mood with God. It is the ultimate expression of His being. In His infinite holiness, God is supremely dedicated to preserving His honor with exclusive devotion and worship. To require less would relegate Him to a lesser position of glory. “I, the LORD, am the one, and I won't give my name and glory to another, nor my praise to idols” (Isaiah 42:8).
This aspect of jealousy indicates God’s holy zeal for the honor of His name and the good of those who are bound to Him in a covenant relationship (Ezekiel 39:23-25). God’s jealousy is not motivated by insecurity, anxiety, frustration, self-centeredness, pride, or spite, as is often the case with man’s jealousy. The jealousy of a holy God is the essence of His moral character, a major cause for worship and confidence on the part of His people and ground for fear on the part of His enemies (Ezekiel 39:6-10).
A Jealous God – What’s In Your Life?
What could we possibly have in our life that arouses God’s jealousy? Is it beneficial to have a personal relationship with a jealous God?
Our Time – “There is a season for everything, and a time for every event under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). We have no control over eternity, or even the hectic demands of a single day, but God assures us that He is looking out for our best interests. He wants us to take time to be continually renewed physically and spiritually (Exodus 20:9-11; Matthew 11:28-30). As we give more time to God, our level of devotion and trust strengthens our divine relationship with Him.
Our Possessions – “You see, heaven—even the highest heavens—belongs to the LORD, along with the earth and all that is in it” (Deuteronomy 10:14). Thinking we own our possessions, cultivates pride, selfishness, and ingratitude. But when we seek Him, God supplies all our needs [food, finances, clothing] because He is faithful in all His promises (Matthew 6:33; Philippians 4:19). God created all things, and He never transferred ownership to His people. We are, however, expected to be faithful and wise managers of all that God has entrusted to us. God rewards faithfulness in caring for our families and finances (Luke 16:10-13).
- Our Purpose – “…You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind’” (Matthew 22:37). God is concerned with the whole person. If we are broken-hearted, He heals our heartaches and binds up our wounds. When our enemies attack us, God becomes our rock and fortress in which our souls find rest and hope. Even if fear and worry threaten to consume us, God hears our prayers and guards our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus with His supernatural peace.
1 Othello, Act 3, Scene 3, Line 165.
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