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a jealous god??

June 11th, 2021

Jealousy is a term we would normally never imagine when we think about God. When we think about our Father God, we want to attribute characteristics to Him such as loving, merciful, patient, good, long suffering, etc. But jealousy? We typically think about jealousy as an ugly emotion. Our normal thoughts about jealousy when someone brings up that topic, is being jealous of someone’s success, their money, their affection, etc. We want something someone else has with that rising at it’s worse to anger and even violence. It is a terrible emotion when exercised wrongly which is why some call it the green-eyed monster. Because of how we think as humans we never really consider jealousy as a trait of our loving heavenly Father. We must be careful to compare our thoughts or way of thinking to that of God however. That said, let’s look at a few Scriptures to jog our memories about some verses we have read and heard in the past.

Exodus 20:2-6 (NIV) – 2) I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 3)You shall have no other gods before me. 4) You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5)You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me 6) but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Exodus 34:14 (NIV) – Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.

Deuteronomy 4:24 (NIV) – For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.

1 Corinthians 10:22 (NIV) – Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

These are just a very small sample of the Scriptures that discuss the jealousy of God. There are many more in a similar context. There are also others that obviously talk about destructive / errant jealousy in the context we normally do with one notable example being the jealousy that Joseph’s brothers had regarding him due to how his father, Jacob favored him.

God first introduces this self-declared part of His character in Exodus 20 and verse 5 above. Another name for this passage is “The Second Commandment”. The point was and is very important.

A further point about Exodus should be made here. Exodus is the book of the Bible where God most strongly brings forth His name and make’s it known to His people. He first declares Himself as “I Am Who I Am” in Exodus chapter 3. He then declares Himself as “Jehovah” meaning “The Lord” in Exodus chapter 6. These names speak of our God as self-existing, self-determining, and sovereign. Then in chapter 34 He declares His name and glory to be His grace, mercy, goodness, being slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, forgiving wickedness yet He will not leave the guilty unpunished”. (I bet you get tired of me referencing those verses but they were and are some of the most sacred passages in God’s Word.) Finally in verse 14 of Exodus 34, in the same conversation with Moses where God is revealing His glory, He actually tells us that His name is “Jealous”. If God Himself is declaring this about Himself, we would do well to ask ourselves “just what does this mean?” How can jealousy be a virtue in God when it is mostly a vice in humans?

To appreciate God’s jealousy, we first need to properly understand it. His jealousy is a righteous jealousy. Its aim is to zealously protect a love-relationship and which avenges it when it is broken. God’s jealousy is not a compound of frustration, envy and spite which so often is a part of human jealousy. God’s jealousy is instead a praiseworthy zeal to preserve something supremely precious to Him.

So, what is it that is so supremely precious to God? To understand this, recognize that the OT also speaks of God as our husband and the New Testament speaks of us as the bride of Christ. If God is describing our relationship to Him as one of a bride, then how does that compare to how we should react toward our spouses? We all know there are bad examples of this in a marriage but how would God want us to look at marriage? One professor of theology summarized it like this: “Married persons who felt no jealousy at the intrusion of a lover or an adulterer into their home would surely be lacking in moral perception; for the exclusiveness of marriage is the essence of marriage”. This sort of jealousy is a positive virtue, for it shows a grasp of the true meaning of the husband-wife relationship, together with a proper zeal to keep it intact.

When God tells us that He is jealous, He means that He demands from those whom He has loved and redeemed utter and absolute loyalty, and will vindicate His claim by stern action against them if they betray His love by unfaithfulness. There is encouragement in this characteristic of our heavenly Father. God is jealous for us because He loves us. Where there is no love, there is none of this kind of jealousy. God’s jealousy over His people, His children whom He adopted to sonship as we discussed last week, presupposes this covenantal love. This jealousy is the expression of a sovereign purpose. The goal of the covenant love of God is that He should have a people on earth as long as history lasts, and after that should have all His faithful ones with Him in glory. Covenant love is the heart of God’s plan for His world. That covenant goes all the way back to Genesis. Thus, God’s jealousy is precisely this, zeal of the Lord Almighty for fulfilling His own purpose of justice and mercy. The only good God is, in fact, a jealous God.

Throughout the Bible, God draws attention to Himself. The very first verse in Genesis says that “In the beginning God……”. The very last verse in the Bible in Revelations says “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.” The Bible is about God. It is at its heart, a love letter from God to His children. But someone may say after looking at politics in our culture, isn’t that narcissistic? Why does God demand such attention for Himself?

God does not need our attention. It is true He made us to glorify Him but He does not need it. He is very confident in Who He is. God made us and as such He knows what we need most. First of all, He is central – He just is! It is just true! Gods wanting us to make Him central in our lives is nothing more than requiring that our lives reflect absolute truth. Think about that. If you reflect His true character then you reflect truth. Secondly, God knows that the best possible thing for us is to be absolutely taken up and obsessed with Him. He knows that He is the ultimate source of all of our joy and comfort, and wants us to come to the source. He knows what is best for us for He created us. He wanted that from Adam in the garden but Adam chose to look elsewhere for that source of fulfillment. Adam chose to look to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Let’s go back to the second commandment where God first declares Himself as a jealous God. If you read the passages before that you see that the context is about idolatry. What the prohibition of idolatry in this second commandment implies is that God’s people should be positively and passionately devoted to His person, His cause and His honor. The Bible word for this type of jealousy is zeal. This zeal is sometimes called “jealousy for God”.

If God is jealous or zealous for us, should we be jealous or zealous for Him? The answer to that question is obvious. One of the best examples of being jealous or zealous for God is the Apostle Paul. His whole life was dedicated to sharing the message of the cross. A passage Cory has shared with us many times is Philippians 3:8. Paul says “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.”Remember what the Scriptures say about Paul and His sufferings for Christ and the message of the cross. He was beaten with rods, stoned, three times shipwrecked, labored and toiled and often gone without sleep and much more. All of these things were worthless compared with the singular point of “knowing Christ” and fulfilling the mission of preaching the good news of the grace of God (Acts 20:24). His relationship with God is the most important thing to Him.

Throughout history, there have been great men and women that have had a similar devotion and first love toward God as Paul and the other Apostles had. These are men and women who did not lose that first love as we are told the Ephesus church had done in Revelation 2:2-5. One such story I read while researching this topic touched me and I believe it will touch you as well. This group of men were definitely zealous for God.

Forty great soldiers from Cappadocia in Rome’s vaunted twelfth legion shared Paul’s jealously for God some two hundred fifty years after Paul’s death. Licinius was reigning over the eastern portion of the empire but was sensing an increasing military threat from the west. He became more and more repressive in his policies, particularly toward Christians. To solidify his strength, he called on his armies to demonstrate their support by offering a sacrifice to the pagan gods.

Most of the legion stationed at Sebaste, a city south of the Black Sea, dutifully complied, but the forty Cappadocians, all Christians, respectfully declined. (As a side note, remember the story we shared about the centurion that supervised the crucifixion of Christ in the lesson on April 30th. He is said to have committed his life to Christ and went to his home town of Cappadocia where many were converted before the centurion himself was beheaded for his devotion to Christ. His example appears to have lasted for two hundred fifty years or more). For more than a week these Cappadocian soldiers are placed under guard, where they sang and prayed together continually. Their captain pleaded with them: “Of all the soldiers who serve the emperor, none are more loved by us and more needed right now. Do not turn our love into hatred. It lies in you whether to be loved or hated.” “If it rests with us,” the Cappadocian soldiers replied, “we have made our choice. We shall devote our love to our God.”.

It was sundown when they were stripped and escorted shivering to the middle of a frozen lake with guards stationed along the shore. A heated Roman bathhouse stood ready at the shore for any of them who were prepared to renounce their faith in Christ and offer a pagan sacrifice. Their jailer stood by with arms folded, watching as a bitter winter wind whipped across the ice. But through the whistling wind the soldiers could be heard singing the following:

Forty good soldiers for Christ!

We shall not depart from You as long as you give us life.

We shall call upon Your Name whom all creation praises:

Fire and hail, snow and wind and storm.

On You we have hoped and we were not ashamed!

As midnight approached, their song grew more feeble. Then a strange thing happened. One of the forty staggered toward shore, fell to his knees and began crawling toward the bathhouse. “Thirty-nine good soldiers for Christ!” came the weakening, trembling song from the distance out on the dark and frozen lake. The jailer watched the man enter the bathhouse and emerge quickly, apparently overcome by the heat, then collapse on the ground and die. The other guards could not believe what they saw next. The jailer took off his armor and coat, dashed to the edge of the lake, lifted his right hand and cried, “Forty good soldiers for Christ!” then disappeared, over the ice into the darkness to join the Cappadocian Christian soldiers.

All forty were dead by the next day, but it was the jailer who caught the captains notice as their bodies were carted away. “What is he doing there?” he demanded. One of the guards replied, “We cannot understand it, Captain. Ever since those Christians came under his care, we noticed something different about him”. The martyrs of Sebaste were jealous for the name of their God, and it had a profound impact on that jailer who looked on. Our jealousy for God should have a similar effect on the people around us.

Our God is a jealous God. Consider all that He has done for us, His children. Consider His calling you and choosing you for His very own child, wanting to share a relationship with you now and through all eternity. He knows what is best for His children and what is best for us is to focus ourselves upon Him. He is to be our first love. When He is our first love, the image of Christ, the one our Father is conforming our image to, will shine through and it will have an impact on those around us. May those reading this and those of us at CF Paris let Christ show Himself through us as He did through the martyrs of Sebaste.

Next week we will look at a just a few of the reasons you need God’s Word in your life.


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