"It is true that men are saved by God’s grace through faith in Christ; but it is equally true that God’s grace in a man’s life inevitably results in obedience" [D A Carlson]

God is a jealous God

in Knowing God, Our priorities

From a human perspective, jealousy is generally not a character trait we should be striving for. Jealousy typically refers to negative thoughts and feelings such as insecurity, fear, and anxiety over the anticipated loss of something we value, including love, a relationship or a friendship. Jealousy can tear relationships apart, can lead us to want what is not ours and can distort our view of ourselves and the world.

Writing to the people of Galatia (in what is now Turkey) soon after Jesus died, the apostle Paul recognised the dangers of jealousy, among other negative actions and emotions, when he warned:

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21, emphasis added)

The usual foundation of human jealousy is self-love, the fear that someone else will rise above our own status or possessions, the fear of someone being superior to us.

Yet there is also a jealousy that has a much more pure motive. The same apostle Paul who wrote to the Galatians also wrote several letters to the people in Corinth, in southern Greece, in which he noted:

I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. (2 Corinthians 11:2)

The word that is used for jealousy can also be translated as “zealous; vigilant; or anxiously watchful”. Paul was vigilant and watchful that nothing would prevent the Corinthian church from continuing to live as God’s people, and to be vigilant in his own life, desiring not to be a stumbling block to anyone.

Like anger, jealousy is not evil in itself, rather the motive behind the emotion of jealousy needs to be considered.

It is in this context that God describes Himself as a jealous God.

You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God … (Exodus 20:5a)

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

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

Jealousy reflects God’s strong devotion, His devotion to His own glory and to protect His relationship with His people. Like a faithful husband God will accept no rivals.

God is jealous for his reputation and his character. He desires that his name, His character and reputation, would be glorified, for this is the very reason why He created us in the first place. Importantly, God’s jealousy is consistent with every other part of His character.

.. everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made. (Isaiah 43:7)

God’s jealousy is entrenched in His knowledge that we are so easily distracted by other gods. He knows how easy it is for us to put something else on the throne of our lives.

God gives us warnings to this effect

“Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you; for the LORD your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land.” (Deuteronomy 6:14-15)

Have a look around you at the gods of this world. What captures people’s attention, their main priorities in life? In western culture, the god of sport is an obvious example. You only need to watch the faces of fans at sporting events – the ecstasy when their team wins, the devastation when their team loses. While not every spectator necessarily worships their team or sport, there are too many similarities between religious worship and sports fans’ commitment to sport to ignore the link.

Sports however is just one example – we can chase after many other gods of this age: a better job, a better house, a more comfortable life, better food, a better holiday, even happiness. In fact, anything we put above God—and this could include our parents, our wife, our husband, even our children—is an idol, a lower case god taking the place of our creator God.

Following His warning about false gods, God elsewhere provides the way in which we are to avoid the dangers of these false gods.

But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul. (Deuteronomy 4:29)

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. (Mark 12:30)

We are told to focus all our energies, our strength, our interests, on God.

This means, in effect, we are to live as strangers in this world, to not be polluted by the things of this world that can distract us so easily.

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:27)

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. . . (Romans 12:2a)

The more that the world continues and expands its rebellion against God, the more that these decisions will make us appear as insane in the eyes of the world. If we continually try to be normal in the eyes of the world, then we will find ourselves worshipping the same gods they do.

As you walk on this journey with God, may you also consider your priorities, and whether you may have any gods on the throne of your life that are taking the place of God. By our actions and attitudes, are we really worshipping the same things that the world worships?

In isolation, each god may seem harmless. Yet as we consider this journey we are walking, it is worth being careful that the harmless distraction does not become a different path. May we heed God’s warning, and realise that each god can severely damage our relationship with Him – lukewarm can quickly become cold and taking a short detour walking away from God can become an extended (or eternal) separation.




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