Last year at this time we ran an excerpt from one of the hundred entries in 100 Names of God Daily Devotions (Fall, 2015; Rose Publishing) by Christopher D. Hudson; a padded, full-color, hardcover book which features not only many interesting devotional readings, but also an index giving the Greek or Hebrew terms along with their Strong’s Concordance number. We thought we’d revisit that book today.
You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God Exodus 20:5
Who wants to be thought of as jealous? This unflattering description brings to mind the petty schoolgirl who bitterly resents the spotlight that a peer is enjoying, or the fact that her rival’s boyfriend is cuter than hers. To be jealous is to be vain, selfish, suspicious. It is to want what others have, never fully acknowledging or appreciating the good things in one’s own life.
And yet, there is another kind of jealousy – a holy version. It’s this noble form of jealousy that God has for His people, according to the Bible. But why is this a fitting jealousy? Why is God right to want us exclusively for Himself? Because he made us, and in Christ He purchased us (1 Corinthians 6:20, 7:23)
Divine jealousy isn’t motivated by greed or selfishness. God’s holy jealousy is rooted in a desire to protect, provide and bless. He always and only wants what is best for His chosen ones. And what can be better than His perfect love?
Instead of imagining the negative and hurtful jealousy displayed by a petty schoolgirl, we need to imagine the protecting and providing jealousy of God. Picture God more as a loving father who discovers his homeless son sleeping in a filthy gutter. Imagine how this father might jealously seek to rescue his son. The father’s goal is to restore his son’s life, not to further punish him.
When God freed the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt, He took them to Mount Sinai. At the foot of the mountain, God told them they would soon be surrounded by neighbours who were devoted to other gods. He warned them they would be tempted to turn away and be unfaithful. Lastly, He assured them He would not stand idly by and allow that to happen. As a jealous God, He would fight fervently for their attention and affection.
When God calls Himself jealous, it is a reminder to us that our worship cannot be divided. The Great Commandment is to love God with “all” (not part of) our hearts. He alone is worthy of our devotion. He alone is deserving of our hearts. He knows that the ones He loves will find life, ultimate meaning, purpose and joy nowhere else. He knows that He alone is the one place where our hearts will find their true home.
This is why when Jesus came, He reminded us that we cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). He told us that whoever is not for God is against Him (Luke 11:23). It is tempting to be “sort of”, “sometimes” or “mostly” devoted to God. But we either give ourselves to Him or we give ourselves to other lovers. God is jealous for our love because He is zealous for us to know His.
Related readings: Exodus 34:13,14; Isaiah 42:7,8