As a child…and even into adulthood, this attribute was one I could not understand. I couldn’t understand how GOD could be jealous, yet good and holy! When I asked questions about what it meant, the answers were rarely helpful, and only added to the confusion in my mind as to what this concept meant in relation to GOD!
CRY OF THE SOUL
It wasn’t until a few years ago when I was reading a very helpful book by Dan Allender/Tremper Longman, Cry of the Soul: How Our Emotions Reveal Our Deepest Questions about GOD, that I began to get some understanding of what GOD’s jealousy is about.
They spent a fair amount of time on this attribute. Their comparison of jealousy and its application to the relationship of marriage was very helpful. They made the point that in our exclusive relationship with GOD, He expects to possess us as well as protect us…because He is GOD! In marriage, our spouse doesn’t possess us in that sense (because they aren’t GOD), but our spouse is there for protection.
It finally made sense to me why the context of GOD’s jealousy was a good thing. His jealousy is an aspect of His love for us, but it is more than that! It also has to do with protection. Sometimes, it has to do with protecting us from ourselves!! He is “jealous” for His own glory and honor. Only GOD is due that. It is appropriate only for Him. If we are allowing Him to possess us in the ways He desires to, it will be good for us too. In living a life that honors Him, we will also be living a life that is good for us in all respects…because we are living our lives according to the way He designed them to be lived. He is jealous that we live a life that puts Him in the proper place and in so doing, will cause us to live lives that honor Him.
MARRIAGE: THE ONLY HUMAN RELATIONSHIP WHERE JEALOUSY IS APPROPRIATE
In a marriage, there is an appropriate place for jealousy. This is a relationship for only the two of you. We can be friendly to others, but no one else is to share the deep intimacy we have with each other. No one else belongs in that relationship…at least not at the level of intimacy of soul, spirit or body that our mate does. Because many of us have had so drilled into us that jealousy is “wrong”, we don’t pay attention to the warning signs in a marriage that our partner’s affections are straying and we should be responding with an appropriate jealousy.
GOD IS JEALOUS FOR YOUR WORSHIP AND HONOR
That is what happened with GOD and His people Israel in the Old Testament. As they whored after other GODs in open rebellion to His commands, His jealousy grew hot! It was appropriate…they were His people! cf. Ezekiel 16:35-43. Even the terms used are similar to the terms we use in an unfaithful marriage.
So let me back up a bit and give you a definition of GOD’s jealousy: It means that GOD continually seeks to protect His own honor. (Grudem)
To flesh out the definition a bit more, let me pass on some of the Allender/Longman definition which is stated in a more passionate way:
“It is GOD’s jealous love that both unnerves us and draws us to Him. His relentless pursuit, His fierce hatred of any rival, and His incomprehensible willingness to anguish on our behalf captures our heart for His love. His jealousy is our shield; it is our promise of eternal protection and passionate exclusivity. It is our confidence that the divine Lover will win His bride.”
I love the passionate way they said this. It paints GOD in 3D. It puts flesh on this attribute that is often puzzling and confusing as well as ethereal at times. We often think of GOD as a sweet, often wimpy person who may be stronger than He appears, but is very mild mannered. However, when we read through the giving of the Law in Exodus, cf. Exodus 34:12-16; we see that mild-mannered is not the word we use to describe GOD! The comments Allender/Longman make regarding Him are much more true to life!
Remember the response of Jesus in the temple? The glory/honor of the Father was at stake! He was not mild-mannered about it. He was going to get these cheating, swindling scoundrels out of His house! cf. John 2:13-17.
How often do we get on our crusades for justice or the desire to help others in some way or other…but we realize it has more to do with us and our agenda than it does the Father’s? That wasn’t the case with Jesus! His central concern was for the Father’s glory!
JEALOUSY: NOT A SIMPLE EMOTION BUT VERY COMPLEX
The jealousy of GOD is no simple emotion. It is full of grief and pain. cf. Luke 13:34-35. The response of a GOD who is being provoked by the adulterous behavior of His bride is appropriately sorrowful, angry, grieved and jealous…for His glory! He has told us how we can live and be joyful and safe in His world. When we choose to go against His commands, we will be in danger.
As you think about the jealous love of GOD for you, how does that give you hope?
How does it cause you to be afraid?
How does it help you in your worship of GOD?
Does it offer any challenges to you in your marriage?