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fire, zeal

photo: Dominik Lange  CCO public domain      graphic: Martha G. Brady


Zeal is not a word we use all the time so I decided to look it up. What does it mean? Great energy or enthusiasm in pursuit of a cause or objective. Some synonyms for zeal? passion, ardor, fervor, fire, devotion, enthusiasm, intensity, vigor…to name a few.

Of course, in order to understand a Biblical meaning of a word, we need to know the Hebrew/Greek understanding of it, not the English, since the root of the conversation in the last two posts, stems from the original word, not the English translation.   The meaning there is described in one source this way: A burning passion or supremely ardent desire in one’s spirit that is hot enough to boil. Of course, that can go in either a positive or negative direction! I’ll talk a little more about it in a later post.

Biblical zeal carries with it the concept of jealousy…the healthy kind that goes with commitment

In the case of GOD, the zeal He has to fulfill the covenants/promises He makes to us are that strong and powerful. They are not weak, empty promises that can be thrown off track at the slightest impediment that comes along. To Him, the commitment He makes to us when He promises to, for example here in Deuteronomy.

 “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God.
The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession,
out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.
It was not because you were more in number than any other people
that the Lord set his love on you and chose you,
for you were the fewest of all peoples,
but it is because the Lord loves you
and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers,
that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand
and redeemed you from the house of slavery,
from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
Know therefore that the Lord your God is God,
the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those
who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations…
Deuteronomy 7:6-9

Zeal, particularly with the Hebrew word, definitely has a link to the concept of jealousy. Granted, we are often uncomfortable with jealousy ever being a positive trait. But in reading Dan Allender/Tremper Longman III’s book The Cry of the Soul a few years ago, I found help.

There is one human relationship where we are to have a healthy jealousy and that is marriage! We have a unique commitment to each other. We are not to allow our partner to be in situations that will compromise that relationship or his affections toward us! It is not a selfish thing. It is most appropriate. It is mutual.

Our commitment to each other is mutual and we help each other most by protecting that special relationship. It is never something we are to take for granted. We jealously guard the intimacy of our relationship. We often don’t think about it that way, sometimes to our peril. The concern to give each other freedom and trust each other is at such high value in our culture. It can be very dangerous not only in a marriage, but in our relationship with GOD!

For years, I had difficulty understanding why GOD punished His people so severely for what He called adultery when they followed after other GODs, disobeyed His command to not intermarry and be drawn away to the heathen gods by their heathen wives and were generally nonchalant about their commitment to GOD.

Then I realized that He is GOD, the one and only GOD of the universe, and expects to be treated that way, particularly by His people! It is no small thing when we take Him for granted, when we are wishy-washy about our “commitment” to Him, when we dabble here and there in the values of the world that are opposite from His values.

But what does fire and passion look like in each of us?

He wants all of us. He wants fire, vigor and passion…hot enough to boil! WOW! If our fire, vigor and passion was for Him, I think our world would change, don’t you? I don’t know how it would change, but I think it would change for sure!

According to His Word, we would be loving each other in tangible ways…Christians or not. We would be caring for the poor and underprivileged in ways that would be meaningful and truly helpful to them. We would be sacrificing of ourselves in terms of hospitality, encouragement of others, teaching, giving and generally showing the love of Christ to the world around us…locally, nationally and internationally.

I’m not sure we would be doing a lot of things that would make the news. I think a lot of it would be quiet and behind the scenes…just like so much of what is done for Jesus happens now.

But our hearts would be boiling hot for Jesus!

I like that analogy. I’ll be thinking about it.

We won’t have a long list of things we do that show we love Him…but our hearts will be changed and changing. The fire that will be there will not be for our notoriety or our personal goals, but for the glory of Christ and His kingdom!

Thinking about that is going to keep my mind busy this week. I  like concrete ideas and I’ll have to think this through more thoroughly to see what “fire in my soul” would look like. In some ways, it is a bit abstract. I know when it isn’t there, but I’m not always sure when it is.

What are signs that it is present? How do I know it is growing in my life? How do you know it isn’t there? That your heart is stone cold? Tell us about it.

It is something to ponder.

Blessings this week as you begin 2016 in earnest.