Later this week, I’l be going to a Women’s Leadership Conference in Atlanta, GA. To say I’m excited is an understatement. I’m going with a new friend who is almost as excited as I am. That is simply by way of information. I’ll be there on Thursday and Friday so it’s unlikely I’ll get my Five Minute Friday post written. If anything brings out zeal in me, it is women’s ministry. So interesting. So complex. So challenging. So pivotal. And this conference will point me to the most important source of zeal…Jesus!
Where is my zeal focused?
I’m working my way through some Bible verses on zeal as my monthly offerings on my yearly word. A helpful definition of zeal is this: great energy or enthusiasm in pursuit of a cause or an objective.
Some ways zeal is used in the Bible. I’m a bit of a freak about context, so bear with me. I tend to put more verses together rather than less.
Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me,
O Lord God of hosts;
let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me,
O God of Israel.
For it is for your sake that I have borne reproach,
that dishonor has covered my face.
I have become a stranger to my brothers,
an alien to my mother’s sons.
For zeal for your house has consumed me,
and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me.
If this sounds familiar, compare it with an incident when Jesus was here on earth.
When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”
Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”
They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” But the temple he had spoken of was his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.
So is this just saying David had great energy and enthusiasm for the temple he wanted to build that consumed him? Or that Jesus’ didn’t want anyone to make money? I think there was more to it than that.
David’s zeal for GOD and the glory of GOD was tied to His desire to build the temple. Jesus’ zeal here was that His Father’s house was being used for something that was beneath its value! It was being cheapened by the cheating and gouging of those who came to worship. It didn’t belong in His Father’s house! As a result, glory and worth that belonged to GOD was being taken away from Him by the sinful practices going on inside the temple courts.
What was so special about GOD’s house?
Both the tabernacle and the temple were the place of GOD’s earthly dwelling back then. The Holy Spirit didn’t live in people, but in one location. The Shakinah Glory dwelled in the Holy of Holies. GOD was in heaven as well as omnipresently everywhere. It was only after the cross that the Holy Spirit dwelt the people of GOD.
Anyway, His presence on earth, with His people, was in the tabernacle, later the temple and in Jerusalem once they were in the Promised Land. That’s why the people took the journey if at all possible to go to worship once a year in Jerusalem. It is also what caused more distance for the Northern Kingdom when they were captured, because it was much more difficult for them to travel to Jerusalem to the temple.
But the important thing here is not so much the building, but the One inside the building, in the Holy of Holies! It was God. I checked and there is some thought that it was the Holy Spirit. David was concerned for the glory of GOD. That was the zeal that motivated him.
Does our love for GOD and His glory energize zeal?
Today, our love for Christ’s Church has less to do with a specific denomination or non-denomination and much more to do with the Universal Church that Christ loves and died for. The one He is growing and building all over the world, down through the generations…the people of GOD!
That is what I talk about when I talk about the Church. The true believers of all time…not the fakes. We who desire to see GOD’s kingdom come, GOD’s will be done…on earth as it is in heaven.
Are we perfect at it…definitely not! But the desire is there to glorify GOD. We are the people of GOD. We have recognized our moral bankruptcy, our complete and utter inability to please GOD on our own. We realize that without Jesus, we are totally lost.
Not only when it comes to our initial salvation, but when it comes to living the Christian life. Apart from Jesus, to forgive, to grow us, to complete our salvation, we might as well pack it all in. We can’t do the Christian life apart from Him! It is totally impossible.
GOD is a covenant-keeping GOD who zealously keeps His promises
So as we grow in our faith, we will begin to feel glimmers of zeal, but the feeling of it will wax and wane. My feeling of zeal is not really the important part however. On any given day, I will feel more or less energized to pursue Christ! But the important thing, as well as the hopeful and encouraging truth, is that GOD is a covenant keeping GOD. He is the one whose zeal is totally dependable and certain. He not only has the energy and stamina, but the desire and power to do what is needed to work out the keeping of His covenant promise to me and to all of His people. I can bank on it.
As much as I wish it weren’t true, my performance is just not up to par. No matter how well I perform, I miss the mark! I am weak. I fail. I am not as zealous as I wish I were.
But He is there, this covenant-keeping GOD, completing the work He started. My growth is uneven for sure, but it is in the direction He is growing me. Over time, I have seen zeal increase. I am more concerned for GOD’s glory and in new ways than I was 5, 10 or even 20 years ago. I hope that in 5 or 10 years, I’ll be even more zealous for His glory than I am now…if I’m still here on earth. And if I am more zealous, it will only be because of GOD’s work in me!
May zeal for GOD and His glory consume you in the coming weeks as you grow in grace because of His work in you as He completes the work He began at your salvation.