Friday, December 15, 2006

Is God really JEALOUS?

Is God really JEALOUS?

Right in the middle of the Ten Commandments, God speaks a remarkably revealing statement, “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God” (Exodus 20:5). Is God really jealous? Is the maker of Heaven and Earth, the all-powerful, all-knowing God really jealous? Apparently, yes!

What causes this jealousy? The answer is revealed in Exodus 20, “You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God” (v3-5). What is God jealous about? Us! God is jealous whenever we, who were created to love and adore Him, turn our affections to someone or something else. The Apostle Paul appeals to God’s jealousy when confronting idol worship in Corinth. He states, "You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy?” (1 Corinthians 10:21-22). Anything or anyone that we put ahead of God is a demonic idol and provokes God’s jealousy.

We tend to think of “jealousy” as a negative emotion stemming from insecurity. Does God’s jealousy indicate that He is lacking in self-confidence and thus less than perfect? Absolutely not! In fact, since God becomes jealous, it must be seen not as a weakness but rather as a virtue. Let’s clarify by looking at a different emotion—anger. Like jealousy, we usually think of anger in a negative light. When we’re angry, it’s usually sin for us. We kick the cat and scream a lot. However, when God is angry, it’s never sin! In fact, it’s a virtue. It is a “righteous indignation”. It is anger directed at injustice or oppression. T.W. Hunt in The Mind of Christ (LifeWay Press, 1994) suggests that each virtue (love, joy, peace, patience, etc) has a Satanic opposite as well as a good-intentioned perversion. For example, the satanic opposite of love is “hate” and it’s perversion is “possessiveness”. In the same way, the satanic opposite of faith is “unbelief” and its perversion is “presumption”. So what would be the satanic opposite of “jealousy”? Perhaps it would be “not caring at all” or some form of emotional detachment. The perversion, on the other hand, is what we most often see in our own lives—a selfish, insecure, possessiveness. Godly jealousy must lie somewhere in the middle of these two ungodly extremes. He cares and thus is righteously offended whenever we give devotion that is due only to God to something or someone else.

For further reading, see J.I. Packer’s classic work, Knowing God (InterVarsity Press, 1973). He deals extensively with the subject in Chapter 17, “The Jealous God”.

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