“You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. — Exodus 20:4-5.
If we were asked to list God’s “traits” or “characteristics” or “qualities” that come to mind, we would probably come up with: God is holy, ever-present, loving, just, faithful, righteous, merciful, sovereign and all-powerful to name a few. But I doubt anybody would see the green eyed monster of jealously as a trait, or attribute of God. Yet in the Bible, God speaks repeatedly of His jealously. Exodus 34:15 says, “You must worship no other gods, for the Lord, whose very name is Jealous, is a God who is jealous about his relationship with you.” And Nahum 1:2 says “The Lord is a jealous God…”
Hear the word jealous, and images of an insecure husband may come to mind. Or that new car in your neighbor’s driveway or that new diamond pendant she is wearing around her neck. Jealously does not seem productive or positive. So how could a perfect, loving, patient God call himself jealous? Despite any confusion, we must not reject or neglect this important aspect of God’s character. The jealousy of God is an attribute that pervades the pages of Scripture and is an essential part of God’s love.
But to appreciate God’s jealousy we first need to properly understand it. God’s jealousy is His righteous and loving demand for exclusive faithfulness from His covenant people. If He does not care when we love other things in our life more than Him, He would allow Himself to be dishonored and let us settle for so much less than He intends us to have from life. God’s jealous love demands the best of us and our relationships.
We should all find the fact that God is a jealous God encouraging. God is jealous of us because He loves us. We are not just casual acquaintances but people for whom He cares deeply.
In the Old Testament He declared, “This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: My love for Mount Zion is passionate and strong; I am consumed with passion for Jerusalem!”(Zechariah 8:2). This theme continues in the New Testament, where we read, “For I am jealous for you with the jealousy of God himself. I promised you as a pure bride to one husband—Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:2). It is the same attitude loving parents have toward their children, or a godly husband for his wife. It is an attitude of maximum compassion, maximum attachment, maximum commitment, with no room for compromise.
Remember that God is jealous toward you. That is how much He cares for you. But never forget to worship Him and Him alone.
- How would you describe the feeling of jealousy, and when have you experienced it?
- Why do you think God would use this word jealousy to reveal Himself to us?
- How can we remove or minimize the allure of “idols” in our lives” and look for practical ways we can give our attention and focus to the things God is passionate about?