INTRODUCTION: This devotional series is based on J.I. Packer’s classic work, Knowing God. There is no greater quest, no more important activity, nothing that should be a higher priority than getting to know God. Too many Christians know about God without making their time with him personal. These devotionals are designed to challenge you to ask questions of yourself, bring these questions before God, make you think, and transform your relationship with God. My prayer is that your study will overflow in emotion, in touching your heart, in connecting with God, and sharing your relationship with others. The book consists of 22 Chapters, thus this series last 22 days. Dig in! 

Reflections on Chapter 17: The Jealous God

Jealousy attributed to God seems offensive. Biblical statements about God’s jealousy are anthropomorphic (attributing human characteristics to God). Unlike humans, God is never guilty of ungodly jealousy; he exhibits godly jealousy. God’s jealousy is not, “I want what you’ve got” but rather, “I want to protect my relationship with you.”

How do we distinguish God’s holy jealousy from man’s sinful jealousy?  When is jealousy godly and when is it sinful? 

Jeremiah 3:1 and Hosea 3:1 both describe God’s love for Israel in terms of a husband’s love for his wife. No one would tell a husband that he is ungodly for jealously protecting his relationship with wife within reasonable boundaries - what are those boundaries? God never considers a spouse’s jealousy toward the other spouse a sin! Consider these contrasts between “godly jealousy” and “sinful jealousy”:

  • Godly Jealousy aims to protect the relationship; Sinful Jealousy tries to get something from the relationship
  • Godly Jealousy is based on love; Sinful Jealousy is self-centered
  • Godly Jealousy leads to righteous indignation; Sinful Jealousy results in out of control anger
  • Godly Jealousy is consistent with God’s character; Sinful Jealousy is tainted by man’s sinfulness

Why is God's jealousy so important? God jealousy protects his relationship with his children. God’s jealousy demonstrates his passionate desire for a covenant relationship with us. Our response to God's jealousy is either to zealously embrace that relationship or spurn his love.

God’s Jealousy

Exodus 20:4-5 presents the second of the 10 commandments:

You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Exodus 34:14 tells us that God’s very name is “Jealous”:

Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.

God’s jealousy burns like a consuming fire:

For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. (Deut 4:24)

This is what the Lord Almighty says: “I am very jealous for Zion; I am burning with jealousy for her.” (Zech 8:2)

James describes God as a “fiercely jealous lover”:

You’re cheating on God. If all you want is your own way, flirting with the world every chance you get, you end up enemies of God and his way. And do you suppose God doesn’t care? The proverb has it that “he’s a fiercely jealous lover.” And what he gives in love is far better than anything else you’ll find. It’s common knowledge that “God goes against the willful proud; God gives grace to the willing humble.” (James 4:4-6, MSG)

Israel’s idolatry made God jealous (Ps 78:58) and angry (Ez 23:25) yet his love for us stirs him into action:

Therefore prophesy concerning the land of Israel and say to the mountains and hills, to the ravines and valleys: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I speak in my jealous wrath because you have suffered the scorn of the nations. Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I swear with uplifted hand that the nations around you will also suffer scorn.' (Ez 36:6-7)

Let the priests, who minister before the Lord, weep between the portico and the altar. Let them say, “Spare your people, Lord. Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’” Then the Lord was jealous for his land and took pity on his people. The Lord replied to them:

“I am sending you grain, new wine and olive oil, enough to satisfy you fully; never again will I make you an object of scorn to the nations.” (Joel 2:17-19)

Our Zeal

God’s jealousy should inspire us to be zealous for him. The very definition of zeal for God is to be jealous for God! By definition, the enemy of zeal is sin, since it separates us from God. Zeal is the thermometer that measures how much we care about our relationship with God. Embrace these biblical challenges to help increase your zeal.

1.    Hate Sin

The Lord said to Moses, “Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, has turned my anger away from the Israelites. Since he was as zealous for my honor among them as I am, I did not put an end to them in my zeal. Therefore tell him I am making my covenant of peace with him.” (Numbers 25:10-12)

Phinehas zealously protected his/Israel’s relationship with God by demonstrating a vicious hatred toward sin (that which separates us from God).

2.    Don’t Envy Sinners

Do not let your heart envy (“be jealous” NLT) of sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the Lord. (Pr 23:17)

When we let our hearts want what other’s have, we are quenching our zeal.  

3.    Love what God Loves: People!

My zeal wears me out, for my enemies ignore your words. (Ps 119:39)

Our hearts should hurt when people spurn their relationship with God.

Our constant calling is to imitate God/Jesus, zealously pursuing our relationship with him. We must zealously protect our relationship with God.

His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.” (John 2:17)

Jesus was consumed with zeal for God and God's people (God's house = where he lives, which is inside his people)!

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.

May this be our prayer: “Make me zealous for my relationship with you, spiritually on fire, protecting my greatest treasure, hating sin, and wholeheartedly serving you.”