We’re continuing the message series entitled, “I AM” where we learn how God describes Himself. We are then challenged to go out and be the salt and light of the world in that same way. Or, as John wrote:
1 John 4:17
This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment:
In this world we are like Jesus. Or in the KJV: As He is, so are we in this world.
Since our view of who God is can be very easily distorted by our experiences with Him and that they can often reveal more about us than about who He is, we’re going to stick to God’s direct quotes of how He describes Himself.
So far, we’ve learned that God is compassionate, holy, with us, and love. This week, we’re digging into what God means when He declares, “I AM: a jealous God.”
If I were to take a poll this morning before this quote of God, most of us would agree that jealousy is a bad thing and something that we, as followers of Jesus, should not possess. After all, Galatians chapter five lists jealousy as one of the obvious fruits of our flesh that we are supposed to put off. And also, isn’t the tenth commandment not to covet, which means that you are jealous of what belongs to others?
Yet, God not only describes Himself as jealous, He actually names Himself Jealous when giving Moses the second set of stone tablets. As a bit of background information, God brought His people out from they Egyptian bondage and is continuing them on their journey away from Mount Sinai and into the land promised as their inheritance. When warning them not to make treaties with the people living in those lands which He was sending them into, He said:
Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.
Moses reminded them of this fact when teaching God’s laws to the people of Israel:
23 Be careful not to forget the covenant of the Lord your God that he made with you; do not make for yourselves an idol in the form of anything the Lord your God has forbidden. 24 For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.
and again when Moses was quoting the second commandment during this same teaching:
8 “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. 9 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, 10 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
We then find all through the Old Testament where the people of Israel would cause God to become jealous by worshiping idols and false Gods. When receiving a prophecy regarding Nineveh, Nahum saw a vision of God being the original avenger:
The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord takes vengeance and is filled with wrath. The Lord takes vengeance on his foes and vents his wrath against his enemies.
He then goes on to record several of God’s awesome supernatural powers, oh, and that He is a jealous God. Zephaniah prophesied that it is God’s jealousy that will cause the end times to come:
Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to save them on the day of the Lord’s wrath.” In the fire of his jealousy the whole earth will be consumed, for he will make a sudden end of all who live on the earth.
We could go on quoting scriptures the rest of the morning clearly indicating that God is indeed jealous for His people and His promises to them. Over and over again, God is jealous when Israel chose sin and other gods over Him and for the land promised to them when they were exiled from it. God is still just as jealous today when we chose other things over Him and toward His promises that go unfulfilled for us.
God is jealous, but isn’t jealousy wrong? Hasn’t He commanded us not to be jealous? Just as we learned last week about our English word “love”, there must be something lost in translation here, right? After all, how can we be commanded not to be jealous by the God whose name is Jealous? That’s not right nor just of God.
According to Merriam-Webster, there are two different definitions for the word jealousy:
– an unhappy or angry feeling of wanting to have what someone else has
– an unhappy or angry feeling caused when someone you love likes or is liked by someone else
We’re learning this morning that the translation of what God means by calling Himself jealous and yet commanding us not to be jealous isn’t a loss of translation from the original languages to our English language, but rather, a loss of translation between our ears, mind, and heart. We’re learning this morning of what nearly seems to be a Biblical paradox. We are supposed to be jealous and we’re not supposed to be jealous. It’s right to be jealous and it’s wrong to be jealous. What clears up this confusion is the context.
We are not supposed to have an unhappy or angry feeling of wanting what someone else has.
We are supposed to have an unhappy or angry feeling caused when someone we love likes or is liked by someone else.
We are not supposed to be jealous about stuff.
We are supposed to be jealous in certain relationship scenarios.
If Bob buys a new car, Ted should not be jealous. If Bob starts flirting with Ted’s wife, he should be jealous.
If Sally’s new hair looks amazing, Melody should not be jealous. If Sally kisses Melody’s husband, she should be jealous.
Hopefully, this beginning to make a bit more sense. The scenarios where we are not supposed to be jealous is fairly straight forward. Sure, it can be very difficult to put into practice; especially if someone has something that you don’t and you feel that you deserve to have it instead. However, we generally understand that it is wrong to be jealous in these scenarios.
Jealousy is an ugly root that can grow deep inside of our lives and cause us to think and act in very ungodly ways. It can stir up within us sinful and arrogant pride as well as a selfish hatred toward others whenever, as we learned last week, we are always to love them selflessly. Jealousy can quickly lead us far from God and into all sorts of various sin and literally set us up against God. Paul reminded young Timothy regarding jealousy:
1 Timothy 6:3-10
3 If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, 4 they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions 5 and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.
6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
Paul couldn’t paint a clearer picture of how necessary it is to pursue contentment and to flee from being jealous of other people and worldly possessions. This morning, however, we’re not going to focus on this type of jealousy that we are to escape, but rather the jealousy that we are to possess.
God is jealous for us. Jealousy is an inseparable part of God’s perfect, unfailing love. God is love, therefore God is jealous. Although we may have never considered this truth, jealousy is an essential attribute of any true form of love. If I truly love someone, but my love is interfered with, then my love becomes jealous. This part of love is described in Song of Songs (or Song of Solomon) between two lovers. This book is also symbolic of the relationship between God and us, His bride, the church.
Song of Songs 8:6-7
6 Place me like a seal over your heart,
like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death,
its jealousy unyielding as the grave.
It burns like blazing fire,
like a mighty flame.
7 Many waters cannot quench love;
rivers cannot sweep it away.
If one were to give
all the wealth of one’s house for love,
it would be utterly scorned.
Love is jealous. God’s jealousy was aroused throughout the pages of scripture anytime that His people turned their worship, affection, and commitment away from Him and onto other things. Any thing that turns our love away from God is called an idol. It’s easy for us to read through the pages of the Old Testament and read about the Asherah poles, hand carved and molded images, altars, and sacred stones and believe that idolatry is an issue of the past. Nothing could be farther from the truth, however.
Idolatry stirs up the Lord’s jealousy just as quickly today as it did before the birth of Jesus. God loves us perfectly and faithfully. When we are unfaithful to Him and pour out our affection and commitment on other things before Him, He becomes jealous. This jealousy is a result of His great love for us. After all, if God isn’t jealous when we put other things before Him and love other things more than Him, then He must not really love us. As it is, His jealousy toward us is strongly stirred.
For this very reason, Paul warned the church in Corinth about idolatry, proving this to be a continued issue following the resurrection of Jesus. He then poses the question:
1 Corinthians 10:22-24
22 Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy? Are we stronger than he? 23 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. 24 No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.
God loves us so much and couldn’t have possibly done more to prove His love than what He has already done for us. That’s why whenever we choose anything other than Him, God is jealous for us. Idolatry is still an issue for us today. No, in our culture and community, we don’t find many people bowing down to worship wooden images of Gods. However, we find that when the will of God comes in conflict with the things of this world, God all too often is blown off as we rush off to far lesser things. This is idolatry.
We may not want to run away to Egypt and put ourselves under slavery because we don’t have any meat to eat. However, when God asks us to move forward in faith out of our comfort zone and we choose not to, this is idolatry and stirs up the jealousy of God just the same as it did for the Israelites as they died with quail still between their teeth.
Why does God get jealous in these situations? Was it wrong of Him to punish those who dug their feet in the ground whining and complaining against Him? He loves us deeply and knows the far better things that He has planned for us. Yes, we might have to go through the difficult dessert seasons of trust and lack. However, those temporary seasons are nothing in comparison to the permanent dwelling in promises of milk and honey that follow them. God knows the great plans and promises that He has for us and He grows jealous when we settle for less and doubt His promises.
Now, we’re being challenged in this series that “as He is, so are we in this world.” Although it is wrong for us to be jealous of others, there is something that we should be jealous for. We should be jealous for God and the things that He has promised to us. When anything interferes with our love toward God or between us and His promises to us, we should become intensely jealous. If we truly love God, then we should become jealous.
It is this jealous attribute of love that motivates us to walk in the freedom of the Spirit and away from the sins and temptations of our flesh. It is what keeps us pressing into the presence of God accepting nothing less than His promises for our lives. It is what gives us the passion to destroy the works of the enemy and to lead others to Christ. It is what enables us to persevere any circumstances with the fullness of faith that God’s word will become our reality in our lives.
God is jealous for us. His love is as strong as death; jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench His love; rivers cannot sweep it away. God is jealous for us. He has proved His love as completely as possible.
However, do we truly love Him? Are we jealous of anything that keeps us from spending time with Him? Are we jealous of missed opportunities to serve Him and share His awesome works with others? Are we jealous for the presence and promises that He has made us? As James wrote:
do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us?
It’s time for us to rise up and be the people we were created to be. It’s time for us to become as jealous for God as He is for us. It’s time for us to become as jealous, expectant, and relentless toward His promises for us as He is. As we begin to passionately pursue Him and all that He has for us, we’ll begin to understand what we was otherwise missing out on and why our God is a jealous god!