What is the first word that pops into your head when you think of God? Is it love, or forgiveness? Maybe you thought of mercy or grace. All of these would be proper and true. But there is another word that describes God that you might not have thought of. It’s a word we don’t usually associate with someone so awesome and mighty. It’s the word jealous.
In worldly terms, the word jealous is relegated to people who feel resentment against someone else in a rivalry who might have an upper hand, a better job, a nicer car, more money or greater fame. Jealousy is associated with envy and fear, not something we usually connect to God Almighty.
So why is God described as jealous so much in Scripture (18 times as a matter of fact)? Well, as you might imagine, its not because of fear or envy. In Scripture, God is described as jealous because of love.
Let’s start with Exodus 20:5, “You shall not bow down to (other gods) or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me,” Here God doesn’t hide from his feeling of jealousy. He is openly displeased that His people have chosen other gods and He feels betrayed. We can imagine the pain He feels that His people have abandoned Him. His love is deep, but His people have a love for Him that is fleeting.
Our God is jealous of anyone or anything that separates us from Him. His desire is that our passion for Him would be so immense that we wouldn’t be tempted to follow other gods, no matter how enticing their promises. He has done everything to clear our path to salvation, yet He has to see us so easily stray further and further onto the wid path to destruction. He longs for us to understand His complete love for us and is jealous of the things that gain our devotion instead.
In Exodus 34:14, God actually names Himself Jealous, in Deuteronomy 4:24 He is described as a consuming fire, a jealous God. His devotion is to those whom He has created. His passion is for our welfare. He is intimately connected to each and every one of us and when we disregard that relationship, it fills Him with grief and jealousy for what has been lost.
There is a contemporary Christian song called “Oh, How He Loves Me.” by David Crowder. Part of the lyrics uniquely illustrate Godly jealousy. “He (God) is jealous for me?” The lyrics say, “He is jealous for me, loves like a hurri-cane, I am a tree, bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy. When all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory, And I realize just how beautiful You are, and how great Your affections are for me.”
God’s jealousy for us should move us to a greater understanding of His immense love for us. His jealousy happens because He knows that, should we give Him our complete devotion, our lives would realize the blessings that come with that decision. His love is not momentary but everlasting. He wants to spend eternity with us. His is not jealous out of envy or fear, He is jealous for us to realize what He has created us to be.
And just like His Father, Christ is jealous for His bride, the church. When we find other suitors for our attention, He is jealous for us to come back to Him. When we neglect our calling as a church, he is jealous for us to find our way back to the narrow path that leads to salvation.
Isaiah 42:5-8 says, “Thus says God, the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it: “I am the LORD; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness. I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.”
For all this, He asks for our love and devotion in return. He has made us to be His own, to be in relationship with Him and to remember Him for all that He has done for us in this life and the life to come. When we fail to honor that by clinging to lesser gods, He is jealous for us, longing for us to return to Him. Please pray with me:
Heavenly Father, forgive us when we have turned our backs on You despite our understanding of Your love. Help us to remain devoted to you and receive our thanksgiving for all You have done. Amen.