God is a Jealous God
When we consider jealousy, it is usually thought of in a bad light. We call it the green-eyed monster. According to Wikipedia: "Jealousy is an emotion, and typically refers to the negative thoughts and feelings of insecurity, fear, and anxiety over the anticipated loss of something that a person values, particularly in reference to a human connection."
When we look at sinful human jealousy we think of a person who has distrust, is selfish and suspicious and is overly possessive to the point where the other person cannot do anything without the person who is jealous getting angry. A jealous person is demanding, overbearing and repulsive. Jealousy, in the human sense, is degrading and demeaning. It causes disharmony and destroys relationships. Just like love builds up, jealousy tears down.
But we know that not all jealousy is sinful and evil. God, Himself says that He is a jealous God. And since that is the case, then it is a holy jealousy.
I. Definition of Holy Jealousy
When we define the word jealous, in today's understanding, it is always a bad thing It has developed a bad reputation, just as the word hate has. But hating that which is evil and unjust is not a bad thing. In the same way jealously can be good. In Scripture, the word jealous can better be understood by the word zealous. The root idea in the Old Testament is to become intensely red. It refers to the changing color of a person's face because of the rising of an emotion and is associated with intense zeal or fervor over something dear to us. When we say that God is jealous, it is synonymous with His eagerness to protect what is precious to Him.
God's relationship with His people is often compared to a marriage. So righteous jealousy can best be seen by looking at it in this way. If a man gets mad every time he sees his wife talking with another man, then that is unrighteous jealousy. It is an irrational fear or paranoia of losing his wife. It also shows an unwarranted distrust for his spouse.
However, it is an entirely different thing when another man comes up and propositions her, in order to get her to be intimate with him or to take the wife away from her husband. No man in his right mind would allow that to happen. God has made the marriage relationship exclusive. Each person belongs to the other and your sexual behavior must be given exclusively to your spouse.
In the case of the Lord, it is God, (the husband), asking His people, (the spouse), not to give their loyalty to another. And the other gods aren't even real. They have nothing to offer. There is only one God, and only He is the Creator, and Sustainer of the universe. His people belong to Him and to Him alone. God is absolutely right in asking for an exclusive commitment. And He is zealous to keep it exclusive.
It might be helpful if we look at Scripture here. There are actually several places where God is said to be jealous. However, the first comes in Exodus 20:4-6. God is telling the people of Israel not to have idols. He says to them:
"You shall not make 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, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing loving kindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments."
God's jealousy is always seen in connection with His people leaving Him for idols, or false gods. Here, God is reminding the people of that exclusive relationship which they have.
Some married people today have what are known as "open relationships." That is a marriage in which a couple is legally bound by marriage but feel free to see and have sexual relations with other people. This is unacceptable in the sight of God. And this is analogous to what some want to do with God. They want a relationship with Him but at the same time want to have other things that they desire to put ahead of the Lord. God is completely within His rights to be jealous in a situation like this because He is the one and only God and deserves our full allegiance. He will not have an open relationship with His people.
II. Jealousy Versus Envy
Sometimes we get jealousy and envy mixed up. God is a jealous God. But He is never envious. Envy is when you want, or desire to have something that rightfully belongs to someone else. That is always wrong. Jealousy, on the other hand, can be good or bad. Sinful jealousy is when we fear that something that belongs to us will be taken away by another person.
Jealousy, when it is good, is a zealousness to protect that which is rightfully yours against those who would seek to take it away. We don't, for example, think that it is wrong when we try to keep another person from stealing our car. The car rightfully belongs to us.
In the case of God and His people Israel, it was His protection of their exclusive relationship against their worship of false gods, or idols. His people belonged to Him. The idols could not steal Israel away because they weren't real. But the people of Israel could, and eventually did, give their loyalty to false gods.
What God is jealous for is not Him wanting something that belongs to someone else. What He is jealous for belongs to Him. He alone deserves our worship, our praise, and our service.
The bottom line is that the Lord is faithful to His commitments to us and He wants us to be faithful to Him, having no other gods before Him. Today that is not so much an idol of stone, brass, silver, or gold. It is anything which stands in the way of our relationship with Him.
The sad thing is that when we put other things before God it is hurting us and destroying our lives. We were created to have an exclusive relationship with the God of the universe, and anything less than that means that we aren't living up to our potential. As a matter of fact, it means that ultimately we are throwing our lives away, both now and into eternity.
I thank God for His holy jealousy. To know that the God of the universe wants an exclusive relationship with me is the best thing to ever happen to me. And it is my ambition to put no other gods before Him.
I'm hoping that all who love the Lord will seek to do the same. If you have a relationship with Him by faith in Jesus Christ the Lord is your God and Father. He loves you with an everlasting love, and will always be there in your life, no matter what happens. What a comforting thought to know that our God is a jealous God!
© 2012 Jeff Shirley