You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God
– Exodus 20:4-5
The Lord God is often named by His character: King of Kings, Deliverer, Healer, Redeemer, etc…. But we never name the Lord God, “Jealous.” Jealousy seems like a bad characteristic, and this can’t be a quality of the Lord God. I mean, it’s in the 10 Commandments to not be jealous. Yet, we see that the Lord is jealous in Exodus 20:5, and Exodus 34:14 states, “for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” Scripture clearly tells us that jealousy is a quality of the Lord God.
To understand how the Lord can have this quality and still be good and holy, let’s look at a marriage, mine to be exact. My wife and I have been married for about 8 months. We’re still newlyweds, but we dated a long time before getting married. We met in high school and dated for about a year until we broke up because of jealousy. I was a freshman at college and she was a senior in high school. We were also in a long distance relationship. We barely had opportunities to see each other or anything. I would hang out with friends a lot. Well, this meant hanging out late with other girls too. I would miss out on scheduled Skype time or messenger time with her. I stopped giving my girlfriend the attention she needed and deserved. She rightfully broke up with me. Luckily, we reconnected, I grew up, and we’re happily married now.
Now, if I did the same thing I did to her as a freshman today, then she would not be happy. Our marriage would suck. I even feel guilty when I’m out late with the guys, now. My wife deserves my attention. Now imagine this scenario. I go have dinner alone with another woman. Pretty much it’s a date. Do you think my wife would be happy? Nope! There would be problems in the Hoch home. She would be jealous for my attention and my love, because it is rightfully hers as my wife. My heart belongs to her and not some other woman. It would be weird, and I would be offended if my wife was not jealous for my love. This is a good kind of jealousy. I have nightmares about us splitting up because I’m jealous for her love. Just the other night, I woke up by jumping out of bed and punching the air. I had a dream that another man was flirting with my wife and disrespecting her and our marriage. I had enough and went to knock him out. I’m not instigating fighting, but I’m going to protect my wife and our marriage. I’m just as jealous for her as she is for me. We’re supposed to be because we’re married.
This is similar to God’s jealousness for us. He created us to have a relationship with us and for us to worship Him. Our hearts rightfully belong to Him. So, of course He’s jealous when we give our hearts, love, and attention to something else over Him. Deuteronomy 4:24 says this of God, “For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” God’s love for us is like a consuming fire. It is passionate. Paul Copan writes,
A wife who doesn’t get jealous and angry when another woman is flirting with her husband isn’t really committed to the marriage relationship….Outrage, pain, anguish – these are the appropriate responses to such deep violation. God isn’t some abstract entity or impersonal principle…. We should be amazed that the Creator of the universe would open himself to sorrow and anguish in the face of human rejection and betrayal. (Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God)
Because of God’s love and jealousy for us, He pursues us. Just as a consuming fire pursues air and flammable objects, God passionately pursues us. The book of Hosea tells about Hosea marrying a woman who is constantly unfaithful to him. He continues to love and pursue her despite her unfaithfulness. This, a real event, is an analogy of God pursuing us despite our unfaithfulness. We’ll devote our hearts to other things instead of God. Whether it’s TV, sports, work, relationship (romantic or friendly), computer screens (you know what I’m talking about), entertainment (Xbox, PlayStation, etc…), or whatever you can think of, and God still loves and pursues us. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” (John 3:16). God put everything He had on the line for us. He poured out His heart knowing what will happen. He knew of the arrest, unfair trial, the beatings, the crucifixion, and He still did it because He loved us so much.
Luke 15:11-32 is the parable of the prodigal son. The son goes and leaves his father’s home and loses everything. He ends up sleeping and eating with the pigs. He realizes that even a servant at his father’s house lives better than he does now. So, he returns home. His father sees him from across the field and runs out to greet him. He throws a party for the return of his son and says, “It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.” This is our jealous and loving God. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). In other words, God shows His love for us in that while we betray Him, He still comes, and He still pursues us.
God is pursuing your heart because He’s jealous for it. Are you willing to dethrone the idols of your heart to let God have it back?
Idleman, Kyle. Gods at War: Defeating the Idols That Battle for Your Heart. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2013. $15