A Jealous God? Rev. Tony Cooke

A Jealous God?
Rev. Tony Cooke

jealous godJealousy is often thought of only in a negative light, and there has been no shortage of negative examples to reinforce such thinking.  In its negative expression, ungodly jealousy is a carnal, ugly trait associated with insecurity, fear, covetousness, and suspicion.  It was Shakespeare who called jealousy a “green-eyed monster.”

But there is another side of jealousy.  God said of Himself, even in the midst of delivering the Ten Commandments: "You shall have no other gods before Me. …you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God…(Exodus 20:3, 5 – NKJV).

Other versions of verse 5 read:

    1.  I am the Lord your God and I tolerate no rivals. (GNT)
    2.  I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God who will not share your affection with any other god! (NLT)
    3.  I, the Lord your God, am very possessive. (TLB)

“A Handbook on Genesis” tells us that the root meaning for jealous here is “red,” and “may suggest the color of one’s face produced by deep emotion. It is a human emotion, to be sure, but it is used here to describe the intense reaction of a holy God who demands unqualified loyalty from his chosen people.”

Later in Exodus, God makes another powerful statement about his jealousy, and goes so far as to identify His very Name as Jealous:

Exodus 34:14 (NKJV)
14 …for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God

Other translations render this:

    1.  You must worship no other gods, but only the LORD, for he is a God who is passionate about his relationship with you. (NLT)
    2.  For you must worship no other gods, but only Jehovah, for he is a God who claims absolute loyalty and exclusive devotion. (TLB)
    3.  Do not worship any other god, because I, the Lord, tolerate no rivals. (GNT)
    4.  Don’t worship any other god. God—his name is The-Jealous-One—is a jealous God. (MSG)
    5.  For you shall worship no other god; for the Lord, Whose name is Jealous, is a jealous (impassioned) God. (AMP)

Some might contend that God was only jealous “under the Law.”  However, a careful study of Scripture indicates that the jealousy of God is an unchanging part of His Nature; it is one of His eternal attributes.  Godly jealousy is a beautiful aspect of the eternal nature of God.  Because of this godly jealousy, He rightly desires to draw us unto Himself to satisfy His own mercy and love by bestowing them on us. 

In the New Testament, godly jealousy is clearly seen in various Scriptures:

2 Corinthians 11:1-2 (NKJV)
2 For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.

Other versions read:

    1.  I am jealous for you, just as God is… (GNT)
    2.  I am jealous of you with God’s own jealousy… (ISV)
    3.  I have a deep jealousy over you like God’s own jealousy for his people. (NIGTC)
    4.  I am jealous for you with the jealousy of God himself. (NLT)

One commentary renders this, “I have zeal with a zeal of God.”

John Chrysostom, the Bishop of Constantinople who died in 407 A.D., spoke of this verse: “Paul uses a word here which is far stronger than mere love. Jealous souls burn ardently for those whom they love, and jealousy presupposes a strong affection. Then, in order that they should not think that Paul is after power, wealth or honor, he adds that his jealousy is ‘divine.’ For God is said to be jealous, not in a human way but so that everyone may know that he claims sovereign rights over those whom he loves and does what he does for their exclusive benefit. Human jealousy is basically selfish, but divine jealousy is both intense and pure.”

James 4:4-5 (NLT)
4 You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with this world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again, that if your aim is to enjoy this world, you can’t be a friend of God. 5 What do you think the Scriptures mean when they say that the Holy Spirit, whom God has placed within us, jealously longs for us to be faithful?

Other versions read:

    1.  The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously. (NKJV)
    2.  The Spirit He caused to live in us envies intensely. (NIV)
    3.  The Holy Spirit, whom God has placed within us, watches over us with tender jealousy. (TLB)
    4.  The Spirit that God caused to live in us jealously yearns for us? (ISV)
    5.  The proverb has it that “he’s a fiercely jealous lover.” (MSG)
    6.  The Spirit that God made to live in us wants us for himself alone. (NCV)

William Barclay said of the above verse: “There is… a sense in which love gives and demands an exclusive devotion to one person.  It is profoundly true that a man can be in love with only one person at a time; if he thinks otherwise, he does not know the meaning of love.”

Echoing God’s command that we not have any gods before Him, the Apostle John ended his first epistle with this simple phrase: “Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.” (1 John 5:21).

Other versions say:

    1.  Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts. (NLT)
    2.  Dear children, be on guard against all clever facsimiles. (MSG)
    3.  Little children, keep yourselves from idols (false gods)–[from anything and everything that would occupy the place in your heart due to God, from any sort of substitute for Him that would take first place in your life]. Amen (so let it be).

1 Corinthians 10:14, 22 (NKJV)
14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.
22 …do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He?

The Amplified translation of verse 14 reads: Therefore, my dearly beloved, shun (keep clear away from, avoid by flight if need be) any sort of idolatry (of loving or venerating anything more than God).

Verse 22 is rendered elsewhere:

    1.  What? Do you dare to rouse the Lord’s jealousy as Israel did? Do you think we are stronger than he is? (NLT)
    2.  Besides, the Master won’t put up with it. He wants us—all or nothing. Do you think you can get off with anything less? (MSG)

Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy?  Paul asked this question because we, as believers, can be doing one of two things: (1) we can provoke God’s jealousy, or (2) we can satisfy God’s jealousy.  We can either frustrate His burning desire for us for Himself, or we can satisfy His burning desire for us for Himself.  He wants our focus, our attention, our devotion, and our commitment.  He wants all of our hearts and all of our lives.

The Prophet Isaiah said that God created us for His glory, had formed us for Himself to declare His praise, and had blotted out our transgressions for His own sake (43:7, 21, 25).  It has been said that God gives gifts with “no strings attached,” but I believe that every gift God gives has strings attached by which He can draw us unto Himself.  In Hosea 11:4, God said, “I drew them with gentle cords, with bands of love…”  God’s jealousy is a wonderful aspect of His nature, because through it He draws us unto Himself.  May we ever satisfy – and never provoke – His jealousy.