Oh happy day!
The first official post of this series is now starting. I started 2021 intending to write more frequently. However, taking these several months to continue to read, pray, and seek the will of the Lord has been absolutely eye-opening and defining. Taking time to read and study Scripture, to really know what it says, and be ready to “give a defense” is super important (1 Peter 3:15).
I had every intention of starting this series dissecting the topic of Biblical justice. However, within the last couple of months, I had a sweet girl in youth ask such a powerful question, I wanted to take the first post to address her question.
So, here’s the question:
If it is a sin to be jealous, why does God and the Bible say that God is a jealous God?
In order to answer the question thoroughly, it would be helpful to look at some verses where it talks about God being jealous. There’s quite a few so I will give a few examples and then list out the others so that you can look them up on your own.
Here we go:
“You shall not worship them or sever them (false idols); for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on their children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate me.” Exodus 20:5
“....for you shall not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God…” Exodus 34:14
“For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” Deuteronomy 4:24
Deut. 32:16, 5:9, 6:15; Joshua 24:19, Psalm 79:5, 78:58; 1 Corinthians 6:!9-20
“For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin.” 2 Cor. 11:2
The majority of the verses mentioned above come from the Old Testament, particularly the first five books of the Bible where God is making His covenant with Israel. This covenant began with Abraham when God first promised Abram that He would make his offspring “as numerous as the stars.” (Genesis 15:4) The same covenant extends down through to us, who have accepted Christ as our Lord and seek to follow Him, obey His commands, and make disciples.
Covenant is a word that we do not often hear in today’s culture so hearing someone talk about God’s “covenant” to Israel might seem a little awkward or like something we can’t relate to in 2021. However, the word covenant actually means “an agreement” or, simply put, a contract. When we are signing a contract, there are usually 2 parties involved and something is being exchanged or promised in exchange for something else. For example, when you buy a car, you sign a contract saying that you promise to pay for the car in exchange for them allowing you to drive and do whatever you want to the car as long as you pay for the car in full. If you don’t sign the contract, you don’t drive off the lot with a new car. If you sign the contract, drive the car, and eventually stop paying for the car, someone is going to come and get the car back because you broke your end of the deal. You broke your promise and now you have to deal with the consequences.
What does buying a car have to do with the Bible? The Lord made a contract with Israel. In Genesis 17, God made very specific promises to Abraham (the beginning of the nation of Israel):
In Genesis 17:1, the Lord says, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless.” In verses 9-14, the Lord details how the descendants of Abraham are to be circumcised (specifically on the 8th day after someone is born) as a “sign of the covenant between me and you” (vs. 11). Abraham was obedient on that day and circumcised himself and his entire household (vs. 23-27). The fact that Abraham was obedient to what the Lord said on that very day really gets at the heart of what God expected of Israel from verse 1: “walk before me faithfully and be blameless.”
How in the world was Israel supposed to do that exactly? We could get into all the theological and historical things that showed that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob knew how to walk faithfully and blamelessly before the Law was written (think Moses). But I think the entire Old Testament Law can truly be summed up in the Ten Commandments (see Exodus 20).
The very first commandment in the 10 Commandments is this: You shall have no other gods before me. The second is like it: 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. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God.
So if being jealous for us is a sin, why does God describe Himself as a jealous God and not be sinful?
Because worshipping something other than Jesus Christ, whether it be an actual object, our time, our money, our reputation, whatever it is...If it comes before our worship of Christ and following His commandments and will for our life, we are breaking our contract. God is keeping His end of the deal and He knows that staying within the bounds of our contract with Him is truly what is best for us. He wants us to worship Him and protect us and to our finite, human, sinful minds, we can best understand it as jealousy.
Now you might be saying, “Hold up now, Allison. I thought we were talking about Israel and their contract. What does this have to do with us?”
When Jesus came to fulfill the promise and to take the punishment of our sin upon Himself through death on the cross, resurrecting three days later, the Jews did not accept Him. They still do not accept Him. (Luke 4:14-30)
As a result, the Gospel has come to the Gentiles (anyone who isn’t a Jew). Because God so loved the WORLD, we are able to accept Christ as our Lord and seek to follow Him. Like a branch, we have been grafted into the family of God. Paul talks about this in Romans 11: “Then you will say, ‘Branches were broken off so that I might be graded in.’ That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches (the Jews), neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.” (verses 19-22 emphasis mine)
Since we are grafted in, we are now part of the covenant. Paul makes sure that the readers of his letter to the Romans (and us today) are clear that we also have a part to keep of the covenant. Our part looks a little different than the Jews of the Old Testament because of the sacrifice of Jesus (we can talk about how that is different in a later blog post) but our main objective and the commandment that is most important is: “Love the Lord your God will all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40
God only describes Himself as jealous in the context of idolatry, that something has become more important in our hearts and lives than worshipping and serving God. The Holy, Righteous, Omnipotent Creator and Sinless Savior is jealous for our hearts for our protection and for our good. God cannot sin and apart from Him we have “no good thing” (Psalm 16:2). We are the ones who have sinned and daily break our contract. Instead of instant wrath and punishment for our sins, we are reminded that repentance and the fullness of the love of Jesus is just a breath, just a moment away.
Y’all know me and know that I can’t just leave a post without discussing music of some sort. The song that immediately came to mind and played in my head over and over again is (of course) How He Loves by John Mark McMillian where the first line says, “He is jealous for me. Loves like a hurricane and I am a tree bending beneath the weight of it’s wind and mercy.” I think it is pretty cool that we are branches that have been grafted in, bending (but not breaking) beneath the wind of God’s mercy. How He loves us.