Have you ever been jealous when someone gave their affection or time or attention or admiration to another? Be honest (and no, you don’t have to post a comment and tell us all when and why).
Seriously though, have you ever been jealous of another’s affection or attention? Has it ever been so strong in you that it almost defined who you were? Maybe it was at a younger age over the “love” of one you “loved” being given to another, maybe it is a wounding you have suffered recently when one you love gave themself to another in either heart or body, maybe it was when someone gave praise and admiration to another when you wanted to get it from them instead. You were stirred inside with feelings very deep when you saw affection given to another, from one who you desired affection from, and you felt that the affection they gave that other took it from you. The greater your affection for a person, the greater could be your jealousy toward that person—you don’t care who someone loves if you don’t love that person.
Jealousy can be a powerful, driving force when unharnessed and allowed to drive and define a person. Proverbs 27:4 says, “Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?” and Galatians 5:20 lists it as a work of the flesh. And yet, during our Family Worship time, or whenever we play worship music, one of our favorite songs has been Jeremy Riddle’s version of “How He Loves.” In it is a line that says God is jealous for me. Having heard it probably 40-50 times, this morning it struck me powerfully and seemed to jump out from all the rest. I thought, “God is jealous for me! Wow!”
Just to nip in the bud any rebuttals in advance—I am not accusing God of sin; nor am I saying that His jealousy for us is identical to the jealousy in us that I asked about in the first paragraph; nor am I saying that any human analogy I use is a perfect or completely correct way to look at God. But, there is the fact that God uses human relationship to illustrate our relationship with Him (Father/child, Bridegroom/Bride). And, there is also the fact that God is a jealous God. Exodus 34:14 says, “(for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God).” Jealous is one of God’s very names, and His names define a part of who He is.
Similarly, Joshua 24:19-20 records Joshua saying to the people: "You are not able to serve the Lord, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm and consume you, after having done you good."
Psalm 79:5 asks: How long, O Lord? Will you be angry forever? Will your jealousy burn like fire?
Zechariah 8:2 says: Thus says the Lord of hosts: I am jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I am jealous for her with great wrath.
Indicating that there might, in fact, be a “proper” kind of jealousy, in 2 Corinthians 11:2-3 Paul writes to the believers in Corinth: I feel a divine jealousy for you, for I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.
And, to conclude sharing just a few of the many verses on God’s divine jealousy, in James 4:4-5 it says: You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, "He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us"?
The word “jealous,” when used in the Scripture in reference to God, is most often used in the context of God’s anger. They are fearful passages in the Bible that talk about God’s jealousy and the consequences of His pouring out His wrath from jealousy. But, may I suggest, that there is another side to looking at this as well (not meaning in any way we should ignore the first). May I suggest that God is jealous for you because He so loves you? That if you had no worth or meaning to His heart your misplaced affections and worship would mean nothing to Him (i.e., in admittedly flawed human terms, would you be a jealous lover if someone you had no feelings for loved another?). Might the depth of His jealousy toward you be a mirror of the depth of His love for you?
When we look at the brutality of the cross in all its graphic reality, and at the spiritual horror of One who was without sin taking on Himself the sin of the world, we are forced to realize that God loves us with a love more passionate and alive and deep than we can ever fathom or capture. It is no wonder that He is “jealous” for us—He loves us!—and it makes me feel good to know that God loves me so actively and vibrantly and passionately that my highest affections and my “worship” and “service” turned to anything other than Him provokes Him to jealousy (not feeling good that I do that, but that He cares enough to care).
I think that, in our theological talk, we often lose the “aliveness” (my word) of our faith. God becomes an idea, a theology, a “topic,” when, in fact, He is very alive, very passionate about things, ferocious, wonderful, awe inspiring, Holy, able to be grieved and angered, deeply and actively loving, participatory, etc. Any true relationship with Him is alive, dynamic, and an interchange of feelings and communication because He didn’t stay in the tomb, having paid for our sin, but He rose again to dwell with us and in us! “God loves us” is a living reality, not an idea. “God is jealous for us” is an expression and a truth, not a verse. Our sin is against Him, not a Bible. “God is with us” is a physical, real, tangible, truth, not simply a “feel good” platitude. He is real. He is interactive with us. He is mighty, and alive! We get so caught up in our own “feelings” that we forget that God feels things too, and that He has invested Himself completely in relationship with us.
God is holy, and He is awesome. He is worthy of our worship and reverence (and, when appropriate, fear) whether or not He loves us. His jealousy for me is passionate and alive, and that, in some way, tells my childlike understanding that His love for me is too. And, I am glad for that. May the living reality that God’s heart burns for you touch and awaken you throughout the days ahead.