EXODUS 34:8-14 MARCH 20, 2016
“THE JEALOUS GOD”
We don’t often hear of God being described as jealous. The dictionary defines jealous as being fearful, or wary of losing what one has to another, such as someone’s love or affection. Jealousy usually has negative connotations when dealing with personal relationships. Yet as we have often noted in our series on the characteristics of God we should listen carefully to how God describes himself. The LORD warns Moses to tell the people in Exodus 34:14 (NIV) “14 Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” Whenever we speak of God we should recall that God is not swayed by emotions, as we are. God is completely perfect and holy in all that he is and does. So we must broaden our understanding in looking at God. One of the names of God is Jealous. I think it would be wise for us to seek to understand why God describes himself as “Jealous”.
Let us first look at several scripture passages so we can begin to understand how God is jealous (zealous) in protecting his relationships with his chosen people. I want you to recall when God first revealed himself to Moses. The children of Abraham had been living in Egypt for 400 years. When Moses fled to the wilderness after he killed the Egyptian overseer who had been mistreating one of the Jews, Moses had an encounter with the God of his people. God identified himself to Moses as “I AM WHO I AM”, which in Hebrew is Yahweh. In the Ten Commandments in the Second commandment in Exodus 20:4-5 (NIV) 4 “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God.” We must be careful to guard our relationship with the Lord God from anyone or anything so that God always comes first!
God made mankind in his image and he called out a people to be his very own. God desires to protect that relationship which he initiated. Deuteronomy 4:23-24 (NIV) “23 Be careful not to forget the covenant of the LORD your God that he made with you; do not make for yourselves an idol in the form of anything the LORD your God has forbidden. 24 For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” Psalm 78:58 (NIV) “58 They angered him with their high places; they aroused his jealousy with their idols.” Nahum 1:2 (NIV) “2 The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD takes vengeance and is filled with wrath. The LORD takes vengeance on his foes and maintains his wrath against his enemies.” Because God is jealous to protect that relationship this should motivate us to be cautious and not stray from loving and serving our Lord. God should come first!
Even in the New Testament, Paul warns the Corinthians to not provoke the Lord to disciplining us. 1 Corinthians 10:22 (ESV), “Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy?” The question posed by Paul expects a negative response! We should not provoke God by our actions. James 4:4-5 (ESV), “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?”
God uses language derived from human relationships to describe how God is jealous to protect our relationship with him. God uses this type of language as it is the best way for us to understand how much God values our relationship. God is all knowing and all powerful, yet he allows us to express our free will. He allows us to stray, like an unfaithful spouse! However, God is pleased when we choose to honor our relationship by remaining faithful to him at all times. God’s jealousy is not something he is ashamed of. On the contrary, his jealousy is praiseworthy! In the same way we should honor and protect our marriages; so too we should do everything in our power to remain faithful to our God and to our Savior Jesus Christ!
In our culture we have lost sight of the great importance in keeping our word, our vows. When we asked Christ to become our Savior and Lord we made a vow to love and serve him. When we joined the church we again made a vow to serve Christ! We are aware of how people are breaking their vows: whether it is in court when vowing to speak the truth or failing to honor their wedding vows to remain faithful to their spouse. Adultery is even held up as a good thing by many in the world and recommended by some to supposedly strengthen a marriage. How does one strengthen a relationship by lying and cheating? God is not pleased when we break our word, our promises to be faithful in our relationships. God is forgiving but what will God do when we fail in our faithfulness to him? God will discipline us in an attempt to bring us back to our senses so we might repent. He desires that we awaken from our stupidity in ignoring this vital relationship. We must not take our salvation and our relationship with God for granted.
What does God want from us as we reflect on God being jealous to protect our relationship? First, God requires us to be zealous for God. Proverbs 23:17 (NIV) “17 Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the LORD.” According to J. C. Ryle, “Zeal is a burning desire to please God, to do his will, and to advance his glory in the world in every possible way.” (Knowing God, page 173)
One way in which this is accomplished is that we should speak up when God’s name is taken in vain and used as a vulgar adjective. It is time we shed our fears and ask people to use other language. I have found that when asked people most often are surprised but will most times apologize. (Not always- I have been cursed) I try to stay away from places where I know God is going to be mocked and ridiculed. I pray for the courage to stand up when I find myself in these circumstances. I also tell people that each of us has enough things we must answer to God for, without adding our careless words.
When I first started working with the Sheriff’s Office I believed every person who vowed to God that they were telling the truth. It soon became clear that they were lying. I now speak up when people swear to God. I inform them that God is going to hold them accountable if they are lying. I then try to use the occasion to direct them back to God.
As a church, we should be aware of the warning that the LORD gave the church of Laodicea. Revelation 3:15-6, 19 (ESV) “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.” Are we willing, like Jesus, to enter into Jerusalem (the world in which we live) knowing it will cost us our lives? Are we willing to pick up our cross and follow Jesus?
Let us pray.