“For you shall not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” Exodus 34:14I received an email recently from a friend of mine in Australia. He was excited about a study that he had just finished on God’s wrath. His conclusions were truly moving and they reminded me of some of the very same conclusions I had come to a few years ago. I had been puzzled about the Bible’s use of the word “Jealousy” as it pertains to God. My quandary went as follows:
John states that “God is love.”(I John 4:8) Paul states that “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous.”(1 Corinthians 13:4) Yet, Moses states that God “is a jealous God.”(Exodus 34:14) How are we to make sense out of this apparent contradiction? God is love, love isn’t jealous, God is jealous. Hmmm . . . Interesting.
Our first clue is found in Paul’s second letter to the believers in Corinth. He wrote to them, “I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy.” (2 Corinthians 11:2)
Is there a “godly jealousy” that is the very expression of love and an “ungodly jealousy” of which God would never claim to be? There must be! Again, Paul says in his letter to the Galatian believers, “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality. . . jealousy. . . things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19-21, emphasis added)
So, what is the difference between godly and ungodly jealousy? James gives us another hint: “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.” (James 3:14-16, emphasis added)
The difference between the two is simple. One is based on complete, unabbreviated, other-centered concern for the highest welfare of its object. The other is rooted in the self-centered concern for one’s personal loss. In the Hebrew, jealousy can express a very strong emotion whereby some quality or possession for the object is desired by the subject. (Brown Driver Briggs).
Could it be that a soul truly finds its greatest joy and happiness when that soul is loving Him who is Love? If so, then would God have an other-centered motive for being jealous of His competition?
Why is God jealous? Because it’s all about you, dear one. He wants what’s best for you. He knows that the things which your heart may long for above Him are truly self-destructive and will only hurt you. He who sins against God “injures himself.” (Proverbs 8:36) It is not for His sake that He cries out in wrath against His competition, but for yours. He will suffer nothing to hurt the apple of His eye. Your well-being, not His own, is His supreme concern and passion. His jealousy is absolute, yet completely and perfectly other-centered.
This may be hard for us to grasp since the only jealousy we know is that which springs from our own self-centered hearts. God cries out, however, not out of fear of His own personal loss, but because He is jealous for you. I don’t know about you . . . but there have been plenty of times in my life where I needed a God who cares for me more than I have cared for myself.
I wish you God’s best this week.
“Jehovah as a mighty one goeth forth. As a man of war He is jealous, He crieth, yea, He shrieketh, against His enemies He showeth Himself mighty.” (Isaiah 42:13)