October 31, 2014
The Jealous God
By Skip Heitzig
I heard a story about a little girl who was writing a letter to God. "Dear God," she said, "What does it mean You're a jealous God? I thought You had everything." I was amused at the innocence of the question, but she wasn't alone in her confusion over that portrayal of God. The idea of a jealous God bothers a lot of people, and it may not sit too well with you. Yet, God is referred to as "jealous" eight times in the Bible. Exodus 20:5 says, "For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God." And He never apologizes for it; He just states it.
The jealousy of God is actually a wonderful thing. In the original language, the word means to have zeal over one's property; it means "Hands off! This belongs to me." A holy kind of jealousy should accompany the love we have for those closest to us; it protects the relationship from those who might want to damage it. I think something is wrong in any relationship of love where there's not some kind of jealousy. For instance, I'm jealous over my wife. If someone asked me if they could take her out on a date, I wouldn't say, "Well, I'm not a jealous husband; go ahead." I'd have to be a nutcase to say that! I have a jealous love for her, and she has the same for me.
Different translations have different ways of expressing the jealousy of God. Young's Literal Translation says, "I…[am] a zealous God." The Torah says, "I am an impassioned God." The Living Bible says, "I, the Lord your God, am very possessive. I will not share your affection with any other god!" The Good News Translation says, "I tolerate no rivals," and the Contemporary English Version says, "I demand all your love." So, jealous is an accurate translation.
The servants of God know this about Him. Paul and Barnabas didn't allow the people at Lystra to bow to them (see Acts 14:8-18). Twice in the book of Revelation, angels rebuked John for bowing to them (see 19:10 and 22:8-9). Why? Because God alone is worthy of our worship. He forbids us from worshiping angels, Mary, saints, pastors, movements, theologies, or ideologies. God is a jealous God.
Yes, as the little girl said, God has everything. But He is jealous—possessive, impassioned—for all of your love, devotion, and worship. That's as it should be. You belong to Him.
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