4 Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
5 Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, "The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously"?
Our God is a jealous God. (Exodus 20:5) That's kind of a strange thought, because we think of jealousy so differently than God does. For a human, jealousy is about envy and desire, about coveting what others have. Jealousy is sometimes also about distrust and even paranoia. Jealousy is, for men, a "green-eyed monster," eating us up and turning from desire to anger in the blink of an eye. As Solomon wrote, "Wrath is cruel and anger a torrent, But who is able to stand before jealousy?" (Proverbs 27:4)
But what about God's jealousy? We read throughout Scripture that He is jealous for us, and that His anger burns when we depart from Him.
Neither their silver nor their gold
Shall be able to deliver them In the day of the LORD's wrath;
But the whole land shall be devoured
By the fire of His jealousy,
For He will make speedy riddance
Of all those who dwell in the land.
God is that jealous for us! That is why it amazes me when people wonder if they are worthy enough to seek God, to ask for His mercy. God is so utterly jealous for us! He loves us with a passionate love, a love that compels Him to fight against anything in our lives that draws us away from Him.
The apostle James really hit the nail on the head when he wrote today's verses. James is telling us that when we seek the world and its pleasures, then we are inviting God's jealousy, God's enmity, God's wrath. In the margin of my Bible, there's a footnote that points to this verse:
Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
This is, of course, just before God released the Flood on the earth to wipe away the evil of the world. Yes, God knows we are, at heart, not jealous for Him, not loving Him. And yet, even in His jealous anger, God is compassionate.
20 Then Noah built an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.
21 And the LORD smelled a soothing aroma. Then the LORD said in His heart, "I will never again curse the ground for man's sake, although the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done."
What was the "soothing aroma" that God smelled? Was it simply the smoke rising from burnt offerings? No, it was much more than that. What God smelled was worship and humility and thanksgiving. What soothed God's jealousy was Noah's love for Him rather than love for the world. You see, even in our Lord God, who is jealous for us with a consuming fire, jealousy is overwhelmed by love.
Yes, our God is jealous for us, and His Spirit yearns within us for us to yield to His love, but the intent of our hearts is ever toward sin and evil. Therefore, we must make a conscious, continuous effort to love God, to seek His face. It is not enough to simply say we believe in God. We must, as Scripture commands us, LOVE the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our mind, and with all our soul. WE must be jealous for HIM.
But He gives more grace. Therefore He says:
"God resists the proud,
But gives grace to the humble."
What aroma will we offer to soothe the jealousy of the Lord? How shall we humble ourselves today and tomorrow and the next day? What offering can we make, what love remove from the world to give to Him?
Each day let us come before God with love and humility, knowing that His passionate love makes Him jealous for us. His love is so powerful that He risked everything to send His only begotten Son to bring us peace and eternal life. We might have refused such an offering, and many still do. But for we who accept Christ, the soothing aroma that reaches to God is the scent of Jesus' own righteousness and humility, which covers us as His Spirit dwells within us. Let us therefore humble ourselves before God, seeking to quell His jealousy and wrath with our love and repentance. Let us fall on our knees and worship the God who is jealous for us always.
Father God, in my younger days, I did not understand Your love for me. Now that I have found Your love, I understand Your jealousy and anger when I seek the world rather than You. Forgive me, Lord God, and set my heart aright. Guide me away from love for the world toward love for You and my fellow man. Teach me Your jealous love for us, so that I may be not just jealous but also zealous for You. Amen.