Why is God jealous?
by Robert Randle
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There was an interesting question taken from The Kansas City Star by Columnist Helen Gray and printed in the Tacoma News Tribune, RELIGION section [p. A9], Saturday, November 5, 2011, FAITH Q&A, which asks, “Why is God a jealous God?” The two responses were from a Christian minister and a Jewish rabbi who gave interesting answers to this rather intriguing and thought-provoking question and it prompted me to conduct my own personal study on the matter. The explanation by the rabbi gave the most convincing beginning approach to solve this mystery but seemed to not fully develop or clarify and expand upon the earlier introduction to this Biblical enigma. And while it is true that God is beyond all human comprehension as well as definition or explanation as He is ineffable [unknowable] in His divine essence or ways, but yet reveals to us that He is a “jealous” God. It is an interesting choice of words because in the usual connotation and definition of the word it is depicted as an unfavorable characteristic. Webster’s describes “jealous” in this manner- 1 a; intolerant of rivalry or unfaithfulness; b: disposed to suspect rivalry or unfaithfulness; 2: hostile toward a rival or [against] one believed to enjoy an advantage.
Exodus 20: 3, 5a
“You shall not have any other gods besides [along with or in competition with] Me”. . . “For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God. . .”
Exodus 34: 14
“For you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.”
Proverbs 27: 4
Wrath is cruel and anger a torrent, but who is able to stand before jealousy?
Isaiah 44: 9a, 14a, 17
Those who make an image, all of them are useless and their precious things shall not profit. “Who would form a god or make an image that profits him nothing?” He falls down before it and worships it and prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!”
Isaiah 46: 5-7
“To whom will you liken Me, and make Me equal and compare Me, that we should be alike? “They lavish gold out of the bag and weigh silver on the scales; they hire a goldsmith and he makes it a god; they prostrate themselves [bow], yes, they worship. They bear it [their idol god] on the shoulder and they carry it and set it in its place, and it stands [sets]. From its place it shall not [cannot] move. Though one cries out to it, yet it cannot answer nor save him out of his trouble.”
Isaiah 42: 8
I am the LORD, that is My name; And My glory I will not give to [or share with] another, nor My praise to carved images.
Deuteronomy 10: 20a, 21a
You shall fear [worship/reverence] the LORD your God, you shall serve Him . . . He is your praise and He is your God.
Jeremiah 3: 14a
“Return, O backsliding [unfaithful] children.” says the LORD, “for I am married to you.”
Hosea 2: 19
I will betroth you to Me forever; yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and justice, in loving-kindness and mercy.
Matthew 4: 8-10
Again the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these things I will give to you if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus [Yeshua] said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ ”
1 Corinthians 8: 5-6
For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), yet for us there is one God, the Father of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one LORD Jesus Christ [Adoneinu Yeshua Moshiach], through whom are all things, and through whom we live.
Colossians 2: 18
Let no man cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those [supernatural] things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind.
1 Corinthians 6: 20
For you were bought with a price (Cp. 1 Peter 1: 18a, 19); therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.
1 Corinthians 7: 23a
You were bought with a price (Cp. 1 Peter 1: 18a, 19). . .
2 Corinthians 11: 2
For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy; for I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ [Moshiach].
Ephesians 5: 25-27
Husbands love your wives, just as Christ [Moshiach] also loves the church and gave Himself for her [us], that He might sanctify and cleanse her [us] with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her [us] to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she [we] should be holy and without blemish.
Revelation 22: 8-9
Now I, John, saw and heard these things. And when I saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things. Then he said to me, “See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.”
Revelation 19: 7-8
“Let us rejoice and give Him glory; for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.
COMMENTARY: God did not explain the reason for His jealousy at the first but just says that He is. The warnings about serving or worshipping idols continue throughout the Old Testament, beginning in the book of Exodus all the way through up until the prophet Zechariah [1440 BC– 520 BC??]; a period of 920 years, more or less. During this time period God systematically and gradually reveals the love relationship between Himself and the nation of Israel as that between a husband and wife. It says in Psalms 135: 4: The LORD has chosen Jacob for Himself [like a groom], Israel for His precious possession [like a bride]. Marriage is the most binding, sacred and intimate of social relationships, as it is in the spiritual; so much so that it can be thought of as a covenant.
Also, Zechariah 13: 2a: “It shall be in that day,” says the LORD of Hosts, “that I will cut off the names of the idols [idol gods] from the land and they will be remembered no more.” God had proven time and time again to the Israelites the futility in worshipping idol gods who can do nothing for them but fail and they were and are in any sense of the word a rival to the True and Living God. Nevertheless, almost throughout their entire history along with the performance of miracles which are unique among the Jews as a “special” people and holy nation to the LORD God, they still drifted away to serve other gods [gods of their own imaginations] to become like the other nations around them.
Although it would indeed be a little unsettling to think of the very Creator of the Universe as expressing and identifying with a similar anthropomorphic [human characteristic or personality] tendency of “jealousy” which humans manifest in the physiology of our bodies of flesh and blood. Nevertheless, how God conveys the depth of His love toward us in human language is important because He wants us to know through our experiences, no matter how flawed, broken and imperfect we are that He is still faithful and merciful and patient; even when we deserve His wrath.
As Israel was and is betrothed to God, even so we too through our LORD and Savior Jesus Christ [Yeshua Moshiach] are being prepared and adorned for that great marriage supper where we become the Lamb’s bride. The Church is the betrothed of Christ of whom He loves and is sanctifying and purifying her [us] by purchasing her with the greatest gift He could possibly give; His own precious blood because He loves us just that much. And as it is with any husband who has a wife or a man engaged to be married to the woman of his dreams, you don’t want another man to defile the chastity and purity of your virginal flower; so it is with the LORD and His jealousy is right and justifiable and should cause all of us to love and be devoted to Him more and more. It isn’t for God’s sake that He reveals Himself to be this passionate toward us but rather, it is for our sakes because He wants the very best for us, and whether we know it or will admit it, we really need Him; He certainly doesn’t need us.
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November 5, 2011
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