Exodus 34:14 For thou shalt worship no other god: for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God (emphasis added, KJV).
God Himself makes it clear that He is a jealous God. Unfortunately, some have confused His jealousy with that of sinful man’s. Because of their tainted view as to what godly jealousy really means; they have a hard time accepting that God is a jealous God. Sinful man’s jealousy is the counterfeit of godly jealousy. Meaning, God’s jealousy and man’s jealousy are entirely different. To begin with, what does the word, “jealous” mean?
By definition, it means to be zealous, to make zealous, or to have zeal for someone. In a negative sense, it means to be envious. On the human level, it has a strong competitive sense. In the positive sense of the word, it means to be filled with a righteous zeal or jealousy. In the negative, it refers to a spirit of rivalry. Jealousy is an attribute that is intolerant of unfaithfulness (which can be very positive). In its worst form on the human level, it advances it rights to the exclusion of the rights of others, and signifies the attitude of envy toward an opponent.
While in man’s case, jealousy often connects to envy; nowhere in Scripture do we find envy connected to God. Since God is Love, every thing God does is outward focused. That means His jealousy is holy and lends itself to life, whereas, man’s leads to destruction. By definition, godly jealousy will protect a relationship between individuals; the counterfeit destroys it. Zechariah 1:14 brings an understanding to the way God’s jealousy works: “Thus saith the Lord of hosts; I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy” (emphasis added, KJV). Notice is says that the Lord is jealous “for” Jerusalem and Zion. It does not say, He is jealous “of” Jerusalem and Zion. Some translations render the verse to say, “I am zealous for . . .” That means that the Lord’s jealousy actually works for the good of His people. Keep in mind that God’s holiness will not tolerate other gods, or those who sin against Him. This is a very good thing; otherwise, He would allow us to have other gods before Him, which in turn would separate us from Him. His jealousy spurs Him to protect us from destroying ourselves.
Godly jealousy in relation to man is designed for protection. Because of our zeal one for another, we protect our relationships with those we love. For example, it causes one to protect his or her mate because it is based on love in the purest sense. It does not lead one to be possessive of another; rather, it leads to protect another. God has a design for all the different types of relationships, which means they have a certain order (marriage, church, etc.). When things are in order, the relationships are in harmony. Disrupt that order, regardless of the type of relationship; chaos and destruction are soon to follow. Jealousy protects that order. This kind of jealousy looks out for the good of others.
The Holy Spirit led Paul to write, “For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:2, KJV). The Amplified Bible renders it this way, “For I am zealous for you with a godly eagerness and a divine jealousy…” In this case, Paul is looking out for the relationship between the Corinthians and the Lord Jesus. Jealousy keeps outside influences from destroying the relationship. It protects those we love from being harmed as it watches over their best interests. It is what causes a husband to fight to protect his wife. It is what causes a wife to defend her husband. Godly jealousy causes parents to protect their children. It is what caused God the Father to send His Son to save mankind. It is what causes the Lion of the Tribe of Judah to roar when the enemy tries to get near His people. It is the reason the Holy Spirit comes against anything that comes against our relationship with God. Godly jealousy is an attribute of love!
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