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  • Writer's pictureRick LoPresti

A jealous God

Updated: Mar 9

     We normally think of jealousy as a negative thing, and it can be. A synonym of jealousy is envy, which is forbidden in the ten commandments (Ex 20:17). It is the rottenness of the bones (Prov 14:30), and it kills the silly (Job 5:2). It is the reason the Jews killed Jesus (Mt 27:18). It is wanting what someone else has that doesn’t belong to you. It is not wanting good things, and it is especially not caring for people and things that do belong to you. You can’t envy what is yours. Yet God said of Himself that He is jealous, even in the very same ten commandments in which He says not to covet (Ex 20:5). He even says that His name is Jealous (Ex 34:14). How can God be jealous since He created and therefore owns everything that exists (Gen 1, Ps 50:9-14)?

     The answer lies in the fact that God created us with the ability to make choices. This is evident from the very beginning. He placed two specific trees in the garden of Eden – the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen 2:8-9). Note that the two trees are not described by their names as polar opposites. It was not called the tree of death. It was called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The consequence of choosing to eat the fruit of this tree was death (Gen 2:15-17). God never said they could not eat from the tree of life. He said they could eat from all the trees freely except for one. God did not set them up for failure. He introduced choice because He wants His relationship with us to be based on love and not force, and love has to be chosen (Deut 30:15-30, Josh 24:15).

     God loves His people, and they are typified by the relationship of marriage in both the old and New Testaments (Eze 16, Jer 3:14, Hos 1-2, Rom 7:3-4, 2Cor 11:2, Eph 5:22-33, Rev 19:7, Rev 21:9). A husband can only be jealous of his wife if he suspects she is cheating on him, because she is already his wife. There was even a provision in the law of Moses if a husband suspected his wife was cheating (Num 5). Israel “cheated” on God over and over by worshipping idols. To Him, it was as a wife loving another man instead of her husband, and He was jealous of her love that belonged to Him (Deut 32:16 & 21, Ps 78:58, Eze 8:3-5, Zech 1:14, Zech 8:2). When a spouse is caught cheating, it is not considered strange that the faithful spouse has a range of emotions including jealousy and anger. Yet some people like Richard Dawkins question God’s character for being jealous of the love He desires and deserves from His people, and by extension all people. He is faithful and good. He takes good care of His wife, and He even provides for those who don’t love Him in return and even refuse to acknowledge that He exists (Mt 5:43-48).

     Israel rejected His love to the point that when He gave them the greatest expression of His love by coming in the flesh as their Messiah (Jn 3:16, Jn 15:13, 1Jn 3:16), they killed Him (Mt 21:21-46). Therefore, the opportunity was offered to the Gentiles (Rom 9-11). God is now giving to the Gentiles what Israel could have had but rejected. This does not mean that individual Jews cannot become Christians. Jesus, the apostles, and the early church were Jews, and there are some Jews today who believe that Jesus is the Messiah. At the end of this age, God will again deal with Jews. There are prophecies about them that have not yet been fulfilled but will be. Until then, God is using the church to provoke Israel to jealousy. God said He would do this in the law of Moses (Deut 32:21, Rom 10:19, Rom 11:11). What was originally promised to Israel was given to Gentiles because they refused it (Mt 23:37-39). This began in Acts 10 when Peter preached to the household of Cornelius. Paul was passionate about reaching his Jewish countrymen with the gospel (Rom 9:1-5). Wherever he went, he went into the synagogue and preached to the Jews first. When they rejected it, he would offer the gospel to Gentiles who received it (Acts 13, Acts 14:1-4, Acts 17:1-5, Acts 17:10, Acts 18:1-4, Acts 28:17-31). The Lord told him several times that the Jews would not receive his testimony, so He was sending him to the Gentiles who would (Acts 9:15, Acts 13:46-48, Acts 22:18-21). He called himself the apostle to the Gentiles (Rom 11:13, Rom 15:15-21, Gal 1:15-16, Gal 2:7-9).

     God deserves our love because of who He is and because of what He has done and does for us. He deserves better than we could ever give Him. We ought not to provoke Him to jealousy by giving the love that belongs to Him to someone or something else (1Cor 10:22). All He asks in return for His love is that we keep His commandments (Deut 10:12, Mal 6:8, Jn 14:15, 1Jn 5:1-3). His commandments are not grievous. God does not command us some impossible thing that we cannot do, and He empowers us through His Spirit to do it. We are simply to love Him and our neighbor (Lev 19:18, Deut 6:4-5, Mt 22:35-40, Mk 12:38-34, Lk 10:25-28, Rom 13:9, Gal 5:14, Jam 2:8).

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