Jealous For You
In Exodus 20:5, the Lord says something that is sobering to the soul: “I am a jealous God.” Upon initial hearing, due to our human understanding of jealousy, this does not sound right. Is God really jealous? And the answer to that question is an emphatic yes! God is jealous, and more than that, He is jealous for you.
God’s attribute of jealousy often takes a back seat in focus to “more popular” attributes like God’s holiness, righteousness and love. When making a list of God’s attributes, jealousy is not the first description that normally comes to mind. I don’t believe it is intentionally neglected, but like a little brother who gets overlooked when picking teams, it tends to get left in the background. That being said, the jealousy of God is a prominent theme in Scripture, especially in the Old Testament and, like all attributes, it is vital for us to understand.
Exodus 34:14 states: “You shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” In Deuteronomy 4:24 the Lord is called a consuming fire and a jealous God. In Deuteronomy 29:20 it says that God’s jealousy burns against sinful man. The prophet Nahum says, “The Lord is a jealous and avenging God” (Nah 1:2). The Hebrew idea of jealousy (qanah) carries the idea of being passionate and zealous. It is used in the context of a husband’s jealousy for his wife’s faithfulness (Num 5:11-31). When applied to the Lord, it refers to God’s holy and passionate desire and action for exclusive devotion and allegiance to His glory. Isaiah 42:8 says, “I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.” Ezekiel 39:25 explains that God is jealous for His holy name. Simply stated, God does not share His glory, nor should He! He alone is intrinsically worthy of glory and therefore is rightfully jealous of what is His. Human jealousy often arises out of selfishness and sinful longing for something that one does not have nor deserve (Gal 5:20, Jas 3:14, 16). God, on the other hand, is jealous for what is rightly His. In fact, God’s holiness, righteousness, and love demand that He is jealous for His glory. Exodus 20:5-6 demonstrates this confluent relationship between attributes: “You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.” As part of His nature, God is jealous for what is rightly His—His glory!
Since God is jealous for His own glory, He is also jealous for His people’s faithfulness to that glory. He is jealous for His people’s exclusive devotion and allegiance to Him. To state it more personally, God is jealous for your faithfulness to His glory. This is why when we look at Scripture we often see God’s jealousy mentioned in the context of the tragic sin of idolatry (Ex 20:5; 34:14; 1 Kgs 14:22). God’s jealousy is revealed when God’s people abandon His glory and forsake His name. This is not merely a mechanical response; it is personal. The context of Ezekiel 16 puts this on display in one of the most sobering chapters in all of Scripture. In Ezekiel 16, Israel’s sin provokes the Lord to jealousy (vv. 38, 42). God, in love, lavished grace upon Israel (Ezek 16:1-14). Yet, what was Israel’s response to this amazing grace? “But you trusted in your beauty and played the whore…” (Ezek 16:15). The language of the ESV translation appropriately startles the reader. Sinful rebellion is not just idolatry; it is considered spiritual adultery. When God’s people sin and forsake His name, it is a personal offense against a holy God who has lavished love upon His children and God is jealous for their unadulterated allegiance to Him.
This is an important reminder for our lives. God has lavished love upon the believer. Through Christ, He saved, redeemed, reconciled, justified, adopted, and forgave. He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms (Eph 1:3). He has given us everything we need pertaining to life and godliness (2 Pet 1:3). He has given us “grace upon grace” (John 1:16) in order that we would glorify His name. Salvation brings both judicial and personal reconciliation with God. Therefore, when a believer returns to the sewage of sin, the jealousy of God is rightly on display. We are gloriously saved to have exclusive devotion to Him and God is jealous for that exclusive devotion. When we forsake His name, we not only become idol worshipers; we enter into a spiritual affair with an idol. And the loving and holy God is jealous!
Brothers, He is jealous for your holiness. He is jealous for your purity. He is jealous for your righteousness. He is jealous for your love. He is jealous for your obedience. He is jealous for your worship. He is jealous for your allegiance. He is jealous for you! Oh may we remember that we worship a holy, righteous, loving and jealous God!
Justin McKitterick is one of our nine TES campus pastors, having served as the Pastor-Teacher of Grace Community Church in Jacksonville, Florida since 2011.