Jealousy doesn’t exactly make the top ten list of the best character traits. We seldom admit it when we feel it, and rarely admire it in others. When directed at you, it can be complimentary (“Nice car, I’m jealous”) or downright dangerous (“That’s my jealous ex-boyfriend”).
Yet God chooses it as one of the characteristics he reveals when speaking to the Israelites. Why?
Often, throughout the Scriptures, God uses the imagery of a bride and groom in describing his relationship with Israel. Unfortunately, he was more often than not portraying himself as a jilted lover—a groom who’s bride gives herself to everyone but her groom. In fact, one prophet named Hosea was even directed by God to marry a prostitute that continually left him for other lovers as a vivid picture to Israel of their own unfaithfulness to God.
And it is in this context that the jealousy of God not only emerges but begins to look justified and righteous. God deserves the faithfulness of Israel. God is deserves the devotion, heartfelt praise, adoration, loving worship, and bride-like love of his people. Yet he gets none of it. And so God is jealous for the hearts of his people as they turn to foreign gods like adulterous lovers. God is jealous for every heart just like every married person should be jealous for the heart of their spouse.
God is jealous for your heart, your love. God is jealous for you. Does it surprise you to hear that? Just as God pursued the people of Israel in the Old Testament, he pursues you today.
But just like the Israelites, we are often at best a people of half-hearted devotion. It’s easy to give a couple hours on Sunday, maybe a couple dollars in the plate. But devotion? That’s a whole different question. Who are we the rest of the week? What do we love when no one’s watching? Who or what gets the majority of our money, thought, energy, effort, and ultimately our hearts?
God would not be a good God if he were not jealous, if he were cool with our infidelity. Jealousy in God means he is passionately concerned that our hearts are turned to the one and only thing that will ever satisfy them.
1. What was your first impression when you read that God calls himself a jealous God? Good? Bad? What about now? Does it make sense? Do you think it is a necessary characteristic of God, or one he could “do without”?
2. Is jealousy ever justified in human emotions? Why or why not? Is it healthy?
3. If you were married to God (and in a very profound sense we are as the bride of Christ), would your spouse be happy with the status of your relationship right now? Why or why not?