A Jealous God

You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,

  • Exodus 20:5

Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.

  • Exodus 34:14

For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.

  • Deuteronomy 4:24

They made him jealous with their foreign gods and angered him with their detestable idols.

  • Deuteronomy 32:16

How long, Lord? Will you be angry forever? How long will your jealousy burn like fire?

  • Psalm 79:5

My favorite television show, at least at the moment, is Hard Questions on the Cornerstone Television Network.  It is local to us here in the Pittsburgh area, but is broadcast in other parts of the country as well, and available on Youtube.com.  The television show has a panel of four pastors who answer questions that have been sent in, using the Bible in their answers.  At the time of writing this, the latest episode had a question about why we have to worship God?

They may have missed to questioner’s point entirely, but even then answered it indirectly.  In these troubling times, especially since COVID lockdowns changed the way we do a lot of things, the questioner might have meant, “Why do I have to attend worship?”  During COVID we watched the worship service using live streaming.  I watched two services that way.  But then, there are still a few television channels that have weekly worship services, either local or one of the large churches that provides the service live via satellite.  Then some churches have reruns of old worship services, and as the old commercial goes, if you never saw it the first time, it is new to you.

But the pastors all took the question at face value.  Why does God require worship?

The first pastor quoted something, but he gave no attribute.  We are internally wired to worship.  We all worship, but the key is what do we worship?  Is it a celebrity, politician, or sports hero?  Do we worship money, power, strength, or fame?  We are a people who were designed in our make-up, created by God, with the desire to worship something.

Then he pointed out that God was a jealous God.  He paused just for a second.  But God is not jealous of us.  He is jealous for us.  He loves us.  We are His creations.  That desire to worship something came from Him and He provides in this universe enough evidence that if we have the desire to seek Him we will find Him.  Thus, the second commandment states that God is a jealous God and He wants us to have no other thing that we worship.  As Jesus said in Matthew 6 and Luke 12, where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Now, years ago, I attended a Bible study, conducted by an ordained minister.  The class was on the Attributes of God.  He started the class by asking what the attributes of God were?  He got the usual answers.  God is Love.  God is Patient.  God is Kind.  But when it came to me, I said, “God is a Jealous God.”  The minister’s response was, “There’s one in every crowd.”  Everyone laughed at my response as a result, and typically, the course never covered God’s jealousy.  I felt betrayed.  That attribute is clearly stated throughout the Bible.  But the concept is hard for the typical layperson to understand.  That minister redeemed himself.  He was a wealth of knowledge and he knew how to teach.  He is still one of my great teachers, although I have had many since.  But I will try to tackle what he dodged that day.

The illustration of the potter is given in Jeremiah 18.  As the potter molds the clay, he might see an imperfection.  What does he do?  He smashes the clay back into a ball and starts over.  God has done that to nations that have been abominations, many persecuting his Chosen People.  None will escape that error.  No matter how bad the Israelites have been, God is “jealous” of them and protects them.  They may suffer the punishment due the crime, but God protects that remnant.

We think of jealousy in terms of covetousness.  Coveting is one of the “Thou shalt not” commandments, the last one.  Being green with envy is not a good thing.  There is a grain offering required in Numbers 5, that if a man suspects his wife of unfaithfulness and is jealous, there is a ceremony for that.

But God is Holy.  He cannot sin.  His jealousy is pure.  He created us and He loves us.  He loves us so much that He allows us to choose between Him and something of this world.  In putting those simple statements together, God deserves our worship.  Why worship anything not worthy of worship? And for those who choose God, God jealously holds on to them.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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