A Jealous God

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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You must worship no other gods, for the LORD, whose very name is Jealous, is a God who is jealous about his relationship with you.

Exodus 34:14

I was in college when I first heard a preacher refer to Exodus 34:14, claiming that God was jealous. I must admit that I found this idea unsettling, even offensive. Jealousy, it seemed to me, was an unattractive trait. It was envying someone else’s accomplishments or relationships. A jealous person resented what belonged rightly to someone else, and could easily fall into bitterness. How, then, could God be jealous?

I remember raising this concern with Steve, the InterVarsity staff person who supported my college Christian fellowship. I told him that it just seemed wrong for God to be jealous. Could it be that the Bible was mistaken in this portrayal of God? Steve listened attentively to my concerns, and then began to explain how the jealousy of God wasn’t like what I had articulated. He was not envious of that which belonged to others. Rather, he had zeal for that which he loved. In the context of Exodus 34, God’s jealousy for Israel meant that he was unwilling to share his people with other gods. This kind of jealousy was not selfish or petty, but righteous and loving. Steve then spoke of his love for his wife. He was jealous for her in the sense that he was passionate about her and their marriage. He was averse to sharing his wife with other men in an intimate way. This made sense to me, though it was a new way of thinking about jealousy and it took time for me to absorb this new perspective.

Now, when I read Exodus 34:14, I think, not of pettiness, but of holy passion. God wants relationship with his people, including you and me. He will not share us with other “gods” because he loves us. This means, practically speaking, that God wants relationship with you and me today. He wants to spend time with us, to enjoy our company, and to share his grace with us. The more I take seriously God’s jealousy for me, the more I am blown away by his love and eager to dwell with him.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: How do you respond to the idea that God is jealous? Do you really believe that God seeks relationship with you?

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, you know how I once struggled with the notion of your jealousy. How thankful I am for Steve, who first helped me to sense the rightness of your zeal for your people, including me.

O Lord, I must confess that it’s hard for me to take in the fact that you want relationship with me. I tend to think so much of how eager I am for relationship with you. It astounds me to remember that intimacy with you is a two-way street.

Help me, I pray, to be fully devoted to you. May all that competes with my devotion fade away. May my passion for you grow stronger each day as I live my life in fellowship with you.

As strange at it seems to say it in words, I thank you today for your jealousy! Amen.