24For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God.
Does this verse offend you? Oprah Winfrey famously (or infamously) said that this verse “did not feel right” to her because it was contrary to her idea of a loving God. Indeed so much so that she then abandoned rules and doctrine (and is now deep into the New Age, which will be addressed in a later blog in more detail). So what does this mean? In today’s society, jealousy is often seen as only a negative characteristic. A jealous person can be seen as one who is always suspicious of another, uncertain or insecure. Yet the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary, one of the entries for ‘jealous’ states: “Solicitous to defend the honor of; concerned for the character of.” So which is it for this Bible verse? We can find more confirmation in Scripture.
Looking at the verse in context, Moses was addressing the children of Israel as they prepared to enter the Promised Land. And he informed him that he would not be joining with them because of a sin he committed. The punishment God handed down to him was that he would not be able to finish the journey he had started 40 years earlier. Moses then gives this grave warning to his people:
21 Furthermore the LORD was angry with me for your sakes, and sware that I should not go over Jordan, and that I should not go in unto that good land, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance: 22 But I must die in this land, I must not go over Jordan: but ye shall go over, and possess that good land. 23 Take heed unto yourselves, lest ye forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which he made with you, and make you a graven image, or the likeness of any thing, which the LORD thy God hath forbidden thee.
In fact for the entire passage, Moses stresses to Israelites not to worship false idols. As he closes his exhortation he mentions his own punishment and says that The Lord was angry with him for their sakes. He understood that he was being made an example so they could see how serious the matter was. God wants our full devotion. He wants to be our top priority. Just as a husband wants to be the primary recipient of his wife’s affection, so to does God want to be the focus of our lives. The idols of the pagan world are no different in their allure than the idols of today whether they be money (or pursuing it), sexual immorality, celebrities, our children, greed, laziness or just being self-centered. To come to Jesus Christ, we must be willing to lay that all aside and give Him our all. That is what God wants. That is where the jealousy comes in.
If we spend most of our time thinking about, planning and doing things that satisfy our own desires while spending little time for The Lord, are we truly making Him our God? If a wife spent most of her time talking about another man and making plans to see him, would her husband be wrong for feeling jealous? If he has a pulse and a half-decent marriage he most certainly will! This is the jealously Moses was speaking of. God wants our devotion because He wants a truly loving relationship with us. It is not a negative thing nor is it wrong. The only thing that is wrong is when we profess to be Christians but do not give this level of devotion. We have to overcome our own ungodly lusts, our own person agendas, our own bad habits and surrender it all to Christ Jesus our Savior. Jesus, being God in the flesh, made the same point when He preached on Earth:
Matthew 22:37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38This is the first and great commandment
If we are giving all of our heart, soul and mind to The Lord then it will show in our behavior. It will show in the time we put into prayer, Bible Study and church attendance. It will show in whether we make our homes Godly homes. It will show in whether we share the Gospel or let those we know are lost and headed for hell continue in darkness. It will show in the loving feelings we have for Jesus Christ. Fortunately when we slip in these areas we are not alone. For those saved in Jesus Christ, we are 100% guaranteed entrance into the Promised Land. If you belong to God, He will come to you and chasten you to bring you back on track. And His Holy Spirit will convict your heart to know what you are doing is wrong so that you can repent and return to the narrow path. So let’s be thankful for a jealous God who loves us so much that He watches our every step to keep us close to Him. And let us be jealous for His Word and for His Gospel and for those we encounter that they may know him too as a member of the Bride of Christ, which is His Church.
2 Corinthians 11:2 For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.