Why does the Bible say “God is a jealous God.”? Exodus 20:5
When we think of all the words to describe God, there are many that we can come up with to edify Him. A few that come to mind would be faithful, mighty, forgiving, and of course, love. I am sure you can name a few more. But, the Bible also tells us “God is a jealous God.” The Father, Himself, in Exodus 20:5 says “I am a jealous God”.
You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God
Another Scripture that tells us God is a jealous God is in Exodus 34
For thou shalt worship no other god: for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God:
The word jealousy doesn’t conjure up the most positive of feelings. Many of us have dealt with jealousy in past relationships or even ourselves. Being jealous can definitely be an emotion that can lead to destructive and even manipulative behaviors.
The Apostle Paul even names jealousy among a list of sinful acts in Galatians 5.
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.
Galatians 5:19- 21
Yikes! The Apostle that wrote most of our new testament names jealousy among the ranks of impurity, hatred, and other dirty deeds? So, if He is perfect, how could God be a jealous God? This is either a contradiction of His professed nature or we need to look at the statement in its proper context.
God is a jealous God | The proper application is key
Does God get jealous? Let’s look at the use of the term in the 2 Scriptures already mentioned. First, in Exodus 20, God is speaking to Israel about the worship of idols. God’s people had continuously strayed from Him and began bowing down to the false idols of other nations. He warns them of the dangers of placing things before him. He tells them, “I am a jealous God”.
As humans, we understand the feeling of jealousy. But ask yourself. Is jealousy always a bad thing? Are there times when jealousy can be justified and other times when it can be sinful? Look at these 2 examples.
Scenario #1: Your neighbor gets a new car and you are looking at the window. You think to yourself “Man, that guy gets all the breaks.” He’s got a better job, a nicer house, and now a new car? He doesn’t deserve that! That car should be mine!
Scenario #2: You are married to your spouse for 10 years. You made a promise to one another that you’d always be faithful. At a party, they completely ignore you and start hitting on someone else. Your husband or wife compliments this person and eventually… let’s just say “disappears” for a while with them and then show up like nothing ever happened.
Do you see the difference? I am sure that we could all agree that scenarios 1 and 2 couldn’t be more different. The first one is you desiring something that you have no claim to whatsoever. That is your neighbor’s car. Not yours. Jealousy in this case is unjustified. It is envy and a direct violation of commandment #10 “Thou shall not covet”.
On the other hand, in scenario #2 is quite the opposite. You have a covenant with your spouse. You both promised faithful to one another. Their actions were in direct violation of the deal you both made with one another. You would be perfectly justified to be upset!
Does God get jealous? Yes, but for all the right reasons.
God is a jealous God in the sense that He wants you to remain faithful in putting Him before everything else. It’s the same today as in the time of the Israelites. Only He is worthy of your praise and your worship. In that context, that is His alone. He is the source and sustainer of all things. The Bible shares with us that our relationship with the Almighty is exactly like a marriage. If scenario number 2 hit a soft spot with you then it’s probably a bit easier to understand why the bible says “God is a jealous God.”
Why God is a jealous God? Because He loves you.
God is a jealous God because He wants what is best for you. A big misunderstanding, especially when we think of God as “jealous”, is that His state of mind somehow changes based on our actions. This actually is not true. God is an infinite Being. There is no change in Him. He doesn’t need our approval. When we feel jealous, it’s often that we desire someone’s attention. One reason is our need to be validated.
God is a jealous God in that we are His. He has a rightful claim to the highest level of our love, attention, affection, and especially our worship. This is not for His benefit, but yours. The Father knows that when we put Him first, there are so many blessings that follow. He doesn’t want our praise or our prayers to make Him feel important? He is God. When we praise Him, there is a breakthrough in our lives. We pray and we set the stage for a deeper relationship with Him. That aligns us with a life that goes exceedingly and abundantly beyond what we could ever do on our own.
So, in closing, God is not a nosy neighbor or an insecure significant other. He is not envious of us or subject to some petty emotion. When the bible says, God is a jealous God, it’s because humanity has a tremendous opportunity to fellowship with the Creator. It’s a chance He doesn’t want you to miss!
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