UNDERSTANDING THE JEALOUS LOVE OF GOD
Have you ever wondered about the apparent contradiction between the “vengeful” God of the Old Testament and the gracious, loving Lord of the New Testament? Have you struggled to reconcile God’s holy anger with His boundless love?
These are issues that many have wrestled with for ages. God’s “judgments” have often been misunderstood and viewed as being contrary to His sacrificial, loving character revealed through Christ.
What many have failed to realize is that God has always burned with pure passion for the undivided love and devotion of His people. As the Hero and Husband in the love story called the Bible, the Lord has always been jealous for the affections of His bride.
God created man for intimacy with Himself. He later chose a nation and entered into a covenant of marriage with her. He told her she was the apple of His eye and pledged to be everything to her. But that wasn’t good enough for Israel. Some time after the honeymoon, God’s beloved began to let her eyes wander. She found herself attracted to the gods of the surrounding nations and became titillated by the lure of pagan worship.
Israel didn’t want to be tied down to her Husband. For her, monogamy had bred monotony. She believed she was missing out on the excitement and pleasure of having other lovers, so she went after the false gods shamelessly. Even though the Lord had wooed and pursued her, it wasn’t enough—and she broke His heart!
This was never more vividly portrayed than in the book of Hosea. To graphically illustrate to His adulterous wife the pure pain and anger He felt, God instructed His prophet, Hosea, to marry a harlot named Gomer. Their marriage would be a prophetic picture of Yahweh’s relationship to Israel—acted out in a way they could not ignore. As a friend of the Bridegroom, Hosea would be more than a mere messenger or spokesman. Like the prophets before him, he would be guided by an intense, intimate concern for God’s concerns—called upon to feel what the Lord was feeling. Because Hosea would experience in the depths of his being both God’s love for and anger towards His bride, he needed to know what it would be like to be married to an unfaithful wife.
So Hosea chose Gomer as his wife, and they began a family together. I honestly believe that, over time, Hosea came to truly love Gomer—this was the only way he could deeply identify with God and His feelings for Israel. One day, Hosea made the heart-sickening discovery that his wife had been unfaithful to him and had given herself to other lovers. Gomer eventually left her husband—and Hosea felt the sting of betrayal in a way he’d never experienced before.
While the Scriptures are full of references regarding God’s love, mercy, and kindness, it’s eye-opening to discover how much they also have to say about His jealousy:
“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 angered Him with their high places; they aroused His jealousy with their idols” (Psalm 78:58).
But exactly what does the Bible mean when it speaks of God’s “jealousy?” How can He be the epitome of love and be jealous at the same time? To say that the Lord is jealous most certainly does not mean He’s suspicious because of some insecurity on His part. Ungodly jealousy is different; it’s the by-product of wanting to control and possess what doesn’t belong to us. It’s always demanding and actually cares very little about the alleged object of its love.
In contrast, holy jealousy is at the very core of who God is. Within the depths of His being burns an inextinguishable fire of love called jealousy. It’s a blazing passion to protect a love relationship that is eternally precious to Him and to defend it when it’s broken. Divine jealousy is that unbridled energy in God which stirs Him to take aggressive action against whomever or whatever stands in the way of His enjoyment of those He loves and desires. This has always been the real motivation behind His judgments.
The severity of God’s anger is in direct proportion to the depths of His love for those who belong to Him. His anger is never irrational or unpredictable. Scripture reveals that His love for Israel was the source of His wrath. It was because He infinitely cared for His bride that He burned with holy anger against her. God manifested His wrath against Israel’s sin to bring her to a place of repentance. Beyond divine justice and anger was the mystery of His mercy and compassion.
God’s anger and mercy are never opposites of each other; in fact, they are actually related. This is why the prophet Habakkuk prayed: “in wrath, remember mercy” (Habakkuk 3:2).
The message of God’s anger included a call to His adulterous wife to return to Him and be saved. His call of anger was actually a call to cancel anger. It wasn’t an irrational, selfish power-trip, but rather a deliberate response to deal with the evil that was holding His bride in chains.
The Word of God clearly demonstrates that anger is not an emotion in which the Lord delights (Lamentations 3:33; Jeremiah 44:7-8). In fact, His anger is a secondary emotion and never the ruling passion of His heart. His anger, instead, is a tragic necessity. God’s judgments were an expression of His deep, passionate concern for His backslidden bride. It was a compassion that transcended the most intense, holy anger; it was a love that remained steadfast in the face of human sin and weakness. And this is the splendor of God’s love that was revealed through the prophets.
Again, this is beautifully illustrated for us in the book of Hosea. We discover that God instructed His friend to take Gomer back, regardless of the cost. The reason the Lord expected that of Hosea was due to the fact that He was planning to do the same thing with His wayward wife. He would pay the ultimate price to redeem her.
JESUS—THE JEALOUS LOVER
Jesus is also jealous for our wholehearted love and devotion. This is graphically depicted in James 4:4-5. It appears from verse 4 that some within the early Church had become intimately friendly with the lifestyles of the world. To put it in James’ words, God’s people were committing spiritual adultery. James appealed to them to renounce their adultery and return to the Lord:
You are like an unfaithful wife who loves her husband’s enemies. Don’t you realize that making friends with God’s enemies—the evil pleasures of this world—makes you an enemy of God? I say it again, that if your aim is to enjoy the evil pleasure of the unsaved world, you cannot also be a friend of God. Or what do you think the Scripture means when it says that the Holy Spirit, whom God has placed with us, watches over us with tender jealousy? (The Living Bible).
James is emphatically telling us that the Lord will not tolerate any rivals who try to steal our affections. The fire of His love will consume everything that tries to threaten our relationship with Him. This is why it’s imperative we understand that “conviction” is really a manifestation of His burning jealousy for us, as He continually warns us of things that would seduce our hearts away from Him and destroy our lives. The Lord longs for our love and loyalty to such a degree that He will stop at nothing to keep us for Himself!
by SJ Hill – www.sjhill.com