J E A L O U S “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God.” Of all the words we Christians often use to describe God, “jealous” is certainly not one of them. Yet, 3500 years ago, amidst fire and thunder, God Almighty flamboyantly announced His jealousy to millions of His chosen people. And He voiced this radical statement in Exodus 20:5 as He audibly announced His Ten Commandments!
As if that isn’t enough to get our attention, He proclaims once again in Exodus 34:14 that not only is He a jealous God, His name is also known as “Jealous”. “Do not worship any other God, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.”
To fully comprehend His statement, we must understand that true jealousy can only arise from an intense love relationship. When one lover strays from their commitment, the other responds. Indeed, jealousy in marriage is often used as a metaphor in the Bible to describe God’s response when His Chosen One, Israel, is unfaithful.
Then we must consider the fact that there are two totally different ways to view love and it's many adjectives: through human eyes, and through God's eyes. By the same token, the Hebrew root for "jealousy" is used in two completely different ways: both in a positive and negative sense. In the world's eyes, it is used to negative describe the desire for something that belongs to someone else. The Expository Dictionary of Bible Words defines God's jealousy with these words: “When applied to God, “jealousy” communicates the fierce intensity of His commitment to his people, even when they turn from Him.” Follow this link to a contemporary praise song which expounds on this incredible truth. “How He Loves” by David Crowder Band: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2FxaUYjRtkc
Indeed, the words “jealous” and jealousy", recorded in the Bible 52 times, are used 20 times as an attribute of God. They are repeated in the book of Ezekiel 9 times, more often than any other book in the Bible.
Ezekiel, one of God’s chosen people from Judah, was living in exile 2600 years ago after the Babylonians conquered and destroyed Jerusalem. Psalm 79:5 actually states that the Lord’s jealousy, burning like fire, was the cause of an assault on Jerusalem. So it should be no surprise to us that Ezekiel began having visions from God about the true idolatrous condition of God’s chosen people and how it would seriously affect their future. They were worshipping other gods in the sanctuary appointed for worship of God alone. In God’s eyes, idolatry worship from one in a covenant relationship with Him was spiritual adultery, more than enough to provoke His jealousy.
Ezekiel is 8:1: "In the sixth year, in the sixth month on the fifth day, while I was sitting in my house and the elders of Judah were sitting before me, the hand of the Sovereign Lord came on me there."
The calendar date here is an important one for us today because on our Gregorian calendar, using the observation of the new moon, August 17, 2018 is the 5th day of God's 6th month, Elul. Using God’s calendar as our focus instead of our own, we are able to receive the incredible blessing of scripture appointed thousands of years ago for just such a time as this!
As we continue in Ezekiel 8, we read this in verse 3: "...The Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven and in visions of God he took me to Jerusalem, to the entrance of the north gate of the inner court, where the idol that provokes to jealousy stood."
The court of the priests, 2 Chronicles. 4:9, is called the "inner court", 1 Kings 6:36. It contained the altar of burnt-offering, as noted in 2 Chronicles 15:8, This is the gate the sacrifices were brought through. Also, this gate opened into the great court where the image of Baal had once been erected by Manasseh, King of Judah. It would probably have been a favored spot to place idols by subsequent kings and rulers. Set at the very entrance to the inner sanctum of the Almighty, this would have been a blatant affront to God, who considered Himself “married” to Israel. Also consider the connotation of the required sacrifice being brought through this passage. What a sickening insult to the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ, the Perfect Lamb of God!
As we read further in Ezekiel 8, God tells us in no uncertain terms that this kind of worship will drive Him away from His chosen sanctuary. God continues by exposing 70 elders, or leaders who are defiling His house by worshipping other things in secret, thinking God has somehow forsaken them because of their crumbling nation and doesn’t see them anymore. He then points toward the practice of women stretching worship in His House to include sympathy and support of worldly ideas and traditions. He also reveals 25 men standing in the inner court of His intimate sanctuary, effectively turning their back on God, going in another direction of worship while claiming Him as their God. The Almighty uses the strong word “detestable” 5 times in this chapter to describe this utter disarray and spiritual adultery in His house.
Of course, many of us right now probably think this doesn’t have a thing in the world to do with us today. We are all great Christians standing in the love and grace of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. That leaves us free to make our own choices which seem to fit in better with the world's ideas of right and wrong.
While it's certainly true that His love for us hasn't changed, we must also consider that if He identified His own name as “Jealous” and that also hasn’t changed, what does that mean for us Christians today?
Plenty! Spiritual idolatry always begins in the heart, the seat of the love relationship with the Almighty. Colossians 3:1-6 speaks directly about this. “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.”
We should also seriously consider this plea from the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 11. “I hope you will put up with me in a little foolishness. Yes, please put up with me! I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough…such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve."
This closing warning, also from the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:21-22, sums up today's lesson with deadly accuracy. “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s Table and the table of Demons. Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy?”