Today’s reading was from Exodus 19-21. Yep. The section with the Ten Commandments in it.
How is God jealous?
Being described as jealous doesn’t really sound like a compliment. Just checking an online dictionary confirms this intuition – God is described as “intolerant of disloyalty or infidelity”. This is somewhat true given God’s intolerance of sin. But I believe there’s a more complete definition – “vigilant in guarding something”.
God explains Himself here. “…am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.” By definition, this is what God’s jealousy does – He visits the iniquity of the fathers on the children and He shows steadfast love to those who love Him.
God is guarding His possession. He’s going to punish those who fall out of line. That’s how serious He is about guarding His possession. But He’s also going to reward those who remain His possession. That’s how much He loves His possession. He’s not willing that they make gods of other things, because He knows How much more precious He is. God is not only guarding His possession, He’s first and foremost guarding His name and the glory of it.
He’s showing the Israelites how infinitely valuable He is – “I am jealous, I do not want you worshipping other gods. Because I KNOW that I’m the only one worthy of your worship. I am the Creator, not the created.” (not quoted from the Bible)
If we could begin to wrap our minds around the notion of God’s glory, grasp the value of His name, and realise how valuable we are in His sight, created in the image of God, we would be proud to have a jealous God. We would be thankful that He constantly upholds the value of His name. Not that it will become any less valuable if He did not do so, but that in doing so He places prime value on His name above everything else. We would be thankful that He constantly guards His possession, we who are redeemed, not willing to let anyone fall, helping us persevere till the day of our death.