Our Jealous God
1 Samuel 7:3
A key aspect of God’s character has been watered down amidst the language and actions of the soap opera and romance novel culture. There, we encounter self-centered and immature adults who mistake possessiveness for love, sex for romance, and, most destructively, self-centeredness for true jealousy. When carnal human beings are jealous of another person, they are jealous because they are about to lose someone or something they want. The focus is self-centered—“I want so-and-so for my own, and I will do anything to keep you from having him!” From junior high Jezebels to corporate Casanovas, self-centered jealousy is a way of life in the world.
With that cultural background, many Bible readers are surprised when they discover that the Judeo-Christian God is a “jealous God” (Exod. 20:5; 34:14; Deut. 4:24; 5:9; Josh. 24:19). They wonder how God could reduce himself to the level of pettiness and vindictiveness so frequently associated with jealousy in the world. Obviously, he does not. The jealousy that God ascribes to himself is born out of his righteous character, and it has the well-being of others as its focus. God is self-centered in that he is self-dependent; his existence is centered in himself and depends on nothing outside of himself. But he is not self-centered in that he thinks only of himself. To the contrary, his self-dependent nature means that he does not need us for his own well-being. He is therefore free to give himself totally to us.
An evidence of our fallen state is how we depend on emotional affirmation from others rather than from God. If someone leaves us, we lose our strength, and become jealous of who or what took our strength away. Not so with God. There is only one reason he is a jealous God: To keep us from sin.
God knows that our worship of any other “god” or “idol” is false worship and will ultimately lead to sin. He therefore commands us—as Samuel commanded Israel—to put away anything—person, place, thing, or activity—to which we have given our affection, and worship him alone. Worshipping a jealous God means worshipping the only true God, which is how we remain free of sin.
God’s Promise to You: “As you stay focused on me, you will stay free from sin.”