By Randi Peck
“None of your business!!”
My dad was my 8th grade basketball coach, and I once believed nothing could break his concentration from those ten players running up and down that squeaky court.
Turns out, some junior high boys yelling from the bleachers for his daughter’s phone number could.
We laugh about it now— recalling how he turned around in the middle of the game and yelled at those boys. But he is quick to remind me that I didn’t always think it was so funny. At the time, I was mortified and furious.
My dad was never afraid to scare off immature suitors from any of his three daughters. Whether that entailed giving prom dates the talk, confiscating (or destroying) cell phones, or patiently sitting in our rooms while we bawled and accused him of ruining our lives.
He treasured us. And so, he refused to let his girls settle for anything less than the best.
Oh, I’m sure his jealousy for us was not without fault. I’m sure at times, he struggled with fear. Or wrestled with impatience and anger.
But overall, it is because of this vivid example I had growing up, that I have never doubted the existence of a good jealousy. And therefore, have never had any trouble accepting that the Bible quite frequently describes the Lord as a ‘jealous God’.
I realize this is not everyone’s experience. When most people think of jealousy, they quickly associate it with feelings of hostility and envy. And for good reason. Man’s jealousy, untamed, can lead to rage, desperation or recklessness.
This is the type of jealousy that the Bible speaks of disapprovingly: “Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.” (1)
But we must distinguish God’s jealousy from man’s jealousy if we are ever to understand this good attribute of God.
When God is jealous, he is not threatened by our power. He is over all. (2)
No, when God is jealous: he is first and foremost, taking his own name seriously. Because it is more glorious and real than anything that we can see.
When God’s name is profaned, we see the consuming fire of the Lord’s jealousy:
The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD is avenging and wrathful. (7)
But God is also jealous for his people. He is passionate about our faithfulness. Because he wants what is best for us. And he knows that HE is best for us.
Then the LORD became jealous for his land and had pity on his people. (8)
So which is it?
Is he an avenging God, furious at all evil?
Or is he a merciful God, faithful and protective toward his Bride?
God is a Consuming Fire (9)… who was burned by the Father’s wrath so that we could be brought near.
He does demand complete holiness… and paid the ultimate price so we could be eternally set apart.
He does yearn jealously over us… because he has lovingly, sacrificially placed his Spirit within us.
If we have a problem with God’s jealousy, then ultimately we have a problem trusting a) His great worth and b) His unwavering goodness.
No sane adult would fault my dad for being protective over his daughters. Good fathers, like mine, are celebrated.
Likewise, if my husband refused to let me go on a date with another man, no one would blame him. Faithful husbands— even in our Hollywood-saturated culture— are affirmed.
Or take the patriotic countryman, who will gladly scorn a traitor and bring him to justice. This is because loyal citizens are highly esteemed.
So WHY, if we can easily accept the fierce jealousy of the flawed beings around us, do we hesitate to cast down our idols before the One, True and Living King of Kings?!
We cling to our savings accounts and essential oils and second incomes. And God would say, Let ME be your Security.
We turn to our snack pantry and margarita nights and Netflix binges, in emotional moments. And God would say, Let ME be your Hiding Place.
We strive after the Instagram-worthy postpartum-bod, or the boss’s nod of approval. And God would say, Let ME be your Glory.
Stop taking the good gifts I created, and fashioning them into idols.
You shall have no other gods before me.
Love me with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
He says this, not as a dictator… A controlling spouse… Or an insecure imposter.
He says this as the Lord of heaven and earth— altogether too holy to be seen or known by us. And yet, tearing the veil that separated us, at the cost of his life… so that we could be near.
Cling to him, and him alone. It is sweet and it is good and it is as it should be.