The Jealousy of God - What does it mean?

The Jealousy of God - What does it mean?
There's an interesting spectrum of reactions to observe when someone says that God is jealous. Some are a little thrown off that a word with at least some negative connotations gets attributes to God. Others are just clueless, never having heard anything about it or thought about it yet. And then there are those whose eyes widen with excitement and whose hearts go out in affection to God because it the term resonates deeply within them.

If we want to belong to the last group, it is crucial for us that we regularly take time to meditate on this aspect of the beauty of God's personality and make this terminology and truth part of our prayer vocabulary. That God is a jealous God is a clear biblical truth. It's an invitation into the depths of His personality and greater revelation of His love. In the end we decide if and how much this truth will resonate within us. In this article I'll present 3 important implications of God's jealousy to get you started.

As a preliminary point (specifically for those with concerns):
We have to understand that His jealousy is not a flaw, deficiency or emotional weakness in the character of God. Unlike jealousy in human beings, God's jealousy is of the purest and most noble quality, completely undefiled by selfish motivations (in His pursuit He gave up His life) and not grounded in an attitude of insecurity, distrust or greediness. We were made for Him, so His nearness is to us our good (Ps 73:28), wholeheartedness our joy and satisfaction (Hebr 1:9; Ps 16:11).

1) In jealousy He desires that we would be fully and only His

The term jealousy reminds us of being in love, of marriage, of a young couple that just fell in love. And rightly so. That's the context from which this term has been borrowed. First and foremost, the jealousy of God means that God is jealous for our hearts. He wants all of us and He wants it for Him alone.

His eyes are running to and fro to find people who are fully His (2 Chr 16:9). He desires undistracted devotion, all of our hearts, soul, mind and strength (Mt 22:37). God isn't satisfied with a little bit of us, we are actually so precious to Him that He wants it all.
"You shall have no other gods besides Me. ... You shall not worship them or serve them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God." (Exodus 20:3,5).
Right at the beginning of the Ten Commandments, God reveals Himself as a jealous Bridegroom who burns for the undivided love of His people as He enters into a marriage covenant with them (cf. Ez 16:8). Here and throughout the Old and New Testament, God uses marital terms to describe the relationship between Him and His people (i.e. Isa 54:5; Jer 31:32; Hos 2:7; John 3:29; 2 Cor 11:2; Eph 5:31-32). Monotheism and monogamy are joined. Right from the start God clarifies that this thing is about relationship, that this is about love, and that He is after our heart - all of it.

Just like a husband has his deepest relationship with his wife and no one beside her, so God desires a position in our heart that is unparalleled. By likening our relationship with Him to a marriage, God makes clear that the deepest and closest relationship in our life is to be reserved for Him and Him alone, that He desires a bond between Him and us with a quality and intensity that we won't grant to anyone or anything else but Him (even exceeding the intimate bond between husband and wife; that's what Jesus meant in Luke 14:26).

2) In jealousy He relentlessly fights for our hearts

"Therefore, behold, I will allure her, bring her into the wilderness and speak kindly to her. ... It will come about in that day, declares the Lord, that you will call Me 'my Husband' and will no longer call Me 'my Master'. For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, so that they will be mentioned by their names no more. ... I will betroth you to Me forever." (Hosea 2:14,16-17,19)
In His jealousy, God woos us into the place of intimacy with Him and removes any other lover from our lives (also see v. 7). He orchestrates situations and circumstances to get our attention, He releases the influences of His Spirit to manifest His presence and reveal His love to us, He prunes and purifies our hearts to set us apart for Himself in holiness, He woos us to stir affection in our heart for Him.

His jealousy means that He wants all of us, but it also means that He Himself will fight for my undivided love. God doesn't just stand at a distance waiting for us to draw near, He actually pulls us close Himself (John 6:44; 12:32).

The words of Hosea 2 were spoken to an Israel that was caught up in idolatry and compromise. They were far from God, busy following other lovers. That's the context in which God promises His wooing pursuit. Even when our pursuit of Him is weak, when we fall short in our love for Him, His jealousy doesn't let us go. Relentlessly and tenaciously He fights for our hearts. His patience, long-suffering and mercy for us are rooted in this jealousy (Joel 2:18; Zech 1:14,16).

The Cross has settled once and for all how far He will go in His jealousy. His love is as strong as death, His jealousy as demanding as the grave (Song 8:6). In His pursuit of us He won't even stop at death, He won't even stop at giving away His own life. Oh, how vast, high and deep this love that surpasses understanding (Eph 3:18-19)!

If you want to find out more about that, check out my article God's Pursuit of Man.

3) In jealousy He will remove everything that opposes love

Many times when the Bible talks about the jealousy of God, the idea is closely related to His wrath (Deut 6:15; 32:16; Ps 78:58; Ez 38:19). Just like His jealousy makes Him pursue us tenaciously, so it can also stir His anger towards those who persistently defy and thwart His love.
"Therefore wait for Me, declares the Lord, for the day when I rise up as a witness. Indeed, My decision is to gather nations, to assemble kingdoms, to pour out on them My indignation, all My burning anger, for all the earth will be devoured by the fire of My zeal (lit. jealousy, hebr: qn'). ... For then I will remove from your midst your proud, exulting ones ... but I will leave among you a humble and lowly people, and they will take refuge in the name of the Lord." (Zephania 3:8,11-12)
God is committed to those who love Him and He is committed to bringing forth wholeheartedness on the earth. In the process He will remove everything that opposes love once and for all (Isa 42:13). That includes the enemy and his demons, all aspects of sin and darkness as well as everyone who pledged their allegiance to it (Rev 20:10-15; 21:8,27). We are not talking about weak and broken believers who sincerely desire to please God but fail to fully live up to it and struggle here and there - they are washed in the blood of the Lamb (Rev 1:5) and will be given fine, clean garments (Rev 19:8). No it's referring to rebellious people who continuously reject His love, oppose the laws of His Kingdom of love, who continually resist His tender mercies and His invitations into a relationship with Him.

God's purpose for the restoration of all things is the restoration of the First and Second Great Commandments (Mt 22:37,39) to their rightful places by cleansing the universe and the heavens of all darkness once and for all. He will create a place where love will abound without end, where light and darkness no longer coexist (Mt 13:24-30), and where His children, the Bride of His Son, will never be defiled again. For all eternity, He will have a pure and spotless Bride whose heart is fully His and whose devotions is undistracted and wholehearted.


The subject of the jealousy of God is a glorious, stunning and awe-inspiring reality that...

  1. reveals to us the depths of His love and affection for us and shows us what God is after,
  2. gives us confidence in His ability and willingness to keep us close to Him as we behold His tenacity,
  3. helps us see the end-time judgments in the right light as we understand that the restoration of the universe is about the restoration of eternal/everlasting wholeheartedness.
But there is still so much more to it than this. I barely scratched the surface of this bottomless ocean. Eternity will not be enough to mine the depths of this reality. And yet a lifetime spent prayerfully pondering this side of His heart would not be wasted.

1 comment:

  1. You are a poet. I love Him. I love you. ~R