Have you ever wondered why God says of Himself, “I am a jealous God”? Further, recently I found a verse in Exodus 34:14, in which God actually says, his name is Jealous.
How can God, who is infinite, perfect and good; perfectly, infinitely good be a jealous God? And yet, the bible is very clear about this, Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 4:24; 5:9: and 6:15. This is a hard concept to understand, especially in the way we usually think about the word jealousy. Most of us would define jealousy as resentful, bitter rivalry; envious to the point of anger: jealous of the success of others. But here lies the problem. We begin, as is our propensity, to contemplate everything from a human point of view and with a negative connotation. And rightly so, experience has demonstrated, human jealousy matches our definition.
What is the answer to our conundrum? Well, I think we forget that God is not human.
Mark Batterson in his book, the Anthology of God asserts there is “a distinction between being jealous OF and jealous FOR something” (Batterson, 2013). He further clarifies by asserting, God is jealous not of his people, but jealous for his people, which would make more sense. God being God and not like men would not, could not be jealous of mere men. He created mankind, the world, the universe and everything in it. Why would a perfect being, stoop to the point of jealousy-jealousy of a finite and limited creature, like an ant? Therefore our definition does not apply. But if we change it up as Batterson suggests, we now understand how God would be jealous for His people. Being jealous for someone would denote love, beneficence, not anger and maleficence. God would be jealous for us because he wants us to value, appreciate and focus our affections on him and to establish and maintain relationship, just as human parents want a relationship with their children. But just as human children can turn away and reject their parents, we also can reject and devalue God, which I believe deeply saddens him more than we can comprehend.
I love an ancient song written by a very profound man; Bob Dylan sang wisdom when he prophetically bellowed, “you gotta serve somebody” and it is true. When we turn our affections to other things, we reject God and commit idolatry, which is blind, excessive devotion given opulently to something other than to him.
Many would argue, I don’t worship idols. I do not have any wooden statues or figurines in my house, but again, Batterson boldly challenges us to explore contemporary idolatry by gauging personal devotion by our deepest feelings and emotions. He encourages us to answer the following questions:
• What are the things that we rejoice over?
• What things do we mourn over?
• What are the things that keep us up at night?
• What are the things that ruin your day?
• What are the things that make our day?”
I don’t know about you, but to publically admit to the things that keep me up or wake me up at night, is not pleasant and I feel shame. But if I want healing and transparency, then it’s a must, I suppose. Everything that I stress over, mourn, or let ruin my day are things or situations where I feel I look bad or feel unappreciated. It’s always, all about me My perspective is always biased by selfie. I have been talking about selfie, a bit of late, only because it is a problem that continues to cloud my walk with God. I hope I am not the only one who struggles with this? I would hate to think I am alone….you know misery loves company.
Thank God there is guidance about mourning. Moreover, God can help transform the ‘me’ in me, towards a more godly perspective, instead of a selfie one.
In Ecclesiastes 3:4 we are told there are times to mourn; times to dance; times to weep and times to laugh. In my work, at work, I have had the privilege and honor of caring for families who experience miscarriage, stillbirth, ectopic pregnancy and newborn death. These families have taught me many things over years. I have learned that the majority of parents, mourn in response to the death of their babies. Despite their world view, faith or absence therein; no matter the gestation; these families believe and view pregnancy as their child; their progeny and if death comes, intensely mourn i.e. demonstrative weeping and wailing.
The bible gives us many examples that it is okay to mourn over the separation i.e. death of loved ones. There are those who struggle with mourning, which always surprises me. Most often they believe spiritual people; people with an abiding and sincere faith, should not mourn. This idea couldn’t be further from the truth. We are commanded to “rejoice with those who rejoice, weep i.e. demonstrative weeping and wailing, with those who weep in Romans 12: 18 and to remember “if one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Corinthians 12: 26). The design of these rules is to excite and encourage empathy in the saints, in all conditions inward and outward; in imitation of Christ, the great high priest, who was and is touched with the infirmities of his people through relationship to them and us, and as members of the same communal body.
When bereaved parents tell stories of how their tears are questioned by family and friends, of whom they expect support, we talk about tears. Tears are a very interesting phenomenon and it is a well documented fact, scientists have been studying tears and crying for decades. Many once thought tear production was a vestigial (left over from evolution) and no longer necessary for survival, but they have discovered tears actually have numerous critical functions for humans. Tears are a precious gift from God. Tears contain hormones and toxins which provide cleansing for the body. But more important than individual health and healing, tears are God’s way of building community. Tears are an extremely effective method of communication and can elicit sympathy/empathy faster than any other means. In one of the shortest verses of the bible we are told, God shed tears. If God cried at the death of his friend, why question it. I won’t apologize for the chase of that rabbit, because it is an important bunny to pursue and a run that has been long overdue.
It is also okay to mourn a bit over the sin of others; spiritual decay; temptations by Satan. Sometimes there is sin; wrong behavior that can be generational sin such as alcoholism; adultery; divorce; domestic violence; rejection of God. Children are hurt by generational sin, but without God to break the cycle, before we know it we children have grown up and our lives are caught up in that same hurtful, unhealthy lifestyle.
And lastly, we are encouraged that we mourn deeply over our own sin and separation from God. God said he would comfort everyone who mourns over their sin and repents. Matt 5: 2 says, “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted”. Jesus, God in flesh left heaven and came down to earth; stooped towards us, to break that cycle; the cycle of sin and death for the ants living on the rock. This is good news. It is the best of news. This is the gospel, the good news of God bringing rescue from sin to his people. When Jesus went public he said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor: He hath sent me to proclaim release to the captives; And recovering of sight to the blind; To set at liberty them that are bruised; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4: 18)
The people of that day knew exactly what he was talking about. They had been waiting 400 years to hear from God, which is quite significant for a people who had based their whole existence on hearing from God and had made it a national mandate to recite the Shema every morning and every evening of their lives. In fact, it is to be the first and last words they speak of each and every day.
Our minds can be truly be fixed on God, so much so, that our first and last thoughts, could be on God. What an opportunity we have to be blessed by the very presence of the living God. I am going to leave you with that thought to ponder for today…. And tomorrow, we will rejoice but first…
I do want to pray over you.
Thank you God for making relationships eternal. Forgive our short-sidedness, our myopia, our Me-ish-ness and cleanse us. Help us to forgive, as you forgave us. Thank you Christ, for covering us in your grace, mercy and love. Fill us anew with your presence so that your shekinah glory, your light will radiate from this temple and out to your world. Make us workers willing to plant your seeds. Amen.