God is JEALOUS. What does that mean?

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What do you think about jealousy? Is it something good or evil? Is it positive or negative? I’m going to guess jealousy isn’t a good thing in your books. And you wouldn’t be wrong, as jealousy is listed as a work of the flesh in Galatians 5:20, and “they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:21). Yet the Bible says God is a jealous God. How is it possible that God—the standard of good and the creator and sustainer of the universe—could ever be jealous? Let’s find out what the Bible has to say. And we will discover a key word to understanding this subject.

The Exodus account of the giving of the Ten Commandments teaches plainly that God is jealous.

Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them [graven images], nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God.

Exodus 20:51

Moses also Emphasized the same truth in another passage:

Ye shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the people which are round about you; (For the Lord thy God is a jealous God among you) lest the anger of the Lord thy God be kindled against thee, and destroy thee from off the face of the earth.

Deuteronomy 6:14-15

Again, we ask, how is it that God could be jealous? Certainly, jealousy can be a destructive and toxic trait—destructive both to the one who is jealous and to the object of jealousy. And many people are suffering through that toxicity today. For example, Joe becomes insecure and feels he’ll never measure up to Alisha’s success. He begins to accuse her of messing around. He tries to control her, always demanding to see her messages, and constantly berates her. Or Emily can’t handle Amanda’s newfound popularity, so she spreads rumors in order to control her best friend.

Yet, there is still a legitimate place for jealousy—even in human relationships. For example, A husband has a godly jealousy (there’s our key word—godly—we’ll see the apostle Paul use it in a moment). He has a godly jealousy towards his wife in the occasion that she is found flirting with another man. The husband, if he truly loves her, will be jealous and rightfully so. Flirting with her belongs to him and not anyone else. Any spouse who truly loves their husband or wife will have this kind of godly jealousy, or else there would not have been any point in being married from the beginning. When the marriage vows are given, the husband and wife promise to give certain attention to only each other for the rest of their lives. Their affections must not be given to another, for it doesn’t belong to another.

God’s jealousy works in a similar way. God has a covenant relationship with his people. Throughout the Bible, the inspired writers use the occasion of marriage to describe the relationship Christians have with God (see Ephesians 5:25). Paul told the Corinthians:

I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.”

2 Corinthians 11:2

Paul’s jealousy was not a sinful attitude, but a genuine concern that the Corinthians would be faithful as a bride to the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s why it was a godly jealousy. Every Christian ought to share Paul’s jealousy for the cause of Christ.

Godly jealousy is not about what someone else has that you want (envy), and it’s not about controlling the other person (toxic jealousy). Rather, it is about that which rightfully belongs to you, that is given to another (godly jealousy). God deserves our honor, praise, worship, faithfulness, obedience. When we give that to someone or something else, he becomes jealous and rightfully so. 

God created the earth for man’s habitation and pleasure. He developed a plan of salvation to save fallen men. That plan included the sending of his only Son Jesus Christ to die for our sins. Since God has done so much for human beings, why would he not be disappointed when men count the blood of the covenant wherewith, they are sanctified an unholy thing and have insulted the Spirit of God (see Hebrews 10:29)?

  1. Scriptures in this study are from the King James Version. ↩︎
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