Exodus 20: 1 – 6.
Jealousy as a human trait generally surfaces negative connotations, at times leading to fatal outcomes in relationships. Unequivocally, Scripture teaches that it is a transgression, expressly so in view of an injury or death (Gen 4:1-12; Rom 13:13; 1Cor 3:3). A further illustration was King Saul’s insecure and envious attitude towards the young fledgeling warrior, David, which eventually transformed him into a murderous sovereign, leading to the destruction of his own faith and downfall (1Sam 16-31). The inevitable trajectory for such an outcome often begins with one’s egotistical damaged pride that gradually spirals toward unhappiness and anger against his imagined or authentic protagonist. However, there is a form of jealousy that appears to be healthy (2Cor 11:2). The Apostle Paul’s rather acerbic comment on the Corinthian Church’s speedy desertion from their true faith demonstrated his jealous desire that they return to their trust in the original gospel. God’s jealousy towards us is constantly for our protection against the vicissitudes and temptations in life; it is borne out of His loving kindness towards those who belong to Him. The closest expression in our world of this unique spiritual relationship that would elicit such a passionate consequence, in time and space, is a matrimonial affiliation! Yahweh consistently signified throughout the Old Testament that His relationship with Israel was one where fidelity and devotedness, not unlike in a marriage bond, contrasted with the religious syncretism prevalent in the Near East (Jer 3:1; Jer 3:8; Hosea 2:19-20). With the advent of the New Testament, the church became symbolised as the bride of Christ (Eph 5:22-27; Rev 19:7-8). God’s jealousy demands that our relationship with Him be exclusive and passionate.
In the context of the Ten Commandments, what are the ingredients of such a relationship with God? The fact that it was couched within this series of commandments is indicative of God’s critical disposition towards obedience from those who wish to follow Him (Ex 20:1-6). To worship Yahweh is to worship Him exclusively; viz., “you shall have no other gods before Me.” In that framework, this exclusivity possesses an element of strict devotedness, with a particular abhorrence towards idolatry. Anything in our world, be it animate or inanimate, could be made into an idol; that is, it displaces God in our heart. Within the marriage metaphor, it amounts to infidelity, and understandably, a provocation towards Godly jealousy. Spiritual adultery, a principal offence in the Bible, is to deny God His exclusive place at the centre of our being, where holiness transcends our faithful relationship with Him. The objective to such an ongoing intentional rapport on our part is to a willing obedience enabling His Holy Spirit to transform us to be like Christ in our present sojourn. A covenantal association is obviously implied, and with it, a level of intimate reciprocation in giving ourselves to each other in this sacred union.
Due to our propensity for sin, is it any wonder that we would incur God’s jealousy, and therefore, being disciplined by Him (Heb 12:4-11; c.f., Joshua 24:19). How then does a believer honour this faithful relationship with God? Unlike worldly jealousy that is self-serving, Godly jealousy, encompassed by agape, is other-centred and self-sacrificial, resulted in God offering Himself up for our sins, in our place, that we may be reconciled to Him (c.f., 2Cor 5:11-18). Its objective is to present us, His bride, as “having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing…..holy and blameless” on the Judgment Day (Eph 5:25-33). God does not desert us when we fail Him, but His loving jealousy continues to graciously and patiently pursue us in discipline, and await our return to Him. The believers’ spiritual position is in Christ, having died with Christ to sin so that we are dead to sin but alive to God, to walk in newness of life (Rom 6:1-11). Paul’s patent instruction for us to be effectively jealous of our relationship with God is for us to consciously and intentionally present ourselves to God daily as instruments of obedient righteousness to serve Him, and Him only, in the face of our own weaknesses and self-righteousness (Rom 6:12-14; Rom 12: 1-2). There are no alternatives!