“For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.”
(Deuteronomy 4:24 ESV)
From the nursery to the retirement home, and everywhere in between, we are jealous people. We want someone else’s toy, promotion, family, or physique. Jealousy in this sense is sin—coveting the possessions, reputation, or attributes of someone else. But Scripture tells us that God is jealous, and since he is perfect, his kind of jealousy must be good and right.
One of the first times we explicitly hear about the jealousy of God is in the Ten Commandments, in which God tells his people not to worship idols because he is jealous (Exodus 20:5). This is reiterated right after God renews the covenant. In promising his faithful love, he says that his very name is “Jealous” (Exodus 34:14 ESV). Here God’s jealousy is clearly placed in a love relationship.
Another term for this type of jealousy is “passionate zeal.” God passionately guards the exclusiveness of his relationship to his people. His deep love is what motivates his jealousy. It should make us feel deeply loved to know that despite all the ways we have been unfaithful to him, God has a holy jealousy for our love.
God is also jealous for his name. Ezekiel prophesies, “Now I will restore the fortunes of Jacob and have mercy on the whole house of Israel, and I will be jealous for my holy name” (Ezekiel 39:25 ESV). God places his name on his people, and then zealously protects and keeps them so that his name is glorified. When God spoke to Saul on the Damascus Road, he asked, “Why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4 ESV). Because we are in him and he in us, when God is jealous for his name, he is always working for our good.
For us, jealousy is usually desiring something that doesn’t belong to us, something we don’t have and don’t have the right to, or it is refusing to share something that we ought to share. But the right kind of jealousy is refusing to share something that we ought not to share. Because God is the source of all things and the owner of all things, there is nothing he could be jealous for that doesn’t rightfully belong to him. His jealousy is like a married person being jealous for the love of their spouse—they are zealously seeking something that is rightfully theirs. God’s jealousy is an expression of his perfect love for us, and also a call to action.
Because God is the source of all things and the owner of all things, there is nothing he could be jealous for that doesn’t rightfully belong to him.
God is jealous for our wholehearted worship—something that is rightfully his because he made us and redeemed us. We owe God everything, so let us offer up our complete devotion and total obedience as an act of worship and thanks.