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So why does God care so much about whether you and I love him preeminently, indeed exclusively? What does it matter? Continue reading . . . 

So why does God care so much about whether you and I love him preeminently, indeed exclusively? What does it matter? In James 4:4-6 we are told that people who flirt with the world and, as it were, “jump into bed with other gods,” are guilty of spiritual adultery. That almost seems a bit extreme, doesn’t it? No, not once you realize that God is a jealous lover! Or, to use the words of James himself, God “yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us” (James 4:5b).

The point is that God is jealous for the full and undivided devotion of your heart. God will brook no rivals in his love relationship with you.

Before you overreact to my suggestion that God is a jealous lover, it’s important to remember that jealousy can be both good and bad. Jealousy can be driven or motivated both by holy and righteous motives as well as unholy and unrighteous ones. Jealousy can be a sign of both sinful weakness and strength, of both wounded pride, on the one hand, and genuine love, on the other. Jealously is sometimes the expression of an excessively possessive spirit, and at other times the fruit of care and concern for the welfare of the one who is loved. Jealousy is often the result of deep insecurity in a person’s soul, but also a reflection of commitment and devotion to the person that you love.

We all know this, and we’ve all undoubtedly felt the surge and sensation of jealousy in our hearts at some time or another during the course of our relationship with certain individuals. My guess is that we often times can’t even discern whether or not our jealous rage is righteous or wicked. The so-called “green-eyed-monster” is on occasion a cute, cuddly pet, while at other times it can be a vicious and carnivorous creature that devours and destroys. That is why Christians are often stumped and confused when they read all through the Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments, that God is a jealous God! If that sounds offensive to you, consider these texts:

"You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Exod. 20:4-6).

Remarkably, it isn't to his righteousness or holiness or justice or majesty or sovereignty or any other attribute that God appeals, but to his jealousy.

"For you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God" (Exod. 34:14; see Num. 25:11).

Holy jealousy is central to the fundamental essence of who God is. Jealousy is at the core of God's identity as God. Jealousy is that defining characteristic or personality trait that makes God God. Whatever other reasons you may find in Scripture for worshiping and serving and loving God alone, and there are many of them and they are all good, paramount among them all is the fact that our God burns with jealousy for the undivided allegiance and affection of his people. Here are a few other texts:

"You shall not go after other gods, any of the gods of the peoples who are around you – for the Lord your God in your midst is a jealous God – lest the anger of the Lord your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth” (Deut. 6:14-15; cf. 4:24; 29:20; 32:16,21; Joshua 24:19; see also 1 Kings 14:22; Psalm 78:58; Ezek. 16:38,42; 23:25; 36:5ff; 38:19; 39:25; Joel 2:18; Nahum 1:2; Zeph. 1:18; 3:8; Zech. 1:14; 8:2; Ps. 79:5).

God is an emotional being. He experiences within the depths of his being genuine passions. The Bible is replete with references to divine joy, mercy, love, compassion, kindness, hatred, just to mention a few. But what of jealousy? The fact that we balk at the suggestion that God might be truly jealous indicates that we have a weak, insipid view of the divine nature. At the very core of his being, in the center of his personality is an inextinguishable blaze of immeasurable love called jealousy.

To say that God is jealous certainly does not mean that he is suspicious because of some insecurity in his heart. This kind of jealousy is the result of ignorance and mistrust. Such is surely not true of God. Nor does it mean he is wrongfully envious of the success of others. Jealousy that is sinful is most often the product of anxiety and bitterness and fear. But surely none of this could be true of God. Sinful jealousy is the sort that longs to possess and control what does not properly belong to oneself; it is demanding and cares little for the supposed object of its love.

Divine jealousy is a zeal to protect a love relationship or to avenge it when it is broken. Jealousy in God is that passionate energy by which he is provoked and stirred and moved to take action against whatever or whoever stands in the way of his enjoyment of what he loves and desires. The intensity of God's anger at threats to this relationship is directly proportionate to the depths of his love.

James wants us to understand that God is jealous for the devotion and wholeheartedness and loyalty and love of his bride, his people. Just as a husband cannot be indulgent of adultery in his wife, so also God cannot and will not endure infidelity in us. What would we think of a man or woman who does not experience jealous feelings when another person approaches his/her spouse and threatens to win their affection? We would regard such a person as deficient in moral character and lacking in true love.

So the next time you feel tempted to flirt with the world or to give your affections to anything or anyone other than God, remember that his heart burns with jealous commitment to you and a deep and passionate love that will brook no rival suitors.

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