You find it hard to believe, but…

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When it comes to God’s unfailing love – His steadfast, loyal, self-giving love – God’s jealousy for us is not a “compound of frustration, envy and spite, as human jealousy so often is, but appears instead as a (literally) praiseworthy zeal to preserve something supremely precious,” writes J.I. Packer in his landmark book, Knowing God:

None of the limitations of human creaturehood are implied of God… Those elements in human qualities which show the corrupting effect of sin have no counterpart in God.

God’s jealousy over his people… presupposes his covenant love; and this love is no transitory affection, accidental and aimless, but is the expression of a sovereign purpose. The goal of the covenant love of God is that he should have a people on earth as long as history lasts, and after that should have all his faithful ones of every age with him in glory. Covenant love is the heart of God’s plan for his world.

The closest we might come to a pure jealousy is that of a parent for their child, for if a parent is not zealous for the welfare of their child, what is the strength of that bond – of that deep familial desire for the security and flourishing of their child?

God uses this language of a mother’s love for her child when He said to the prophet Isaiah:

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
    and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
    I will not forget you!
See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands...

Or consider how Song of Songs captures the holy jealousy of lovers in this rather parabolic or allegorical expression of Jesus and His Beloved:

Place me like a seal over your heart,
    like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death,
    its jealousy unyielding as the grave.
It burns like blazing fire,
    like a mighty flame.
Many waters cannot quench love;
    rivers cannot sweep it away.
If one were to give
    all the wealth of one’s house for love,
    it would be utterly scorned.

Unfortunately jealousy is often a corruptible characteristic in humans – betraying a controlling, petulant, self-centred possessiveness. Not so with God’s love and hence His jealousy – the expression of unfailing and protecting love that draws us to Him in worship. His jealousy – or – His zealous love for us draws us out of a self-referenced hyper-individualistic life apart from God and intensified in loneliness. His zealous love is expressed in protective and redemptive jealousy for the health of our souls.

Recently a young person speaking to the beauty of God’s jealousy, asked us to respond to this question:

“What might God be saying to you today about His jealous and covenantal love? Journal in the first person as if God is speaking to you directly.”

I wrote:

You find it hard to believe, but I delight to show you over and over again that you are my beloved, and I will not love without you, and I will not live without you.

I desire to reveal the very things about me that inspire worship, awe, and holy fear in you, because I know you love that – because I know you love me.

Let us be zealous for each other.

Let us be jealous together.

What do you hear God saying to you?

For more on the loving jealousy of God, see J.I. Packer’s chapter on “The Jealous God“.

Thanks for lesson taught by Amy Israelson (author of More Beautiful for Being Broken: Scrubbing my Soul).

About R.H. (Rusty) Foerger

As I enter the third third of life, I am becoming aware of the role of elders today “to enlarge spiritual vision, being devoted to prayer, living in the face of death, as a living curriculum of the Christian life” (Dr. James M. Houston). I am a life long and life wide learner who seeks to: *decipher the enigma of our worth *rescue from the agony of prayerlessness *integrate spiritual friendship.
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