Thursday, 29 October 2009

a jealous God?

For those taught to regard 'jealousy' as a sin, this self description of God is often a challenge: Ex 20:4-6. It comes in the passage which refers to idolatry and explains that God's particular hatred of idolatry stems from the fact that he is a 'jealous God'. How so?

It is almost impossible now for us to separate out aspects of God's character which seem contradictory. Is he a God of justice or a God of love? Yes! He is a God who exhibits his holy love in anger against the rebel. The two are not contradictory but complementary. It is because we hardly ever see 'anger' without 'temper' that we are tempted to consider God as being inconsistent. Christ was angry... often, but he never lost his temper.

When human beings exhibit jealousy it is a manifestation of self-defence and part of the philosophy that attack is the best from of defence. With God however, there is no self-centredness of this kind and God's jealousy does not stem from fear of loss of reputation. So where does it come from?

The context shows us plainly. Idolatry is a redefinition of God and inevitably a slander of his character. This is why the revelation of God in Christ is so necessary. Even the revelation of God in creation and scripture is partial but in Christ God is seen plainly. If we change this revelation we redefine God and that is idolatry.

God is 'jealous' of his character partly because to malign that character will result in inevitable loss for those who believe the lie. It is usually accepted that to defile the character of mother or wife is bound to provoke strong anger from the one who knows and loves 'mother' or 'wife'. The love of the Godhead cannot ignore the slander perpetrated in idolatry and the right word for this is 'jealousy' but it is jealousy without self-centredness and anger without temper.

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