Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; ~~ Exodus 20: (KJV)
I have always thought it interesting – and a little confusing – that God was called a jealous God. Having been taught that jealousy was a petty emotion, I simply could not reconcile the God I thought I knew with that kind of pettiness.
I was jealous of my best friend because she had siblings – and I didn’t. It wasn’t her fault, nor mine. But I wanted what she had. I didn’t want her not to have her siblings. I just wanted some of my own. I felt inferior.
God is not inferior – cannot feel inferior. How can He be jealous?
Strong’s Concordance helped me a great deal here. The root of the word which we have translated “jealous” actually means “zealous”.
And the dictionary elucidates further:
zealous: marked by fervent partisanship for a person, a cause, or an ideal : filled with or characterized by zeal
zeal: eagerness and ardent interest in pursuit of something : fervor
Aha! This makes more sense. God is fervently partisan to His people. He desires nothing but the best for them and will guard them jealously from any enemy. Even when that enemy is themselves.
15 (For the Lord thy God is a jealous God among you) lest the anger of the Lord thy God be kindled against thee, and destroy thee from off the face of the earth.
24 And the Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as it is at this day ~~ Deuteronomy 6:15, 24 (KJV) [emphasis mine]
This, then, ties back into the God I thought I knew. We are His creation, His workmanship. He wants us to be perfect as He is perfect. Therefore, He will guard our hearts, correcting us when we stray, just as a good parent disciplines a child. His jealousy, His zealousness is for our benefit.
Help us to understand that Your chastisement is for our benefit. Grant that we may take You at Your word, always, and follow Your precepts and the example You gave us in the person of Jesus Christ. Let us see Your zealous protection as our greatest boon.
In Jesus’ most precious name,