A Jealous God and a Disobedient People
Exodus is well-known because of Moses and the Egyptians. When I think of Exodus, I think of the animated movies about Moses freeing the Hebrews from the Egyptians. Who wouldn’t? I mean, the title of the book is Exodus. They are exiting Egypt. But, the older I get, the more I fall in love with the God described in this book, and that isn’t just because of His redemptive nature. I like the image of a Jealous God.
There are many aspects to God. We see pillows in Hobby Lobby that read, “God is love.” We have heard sermons on the names of God. There is an endless supply of adjectives that describe who God is. But, in my opinion, the most neglected of these descriptions is jealous. I can understand why; in Exodus, the 10 Commandments tell us not to envy, not to covet. It’s easy to mix up envy and jealousy because in the English language these terms can seem interchangeable. But, actually, these words are very different.
Let’s define some terms. Envy is a desire for status, or identity. For example, if my heart’s deepest desire was to be President (it’s not), then that would be envy. Covetousness is wanting what someone else has. So, if my friend had the newest iPhone, and I wanted it, I would be coveting her iPhone. Greed is wanting the stuff. My friend doesn’t have the newest iPhone, but I saw it on a commercial and I wanted it; that is greed. Finally, jealousy is fear of a loss of a relationship.
You shall not bow down to [false idols] or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a Jealous God…Exodus 20:5
So, when God says that He is a Jealous God, He isn’t revealing His sinful nature (spoiler alert: God is sin free). Rather, He is revealing that He doesn’t want to lose His relationship with us.
No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.Matthew 6:24
God recognizes that we are sinful beings who will always fall short. But, He also knows that if we don’t fully serve Him, we cannot commit to being saved by Jesus Christ (follow this link to learn more). He is jealous of our relationship with the world. And He is right to be jealous. If we go further into Exodus, we can see this.
When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.”Exodus 32:1
These people aren’t idiots. They’ve seen Moses part the sea, and they’ve witnessed God bringing them out of Egypt. They’re impatient. Patience is hard. They’ve been waiting and walking and they’re tired. All they have done in Exodus is complain. They want food, fresh water, and beds to sleep in at night. Instead, they’re wandering around in a desert following some guy who is constantly going off to talk with a God that they have never seen. At least, in Egypt, they had those things. God gave them freedom, but how quickly they forgot about the difficulties of being a slave in exchange for comfort.
Humans like comfort zones, but our God doesn’t call us to stay in our comfort zones. When He calls us out, it is easy to give into gods like fear and impatience. God knows this. But, He also knows that we need to trust Him if we want salvation through Him. If we read further down in the chapter, He says to Moses,
They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you out of he land of Egypt!”Exodus 32:8
Here, we see God’s frustration. He has brought the Hebrews out of Egypt. He saved them from the plagues, gave them freedom, and is bringing them to the promise land. He is handing over a nation to them, and all they have to do is trust them. Yet, they are too impatient to see this. Too afraid to believe Him, so they turn to sin. He fears a loss of relationship with them, and for good reason.
You want to talk about a toxic relationship? This, this is toxic to God. I mean, humanity, including me, chooses to serve these things over and over again. God just wants a relationship with us; I mean, He created us to experience love, but all we do is turn away. That’s why, because He is a Jealous God, His righteous anger in the next few verses is so easy to understand. God is ready to wipe out the Hebrews, and it’s justified. It’s what humanity deserves. But, Moses appeals to God’s loving and merciful nature.
But Moses implored to the LORD his God and said, “O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth?’ Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.'” And the LORD relented from the disaster that He had spoken of bringing on His people.Exodus 32:11-14
Can you blame God? I can’t. He created us to love us, and this isn’t the first time He had resolved to kill humanity. Remember Noah? If it hadn’t been for Noah, God had resolved to wipe out all of humanity. We turn from Him quickly. But, just like in Genesis with Lot, and with Noah, God is able to find a righteous man. That’s enough for Him. I’m thankful it is, because, honestly, I don’t deserve it. The Hebrews didn’t deserve it. But, that’s God. He is jealous for a relationship with us. That’s the one thing He wants in the world. It’s the one thing that can save us in this world. It was the one thing that could save the Hebrews at this moment.
I’ve got one more verse, just to reiterate what I’ve already talked about. Because, the Bible takes time to note this again, and I think it’s important.
(for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God)Exodus 34:14
Once again, He is a Jealous God. It doesn’t seem to make any sense why He would rescue us from our sins and lead us into the promise land. But, He does. And He does it for love. He did it with Lot. He did it with Moses. He did it through Jesus. And He will still do it for the Church today. I love that He is jealous for me, that He yearns to be in relationship with me. He yearns for a relationship with you too.