The jealousy of God is often misunderstood. It can seem to some that God’s jealousy is the unwarranted begging of a needy megalomaniac for attention. For some the jealousy of God is something like the ruthless demanding of a drill sergeant to obey. Yet the jealously of God is nothing of the sort. His jealousy is neither unwarranted nor ruthless. His jealousy is, in fact, the relentless love of father for his children.
“I the Lord your God am a jealous God” (Exodus 20.5). What then, is God jealous for? Hear the words of the prophet Isaiah:
“I am the Lord; that is my name;
my glory I give to no other,
nor my praise to carved idols.”
God is jealous chiefly for His own glory. He relentlessly upholds it. God declares in Ezekiel, “I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations” (Ezekiel 36.23). God’s glory and His name are closely related. Therefore, in God’s acting to initiate a new covenant for the salvation of His people, God is concerned supremely with upholding His glory. But that does not mean that God is unconcerned with our joy. It means that the only way for us to find and experience eternally lasting joy is for God to be supremely concerned with His own glory. God’s jealousy for His glory is the fountain out of which His jealousy for us flows. Because God is utterly and completely committed to displaying His glory in His extension of grace to sinners, He jealously calls and keeps His people. God is jealous for His glory in and through His people.
The jealousy of God for His people is laced with grace and drips with love because the Jealous One is the fountain of infinite, unending joy. The psalmist understood this when he wrote of God, “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16.11). God alone is the supreme treasure of the universe. Therefore, it is for our joy that He is jealous. In His jealousy for us is an invitation unfound and unmatched in all of creation to joy. Out of His great love for us, He is jealous for our affection because He knows that only in Him will our joy be full. Only in Him will the desires of our hearts be met. Only in Him will the longings of our soul be fulfilled. If God did not love us, He would not be jealous for us. He would be content to abandon us to lesser affections. He would be unmoved seeing our persistent, joyless idolatry. And yet out of an eternally deep reservoir of love flows a river of jealousy that sweeps His people up in a flood of joy.
Nowhere is this clearer than the cross. There the jealousy of God for His own glory overflowed into joy for sinners. As we continue to set our face to Jerusalem, remember and rejoice that God’s jealousy is our joy.