The God whose name is Jealous — Exodus 34-36

Today’s reading covers the God’s giving of the stone tablets to Moses a second time, a series of covenant reminders, a taking of a free-will offering for the construction of the Tabernacle, and the early stages of building it. But the thing that always strikes me as I read through this section is 34:14 in which God says His name is Jealous.

We usually think of jealousy as a bad thing, but its really a two edged thing that is both proper at times and improper at others. Jealousy is the emotion that wells up in us when we’re feeling sort of territorial about things and we see someone with something or someone that we believe really should be ours by rights — “That’s mine; get your hands off of it!” We can be jealous about honors that others receive that we want. We can be jealous of the success of a rival. And, of course, we can certainly be jealous regarding personal relationships.

This last sort of jealousy is sometimes inappropriate, but actually can be quite justifiable and appropriate in, for example, marital situations. When someone is paying a bit too much attention and getting a little too much attention from our spouse, we rightfully begin to feel jealous; and may say or do something about it. Our spouse, after all, does belong to us in covenant; and there are attentions and affections that rightfully belong to exclusively to us.

This is the sense in which God calls Himself Jealous. The context is the covenant that He has made with Israel and that He expects them to avoid friendly associations with the Canaanites, when they enter the land, that could (and did) result in the worship of other so-called gods — unfaithfulness. And by the way, when God expressed Himself this way, “–for you shall not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God–” (Exodus 34:14, NAS95), He’s telling us something important about Himself. God’s personal name is literally YHWH, not Jealous; but there’s intentional meaning behind taking on a “nickname”. I’ve heard people (football players in this example) use similar expressions before, “My middle name is Hungry” — expressing essentially, “Of course, I’m hungry; I’m always hungry and open to an invitation to eat!” Assuming a descriptive as one’s name is to say that it is a major part of one’s personality and nature. And God says that His name is Jealous; it is a self-description of a major feature of our God.

And it is completely justifiable. We are His creatures, living on His planet, in the midst of His universe, sustained by His moment to moment grace and provision. We would have no being without Him; there is no one else in this or any other universe who is owed even the smallest credit for our existence and sustenance — it is YHWH God alone, period. I could go on and on, but this is why paganism, atheism, materialism, humanism, and a legion of other “-isms” are so sinful: God sees it as dalliance, flirting, and “sleeping” with other “gods”. In other Scriptural contexts, God calls it adultery: “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” James 4:4, NAS95.

There’s so much more in these three chapters that could be commented on. What struck you today?

See you tomorrow, Lord willing.

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About parklinscomb

I'm a minister for the church of Christ in Manchester NH where I've worked since the 1970's. I'm a big fan of my family, archaeology, the Bible, the Lord's church, and Gander Brook Christian Camp.
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