Lesson Text—Exodus 20:1-4 Exodus 20:1-4 1 And God spake all these words, saying, 2 I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
Lesson Text—Exodus 20:1-4 4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
Lesson Text—Exodus 20:5-7 Exodus 20:5-7 5 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;
Lesson Text—Exodus 20:5-7 6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. 7 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
Lesson Text—Exodus 34:14 Exodus 34:14 For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.
Focus Verse—Exodus 34:14 Exodus 34:14 For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.
Focus Thought As God disclosed to Israel more of His nature, God revealed Himself as a jealous God.
I. God Is Distinct Culture Connection Beware the Green-eyed Monster In 1604, William Shakespeare wrote his famous play, Othello. In that classic work, the character Iago states, “O, beware, my lord, of jealousy; it is the green-ey’d monster, which doth mock the meat it feeds on.” The great bard thus warned against the dangerous and destructive human trait of jealousy!
I. God Is Distinct It is undeniably a carnivorous “beast” that consumes one’s peace, destroys clear thinking, and damages what it touches! Lennox Lowery, age fifty- three, of Thonotosassa, Florida, has the scars to prove it. In October 2011, this man was driven by extreme jealousy to confront his ex-girlfriend’s new beau. Anger became words, which became a conflict, culminating in Mr. Lowery’s pulling a gun and shooting his victim in the chest.
I. God Is Distinct When later confronted by police, he refused to drop a shotgun and was subsequently shot by the officers in the right hand, the left knee, and the left ear. Among the many tragedies in this account is that Lowery and his victim had been close friends for over five years. But jealousy consumed that friendship and in the process a life!
I. God Is Distinct Interesting then that such a negative, corrupting emotion could be attributed to our perfectly holy God, but such is clearly the case from Scripture. God reveals Himself as the possessor of something that man does not readily hold—godly jealousy! God is neither green-eyed nor a monster, but He is jealous for His people with a godly jealousy!
I. God Is Distinct Contemplating the Topic Jealousy! The simple mention of the word stirs unsavory feelings and emotions. It speaks of bitterness, envy, and harshness. It has strained to the breaking point multiple human connections. It has separated husband from wife, siblings, and choice friends. Its havoc appears in divorce courts, in broken relationships, and in lonely lives.
I. God Is Distinct In scene three of the third act of William Shakespeare’s Othello, Iago warns the lead character, “O, beware, my lord, of jealousy; it is the green- ey’d monster, which doth mock the meat it feeds on.” This “monster” has savaged so many and so widely it is difficult to associate it with anything righteous. On the surface jealousy would seem to be the antithesis of the God we serve, for He is the definition of infinite holiness.
I. God Is Distinct The psalmist declared of Him, “But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel” (Psalm 22:3). Indeed, so perfect is His purity that His prophet said, “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity” (Habakkuk 1:13). Consequently, it is almost shocking that the Word of God describes God as jealous! However, God is explicit in this self-revelation of His jealous nature.
I. God Is Distinct In His delivery of the Ten Commandments, the Lord expressly stated, “I the Lord thy God am a jealous God” (Exodus 20:5).
I. God Is Distinct So how do we properly reconcile these ideas about jealousy? What does God mean when He says He is “jealous”? Does this mean something different from the human application of that term? What is the righteous framework for His jealousy, and what is our righteous response to it? Our lesson today focuses on these and other applicable questions as we look at this unique revelation of God’s nature and character.
I. God Is Distinct Searching the Scriptures God Is Distinct The frailties of human speech render us woefully unable to properly describe the Lord. His vastness and transcendence cause us to fumble in our efforts to depict Him in words. Perhaps no book comes closer to doing so than the Psalms, and yet even there the writer had to conclude, “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; and his greatness is unsearchable” (Psalm 145:3).
I. God Is Distinct Try as one might, there is no adequate manner to examine the boundaries of the greatness of God, much less to describe what one can discover. Due to this linguistic limitation, we often depend on comparison to attempt to comprehend and describe Him. We use similes such as “He is like fresh water in the desert” or metaphors such as “God is my strong tower.” While these useful aides can assist us in grasping and expressing His majesty and nature, still they are completely insufficient.
I. God Is Distinct In reality, nothing and no one compares to Him. “There is none holy as the Lord: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God” (I Samuel 2:2) God is completely distinct from all people, all things, all false deities, all concepts, all ideas, and all feelings. He is the self-existent One who resides outside the boundaries of time and creation. He alone is God, and He is God alone!
I. God Is Distinct This concept is vital to the topic of God’s jealousy, for we cannot apply the same standards and preconceptions to God that apply to us. Human emotions and reactions are entirely foreign to Him. He exists in a completely different realm than we. He stated this of Himself: “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9).
A. God’s Distinctiveness Allows Him to Be Jealous That God is distinct unto Himself allows Him to righteously possess attributes that would be unacceptable for us. Several such characteristics are reserved to Himself. We are clearly told not to judge one another (Matthew 7:1-2). While believers are not to judge others, however, God is the judge of all the earth. (See Genesis 18:25.)
I. God Is Distinct The Scriptures repeatedly instruct us to “turn the other cheek” when others commit wrongs against us. We are not to retaliate or to seek to recompense evil for evil. However, notice the contrast between our role and that of the Lord. “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Romans 12:19).
I. God Is Distinct Ephesians 4:31 lists things that believers should put out of their lives, two of which are wrath and anger. Yet scores of verses describe God appropriately possessing these two characteristics. “He cast upon them the fierceness of his anger, wrath, and indignation, and trouble, by sending evil angels among them” (Psalm 78:49).
I. God Is Distinct Clearly, God is distinct and He can righteously possess attributes and characteristics that would be unacceptable for us as believers. Jealousy is one of these attributes that is appropriate only for God. Only He can be jealous without any iniquity or unrighteousness in His nature or actions. Were He like us, this would be impossible, but His distinction as the supreme Sovereign affords Him this ability.
B. God’s Distinctiveness Permits No Rivals Individuals often confuse jealousy with envy, but the two are fundamentally different. An envious person desires something that belongs to another. The Bible calls this covetousness and strictly forbids it in Exodus 20. Conversely, jealousy is the fear that something a person possesses will be taken away by another.
I. God Is Distinct This can certainly apply to many aspects of a person’s life, but as Dr. Gary Collins states, “The word [jealousy] more often refers to anxiety which comes when we are afraid that the affections of a loved one might be lost to a rival. We fear that our mates, or perhaps our children, will be lured away by some other person who, when compared to us, seems to be more attractive, capable and successful” (Homemade, July 1985).
I. God Is Distinct Here is where God’s distinction comes into this discussion. He has no rivals. None can compare to Him. He is not the “best” God; He is the only God. A person in a moment of foolishness may indeed turn his back on God for something far less valuable, but this is the result of sin’s dominion in mankind and not due to any lack on God’s part. He is not jealous for fear that a “more attractive, more capable, more successful” god might present itself to us. He knows there is no other God.
I. God Is Distinct Our own insecurities drive much of the emotion we commonly describe as jealousy. Feelings of low self- esteem haunt a man or a woman until he or she becomes convinced someone else might present a more attractive option for the loved one. God labors under no such burden. While not an egomaniacal tyrant, God is perfectly secure in His identity. He is the only source of life. He is the only fount of spiritual blessings. He is the only Savior of mankind.
I. God Is Distinct “Thus saith the Lord the King of Israel, and his redeemer the Lord of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God” (Isaiah 44:6). He does not relate to us with a perpetual mistrust issuing from a well of insecurities on His part. Instead, with the calm assurance sovereign distinctiveness brings, He is jealous over us with a godly jealousy.
II. God Is Jealous God Is Jealous God’s jealousy is not sinful or unclean in any fashion. His moral nature would not allow that to be so. His jealousy for His people does not stem from selfish desires, nor does it produce vindictive actions. It does, however, have both underlying righteous motives and logical righteous effects.
I. God Is Distinct A person tends to resent it when carnal jealousy becomes apparent in an otherwise healthy relationship. But people of God should rejoice that He has revealed His godly jealousy over us. Instead of destroying the intimacy of our relationship with God, this attribute affords the safety and security of an ongoing closeness between us. It is a valuable aspect in the bond we share with Jesus Christ.
I. God Is Distinct The immature Christian might misunderstand the jealousy of God or take exception even to the use of that word. But as we grow in Christ, we discover that God’s jealousy for us is born out of a desire for our best interests and produces guidelines and protections for our spiritual well-being.
A. What God’s Jealousy Is Jealousy in the sense of “vigilance in maintaining or guarding something” concisely describes the attribute of our Savior. God vigilantly maintains and guards the relationship between us and Him. That brings to us a wonderful source of comfort and certainty. He will not look in on us casually once in a while to monitor our spiritual well-being. Rather, His jealousy for us compels Him to carefully and consistently watch over us.
Psalm 40:5 “Many, O LORD my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered” (Psalm 40:5).
I. God Is Distinct God’s jealousy is not selfish. It does not protect Him from hurt or the pain of betrayal. Instead, it endeavors to protect us from the hurt we will experience if we reject Christ and His rule in our lives. He is jealous over us not for His own good, but for ours. It is not for fear of what He might lose, but rather to protect us from what we stand to lose without Christ. He wants our lives to be all He designed them to be and is jealous against anything that might interrupt that flow of blessings.
I. God Is Distinct The selfless love of Christ longs for our lives to abound with rich blessings. Consider the words of Paul to the church in Ephesus. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). Or hear the words of Peter in his second epistle. “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue” (II Peter 1:3).
I. God Is Distinct Or ponder the words of the Lord Himself when He said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). God pours profound and manifold blessings into the lives of His children. This is not to say that challenges and difficult days will not occur, for surely they come to all. However, God wants to give us an abundance of everything He knows we need for life and godliness.
I. God Is Distinct While that desire in the heart of God exists, He has decreed that certain actions can be blessed and others cannot. He has determined that some ways are righteous and subject to His favor, and some ways are unrighteous and subject to His judgment. Some roads lead to life, and some roads lead to death. Some choices produce blessing, and some choices produce cursing. Some lifestyles produce communion with Him, and some produce distance between us.
I. God Is Distinct Because He is jealous over us, He does not leave us to our own devices to discover which is which. We are not left to our own best ideas. Instead, the jealousy of God actively seeks to ensure our continued favor, blessing, and intimacy with Him.
B. What God’s Jealousy Does While the human emotion of jealousy may not be healthy in and of itself, unrighteous human jealousy is most harmful when acted upon. When the selfish feelings become words and deeds, it deeply wounds relationships. In contrast, when God’s intense love and jealous care for us translates into actions, it only strengthens our relationship with Him. We become recipients of His good will. His jealousy for us is the wellspring from which flows His work in us.
I. God Is Distinct 1. God’s jealousy directs. Exodus 20 provides the framework and setting for the description of the jealousy of God. In this passage we observe a pattern typical to the contracts between ancient kings and their people. Such agreements usually contained four facets. First, the king would clearly identify himself. Second, he would recount those things he had accomplished for his subjects. Third, he would promise to protect his subjects and itemize the benefits of this agreement.
I. God Is Distinct Finally, the contract would list the demands placed on the subjects of the king, including their exclusive loyalty. Exodus 20 contains all four elements. Verse 2 identifies the King of this agreement and tells what He has done for His subjects. “I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” (Exodus 20:2). Verse 6 lists the King’s promises to them for their submission.
I. God Is Distinct “And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments” (Exodus 20:6). But woven among these elements are the requirements the King demands, commonly referred to as the Ten Commandments. The first four deal with the people’s relationship with God and the next six deal with their relationship with each other. We should notice that God identified Himself as jealous within the framework of these commandments.
I. God Is Distinct Commandments from God stem from the righteous jealousy of God. His desire for our spiritual prosperity coupled with our inability to direct our own way produces the need for Him to interject Himself into our lives with direction and instruction. Anything less would testify to an absence of jealousy on His part, for it would indicate His unconcern for our spiritual condition.
I. God Is Distinct When we see the commandments for what they are—the security that maintains our relationship with Him— the requirements His jealousy places on our lives are beautiful expressions of His eternal love. (See Psalm 19:7- 11.) 2. God’s jealousy protects. Not only does His jealousy provide instruction, but it also provides protection. God’s jealousy over us will not allow the enemy of our soul unfettered access into our lives.
I. God Is Distinct God will not stand by and ignore our defenselessness against spiritual onslaught or withdraw when the tempter tries to woo us away. He does not grow silent while other voices vie for our affections. His jealously simply will not let Him. Instead, we can make our dangerous journey through this world knowing that our jealous God watches over and protects our relationship with Him.
I. God Is Distinct “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (I Corinthians 10:13). It is a gross error to compare the righteous jealousy of God with the selfish jealousy of mankind.
I. God Is Distinct Still, one need not use much imagination to envision the reaction of a truly jealous man if he were to see a flirtatious interloper giving his wife improper attention. Others probably would have to restrain him from taking sudden and perhaps violent action. Neither will our jealous God idly stand by while Satan attempts to lure His bride away. We can have the same assurance of Nehemiah: “Our God shall fight for us” (Nehemiah 4:20).
I. God Is Distinct God will not remove our freedom to choose, and He will not at this time destroy the devil, but He will jealously guard His investment in us. “Deliver me from mine enemies, O my God: defend me from them that rise up against me” (Psalm 59:1).
III. God Desires Loyalty God Desires Loyalty Several of the characteristics God requires of us are based on His having first demonstrated them. We love Him because He loved us first. (See I John 4:19.) We are charged to live holy because He is holy (I Peter 1:15-16). The Scriptures command us to forgive based on how we have been forgiven (Ephesians 4:32). Along with other traits, Christ’s examples of love, holiness, and forgiveness provide patterns for our behavior.
I. God Is Distinct In like fashion, our jealous God demands that we demonstrate to Him the type of loyalty He has manifested to us. Certainly God has proven Himself to be faithful. The Scriptures testify abundantly to this. (See I Thessalonians 5:24; II Thessalonians 3:3.) Jeremiah declared, “Great is thy faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:23).
I. God Is Distinct In addition to the Scriptures’ witness to God’s faithfulness, any person who has served Him can testify to His faithfulness. God is unwavering in His commitment toward us. He does not base His loyalty on our conduct or our worth; instead, He founds His loyalty upon His unchanging nature. From the foundation of His consistent faithfulness, He calls believers also to be loyal.
I. God Is Distinct Loyalty does not stem from obligation; it blossoms from love. We do not have to be faithful; we are allowed to be faithful. We are not constrained to live holy and separated lives; we have been set free so that we may live as separated unto God. God desires loyalty from us in every aspect of our lives. He calls us to be loyal in conduct, loyal in devotions, loyal in finances, and loyal in lifestyle. Most importantly, God calls us to be loyal in our affections.
I. God Is Distinct The Lord made clear the preeminence of this requirement. “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment” (Matthew 22:37-38). Our jealous God will not allow us to share our ultimate affection with any other suitor. He knows that doing so would negate our loyalty to Him. “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (I John 2:15).
I. God Is Distinct In response to the great love He has shown us, and in light of the jealous nature of our God, each of us should strive to fulfill the commandment of Colossians 3:2. “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” Doing less than this is offering Him less loyalty than He has shown us. His jealousy will not allow that for our own good.
IV. God Desires Worship God Desires Worship The first two commandments encompass the core of another principal requirement for those who serve a jealous God; they shall reserve their worship exclusively for Him. “Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them” (Exodus 20:3-5).
I. God Is Distinct He will not settle for less, nor should He. He not only desires exclusive worship, He deserves it. God created mankind with both the capacity and the need to worship. It is woven into his nature to demonstrate his allegiance and service to a higher power. Even remote tribes of “uncivilized” people who have never seen a Bible or heard the name of Jesus Christ have crafted various religious practices. They are simply responding to the God-given nature of a human to worship.
I. God Is Distinct A jealous God requires His people to commit to or submit to only Him. However, because He has given mankind freewill, the individual has the choice to make whether to worship Him. God knows that a person’s worship of anything else would incur that person’s destruction, and He loves us too much to allow it without warning us to avoid it. Again, His jealousy stems from what He knows is good for us and not from what is good only for Him. He deserves worship, but in a larger sense we need to worship Him.
I. God Is Distinct Worship is much more than acts of public praise offered corporately in a church setting. It is even more than the private moments of close communion we share with the Lord during personal devotion. It is more broadly the active representation of His Lordship in our lives. It is the ongoing demonstration of our submission to His Word, His will, and His ways. Our jealous God desires lives that are wholly and completely obedient to what will prosper our souls.
I. God Is Distinct One significant fact underlies the importance of this topic: we become like what we worship. The inherent act of submission in worship has a formative effect on our lives. We are crafted into the pattern of that which we worship. “The idols of the heathen are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but they speak not; eyes have they, but they see not; they have ears, but they hear not; neither is there any breath in their mouths.
I. God Is Distinct They that make them are like unto them: so is every one that trusteth in them” (Psalm 135:15-18). If this is true of a lifeless work of men’s hands, how much more this is so of the living God! Our worship of Him shapes us into His image. We become like Him by constant exposure to Him. Because He knows this is in our best interest, our jealous God demands exclusivity in our worship
I. God Is Distinct Internalizing the Message The Lord is perfect in all His ways; thus His jealousy is a perfect jealousy. It is not the product of any selfish motive on His part, rather it is driven by His intense love for us and His desire that our relationship with Him prosper. His jealousy ensures that the love we share will grow and develop through the years of our service for Him.
I. God Is Distinct Does His jealousy make demands on us? Of course it does. Any worthwhile relationship is accompanied by expectations and responsibilities. We are not free to absorb all the benefits of being His child with none of the associated responsibilities. He is too holy for us to walk with Him while clinging to unrighteous values and desires. He has been too good and too generous to us in saving us for our lives to exhibit a lack of gratitude by flippant or casual commitment.
I. God Is Distinct His jealousy demands more. God calls us to complete loyalty. He expects from us pure worship, void of any idolatry of spirit. His altar is to be His alone, and we may worship nothing else there. To attempt to blend our devotion to Him and worship for Him with any affections for things of this world is as morally repugnant as our bowing down to a statue of stone or wood. Either is an idolatrous affront to the jealousy of God.
I. God Is Distinct When we embrace God’s jealous love for us and accept the associated guidelines it places in our lives, then we have the assurance of continued communion with Him. Neither the storms of life nor the assault of Satan can destroy our relationship with Him, for our jealous God will witness our obedience to His ways and protect and defend His children.
I. God Is Distinct If He lacked this jealous concern, we would meet each temptation and trial with uncertainty. Instead we can confidently lift up our eyes to the One who will help—the great, jealous God, Jesus Christ.