Orienting Toward the Son

sunThe Old Testament contains passages in which God is described as “jealous.” For instance, in Exodus 20, God’s Ten Commandments to the Israelites include the admonition not to worship false idols, with God explaining that “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God.” Similar passages can be found elsewhere. On first glance, this may seem a rather odd term to use, and one that many atheists will highlight. They may use it to make the case that a “jealous” God is petty and not worthy of our love or respect, let alone our worship.

The term jealousy usually connotes a “feeling” of envious resentment, often brought on by another’s rivalry or success. Since God is by defnition the Supreme Being, it makes little sense to view God as being envious – there is nothing that God wants, needs, or does not already have.

But there is another definition of “jealous” that makes a bit more sense, and the dictionary lists it as the “biblical” definition: “intolerant of unfaithfulness or rivalry.” But, the atheist may challenge, why should God be “intolerant?” This too seems to suggest that He is injured or diminished when his creatures turn away from Him to worship idols. But how can a perfect being experience injury?

I would suggest that there is another perspective from which to view these passages. God is “intolerant” of our worship of false idols, not because of any pettiness on His part, but because our love of idols damages us. When we make idols of things and fail toworship the source of all good, we necessarily turn away from God, and from the redemptive work He has planned for us…

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