I Am a Jealous God: Bible Study

Main Scripture:  Exodus 20:1-6

And God spoke all these words, saying:

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the house of bondage.

You shall have no other gods before Me.

You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them.  For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep my commandments.

Exposition A:  Declaration of a King: 

1.  As was the ancient custom, God declared to Israel their common history reminding them of what He had done and Who He was. In ancient treaties, a king would describe the history of relations between his kingdom and the one being contracted, and in this instance, deliverance from slavery.  This is the same as deliverance from sin for us today.  John 8:34: “Jesus answered them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave to sin.” And Romans 6:17-18:  “But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.  And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.”

2.  Notice the word “your”.  God didn’t say, “I am the Lord God…” but rather made an emphasis of your God.  This is important.  Jeremiah 24:7:  “Then I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the Lord; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God, for they shall return to Me with their whole heart.” And Jeremiah 31:31-34 (please, please read this passage…it is priceless).  The main point here is that if it was important that God make a distinction warranting a possessive relationship, then it should be important to us as well.  What an honor that God would call us, “a generation afar off”, and invite us into this possessive relationship.  The nature of a relationship is that it works both ways; we share everything; we are honest with one another; and He is jealous for us.  We should be honored to be called His.

Exposition B:  Man-made vs. God: 

1.  We all know of hewn images like the various wooden idols of ancient times, but what about all things made by man today?  What are some examples of things made by man in a modern context?  What do we idolize today?  What about fame, fortune, control and power, the strange phenomenon of obsessing over celebrities, worldly music that glorifies sex and selfishness, television, internet obsession, and the like.  We must be careful to remember that we are created in His image, and we should not create gods in our image or create gods out of our own ingenuity!  Humanism, in my opinion, is the worst of all idolatry:  thinking that man will save man.

2.  Anything made by man should glorify God, and not man.  We have a tendency to lift up things we make or create and take credit for that creation.  The right to glory in creation is solely God’s right, for we inherit even our creativity from God as a gift to be used to glorify Him.  If we use our hands to make and create, it should be for His glory.  If we acknowledge Him in all that we do, then He will direct our steps and smile upon us.  Proverbs 3:6 says, “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” 

Exposition C:  Bow Down OR Serve: 

1.  We are all guilty today of serving idols…maybe not bowing down, but in serving.  Webster defines serving as: “to comply with the commands or demands of”; the root word is the Latin servire which means “to be a slave to that which is superior.”  Only One is superior!  And He demands that place of superiority.  And His demands, in every way, benefit us by placing us in position to be blessed and enjoy true freedom…not our silly notions of what freedom means!

2.  The word serve in transliterated Hebrew is aw-bad which means “to labor or work for, or to work for another…serve another by labor”.  So by the two definitions, we may ask the question:  What do we work for?…I mean, what are we working towards?  Is it family provision, to buy things, to feel comfortable and secure by paying the bills?  Or are we working for God’s Kingdom?  We should take to heart these questions and know the origin of the word “serve”.  It surely points to what we work for is what we serve.  There is nothing intrinsically wrong with working to provide, but in reality (the deepest sense of the word) to provide is serving God if we keep our perspective.  One note here:  To be a “slave” to God is to be fully human and fully free.  The ironic and amazing fact is that when we completely submit to God, we are granted complete freedom.  This is why He is jealous for us!  He knows that when we submit to Him, that this submission places us in right standing with Him and sets up a relationship in which He can bless us.  Notice Christ submits to the Father and then even submits Himself to us…this bought our freedom.  So also must we submit to God and to one another to attain pure and undefiled freedom.  Submission to anything else, including our own will, is slavery and is destined to die.  Sin is separation from God and the wages of sin is death.  The only way to be joined with God is in total submission, and the magnificence of Christ’s submission is that He did it for us…we would simply blow the opportunity, just as the Israelites did back in the ancient days.  Thank you Jesus!  But we must also remember that Christ now demands that we submit ourselves to Him by submitting ourselves to one another in love.  “If you love Me, then keep my commandments.”  Christ teaches us that His burden is light and His yoke is easy, and this comes across succinctly in the very few commandments He gave:  Love God with all you got and your neighbor as thyself, and seek first the Kingdom of God.  No laundry list here!  Think about it:  1.)Love fulfils the law, 2.)Love comes from the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5), and 3.) The only way to really know the Holy Spirit is to have an intimate relationship with Him (the kingdom of God is within you {Luke 17:21}).  So simple and yet so easily complicated!

Exposition D:  Hate vs. Keeping Commandments

1.  Compare the words of Christ, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”  This is the same wording found in our main text in verse six.  The progression goes like this:  if you love Me, keep My commandments, and the new commandment is (according to Jesus) “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all of your strength, AND love thy neighbor as thyself.”

2.  By using the structure of the verses in Exodus, chapter 20, we can glean that the contrast of “those who hate Me” vs. “those who love Me” tells another story as well; meaning, if you don’t obey and serve God, then you effectively “hate” God.  I know this is harsh, but the message is clear!  If you obey God’s commandment, then you are, in essence, “loving” God; but if you do not obey His commandments you are doing two things:  number one, showing God that you do not love Him, and number two, proving that you do not believe Him.  Now, how did I make the jump to not believing God?  If we examine the original language in John 3:16 and compare that to our text, we will find that the word “believe” is  inextricably linked to the word “obey”.  If you believe, you will obey.  Christ said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” and in John 15:10, “If you keep My commandment, you will abide in Me, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.”  Notice that belief and obedience are also linked to righteousness in Abraham’s story recounted in Romans 4:20-24. When I first discovered the link between believing and obeying, John 3:16 got a little more interesting…

Summary:  The main point here is that God is jealous for us in a loving way and not in a human definition of jealousy.  Because He loves us, He demands, for our own good, that we have nothing above Him.  We serve God to find freedom.  If we serve another, and this includes our own selves, then we cannot abide in His love.  So to have a jealous God is to have a loving God!  Is He protective of us?  Yes.  Does He get jealous when we serve another?  Yes.  But why?  If we remember in the Jeremiah 31 verses, He in essence is our spiritual husband.  And as a spiritual husband, He yearns for us and loves us with an undying love; and therefore, godly jealousy is a divine expression of His faithfulness to us.  Jesus echoed the Father’s jealously by compelling Peter to answer His question of “Do you love Me?”, and James, Jesus’ brother, confronts believers with the statement, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously.” James 4:5b

So, in conclusion, the reason that God is jealous for us and zealous for us is because He loves us and wants us to be able to know of that love.  He may love us, but if we serve another, then we will never know just how much He does love us!  If we abide in Him, then we are placed directly into His love.  This love that overwhelms is meant to run over and outward to others.  In fact, John tells us that if we say we love God, but do not love our brothers, then we are liars!  This seems obtuse, but it is the nature of God’s love to flow outward, and proof of God’s love is the pouring out of that love into our spirit and then outward to others. This is the true nature of love; love doesn’t have a choice!  God’s love is pouring out, and overflowing, and pure in its intent.  When we know the jealousy of God by His love, then we are compelled by the Holy Spirit to be jealous for others as He is with us!  If you notice, Paul speaks to this quite often in his epistles to the churches.  You can literally feel the love Paul has for his brothers in Christ.  We should lay hold of this truth and live in this truth.  So I can honestly say that I am glad that God is jealous for us because it proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that He is our God and we are His people.  And it is so very sweet to know that the God of the universe is in love with you and me.  May we learn to love Him back by keeping His commandment to love one another.

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2 thoughts on “I Am a Jealous God: Bible Study

  1. How can anyone doubt what a loving God we serve when they get to know him and all he did for his people coming out of Egypt? He does the same thing for us every day. He just wants our love in return for his. Thank you for a wonderful reminder of God’s love and how un-complicated it really is to obey him when we trust him.

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