By God’s grace, I want to know God. Through Jesus, God has revealed that knowing the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, is eternal life. Knowing this influences me as I read His Word. I read to discover God’s heart, revealed in both His written word and the living Word, Jesus Christ. This year I’m focusing on learning what God desires. I think we should do that with anyone we love and want to know.
I love my wife, and as of this month I will have invested 48 years getting to know her. I’ve learned the things she loves and delights in, as well as the things she dislikes. This is helpful information because I love her and want to bless her and also want to avoid hurting or provoking her.
For the same reasons we should want to learn the things God desires, delights in, and grieves over. The more we long to know God and read His Word, the more we will know these things about God. Over the past few months, we have learned that one gets to know God by knowing His Son, Jesus Christ. He is the way to the Father. We also learned that to know Jesus, we must know Him in relationship with His body, our fellow members who are united with Christ. Additionally, we saw that Jesus loves righteousness, so we should love righteousness. Because God desires compassion, we long to express mercy to those around us. Knowing God the Father and the Son was Jesus’ definition of eternal life (John 17:3), so I’m praying that you will grow more mature in Christ as you read this article. This month I invite you to learn about God’s jealousy and how you can know Him more intimately by knowing that He is jealous.
You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me (Ex. 20:5).
Thus says the Lord of hosts, “I am exceedingly jealous for Zion, yes, with great wrath I am jealous for her” (Zech. 8:2).
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. Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us” (James 4:4-5)?
God is a Jealous God
Did you notice what God said about Himself in Exodus 20:5? The God of Israel is a jealous God. When God’s people put someone or something in His rightful place of honor, preeminence, and worship, He takes it personally. He considers love and desire for another source of life and satisfaction to be an expression of hatred for Him. With Israel, who was in a covenant of law with God, this jealousy often aroused His wrath and anger—a holy, love-motivated, consistent, steady opposition to idolatry and the sin which accompanies it. He wanted to protect His people from what would destroy them and ruin their relationship with Him, much the way a father wants to protect his child from similar damaging behaviors and attitudes. An earthly father’s anger may erupt toward his child who ignores his warnings and insists on doing things his own way. Even if this dad is motivated by a deep desire to protect, his anger may sometimes be explosive and destructive. Other fathers may not even have protective motivations but will become enraged for purely selfish reasons. We need to know that these earthly demonstrations of a father’s anger are not the same as God’s wrath.
God’s anger was and is never evil. His anger is rooted (and can only be understood and explained) in His kind of love. How did God protect His people? Through calling them to love Him first and foremost and to avoid idolatry. Through teaching them His nature and character and calling them to rely on and obey Him. And through revealing their independent and stubborn hearts as they willfully ran their own ways. His purpose was to show them how much they needed Him and, in time, to demonstrate His tremendous grace and forgiveness through His Son. In all these things, He repeatedly reminded them of His holy jealousy over them.
God’s Jealousy is for His Spirit Who Lives in Us
James’s insight into God’s jealousy had to come from the Holy Spirit. Please read James 4:4-5 above again. He said that the Scripture (the Old Testament) speaks with purpose. First notice what James understood the Scriptures to speak and then notice the purpose.
First, what did the Scriptures speak? “He (God) jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us.” I tried to find that specific Scripture in the Old Testament and couldn’t find it, so I conclude that the Holy Spirit is telling us about the desire that drives God’s jealousy in the Old Testament, namely, the desire for His Spirit.
God’s love for us cannot be understood apart from His love for His Son whom He has caused to dwell in us. How did I connect God’s jealousy for the Spirit with His love for His Son? John 24:16-18 made that connection. “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” Galatians 4:7 made the same connection. Paul wrote, “Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father! ’” The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Son! So when we read that God jealously desires the Spirit in us, we can understand that He jealously desires the love and fellowship of His Son in us.
That brings us now to the second observation regarding James 4:4-5, the purpose for which the Scriptures speak. All of the Scriptures in the Old Testament regarding God’s jealousy had a purpose, namely, to make us holy, to separate us from desiring and loving the gods of this world and to turn us to loving Him. In the words of James, the Holy Spirit’s purpose in those Scriptures was to tell us that if we desire the things of this world above Him, God considers such misplaced worship as acts of hostility by an enemy. “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.” I think it is implied that of course, no child of God would want to do that!
In your family devotions, read James 4:1-5 and notice that James was telling them the root of their relational problems was their lust (desires) for the things of this world rather than desiring God. In short, if you understand God’s jealous love for fellowship with His Son, you won’t desire to offer God the Father fellowship with this world in the place of fellowship with the Spirit. In a sense, James was saying, “Don’t you get it? God desires to fellowship with You by the power and presence of the Spirit of His Son in you! His love for you is because of His love for His Son, not because you are cool in the eyes of this world. Consider God’s jealous love for His Son who lives in you, and don’t try to be friends with people in the world by imitating them. You can’t love God and the world at the same time.”
Jesus put it this way as recorded in Luke 14:26: “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.” Of course, Jesus did not mean we are to hate our family members. It is a comparison of loves. If you are to be a disciple of Christ, your love for Him must be so great that if you were to have to make a choice between the two, Christ or your family members, you would love Him and reject them. You must desire Him above everyone and everything else in this world if you are to follow Him. Why? Because God is eternally, preeminently worthy and because He is jealous for the Spirit He has made to dwell in us.
I am suggesting that this is important for us to know if we are in a relationship with Him. In previous articles we have emphasized that the Father’s heart is toward His Son first and foremost. This means we are loved, not because we are the primary objects of God’s love. Rather, we are loved because God united us with His Son for the glory of the Son. He sent His Son into this world to redeem us and to adopt us through Him. Then, so we would know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are loved by God- the Father, He sent His Son to dwell in our bodies in this life on earth. The presence of the Holy Spirit, the indwelling life of the Son of God working and living in us, is evidence that we are indeed children of God and not children of the god of this world. It is His Spirit expressing His life in us that God desires to interact with. In contrast, He hates the expressions of love and friendship for this world which lie at the root of the quarrels, conflicts, and envy among His people.
How does one provoke jealousy? That shouldn’t be hard to do because we are devoted to ourselves in much the same way that God is devoted to Himself and His glory. Here are some suggestions to help your children experience jealousy so that you can then transfer the idea to our love for God and God’s love for us.
- Ask each child to bring to family devotion time something they own and treasure. Have them put the articles on the table before the family and then ask each one these questions as you give their treasure to someone else. “How would you feel about my giving this to your brother or sister? Why do you feel that way?” Read Deut. 5:7-9 and James 4:4-5. Then ask, “How do you think God feels about your giving what is His to someone else?” And “What is it of His that God doesn’t want us to give to someone else, or to something else?” Parents, you might explain to your children how this applies to you in your relationship with your spouse or children.
- Ask, “How would each of you feel if I only gave a hug to (pick one in the family) and didn’t give you a hug? Why would you feel that way? What would you think about my love for you? What would you feel toward the other person?” Ask, “Do you think God feels the same way today when we love other things and other people more than we love Him? Is God right to feel that way?” Explain from the study above what God is jealous about and the purpose for which He told us about His jealousy.
I encourage you to ask the Holy Spirit to open your heart to understand the Father’s jealousy over you. Here are some questions I’ve asked myself that have helped me get in touch with this aspect of God’s character.
- In what ways do you see Him teach you about His jealous love for His Son in you?
- Is there anything in your life that God is showing you that you love more than Him?
- Is there anyone in your life that you are more afraid of displeasing than God?
- Do you need to repent before the Lord for desiring the pride of life in this world above desiring and loving Him?
How Well Do You Know God?
How well do you know this jealousy of our Father in heaven for His Son and the jealousy of the Son for the Father? Are you experiencing the Father’s jealousy for the Spirit of Christ in you? If you read James 4:6-10, you’ll discover what is necessary for you to know the Father in this way.
But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.
What is necessary for us to know the Father’s and the Son’s love for each other? Humility in the presence of the Lord that repents of the pride that resides in the people of this world and that has grieved our Father and His Spirit. If we have excited God to jealousy by chasing after friendship with the world, then we need to repent, be cleansed, be purified, be miserable, mourn, and weep until the Lord lifts us up with an awareness of His presence and His love. I may be wrong, but I believe this is one of the greatest needs in the church today if we are going to experience revival. You’ll notice the world won’t join you in this spiritual exercise. The spirit of the world loves to have fun, laugh, and be joyful as they seek to satisfy their selfish pleasures. May I suggest that you will likely need to pray repeatedly for a spirit that can mourn as James described? Repentance is a gift from God and does not come by our simple decision.
Are you more comfortable and excited about having pleasure in this world than you are in giving God pleasure by humbling yourself in His presence in the Spirit of Christ? If you are, then ask Him to have mercy on you and help you to humble yourself in His presence, to sit still and think about what you most take pleasure in, and to truly grieve over your love for certain things that have taken God’s place. Do you long to know by experience God’s jealous love? I hope so. May God let you know His love for His Son and the Lord Jesus’ love for His Father in you.