Today’s Scripture Reading (March 29, 2017) Ezekiel 8
As a culture, we have a negative reaction to the concept of jealousy. B. C. Forbes. The Scottish financial writer and the founder of Forbes magazine even called jealousy a “mental cancer.” Saint Augustine argued that anyone who was jealous was also “incapable of love.” So it is a little surprising to have the word applied to God. However, jealousy is applied to God in several places, including in this passage. So the only question that we can ask is this – when we speak of jealousy as a characteristic, is the jealousy of God the same as the jealousy that we experience as part of the human race? And the answer to the question is a qualified no.
The jealousy that we have an adverse reaction to is the illogical emotion that causes so much damage in our lives. This jealousy is closely related to lack of trust. And Forbes and Augustine are both right, this kind of jealousy is a cancer and it prohibits the experience of love. This green-eyed monster reacts with too little evidence and causes damage to relationships that could be healthy if it were not for the jealousy. This kind of jealousy is always self-directed and selfish in nature.
God’s jealousy is different. For starters, it is never based on a lack of trust, nor is it selfish in nature. God’s jealousy is always in defense of his creation, and it builds on a covenant that he has made with his people. Because of this covenant, God and his message are to be carried to the world. God’s words to Abraham at the beginning of the story were that all of the earth would be blessed through God’s blessing of Abraham. God loves the world that he has created, and desired to be a blessing, but the path of this blessing was always supposed to be through a group of people.
But the people rejected God, and therefore the blessing that was meant for the world was never given. And this is what aroused God’s jealousy. The people of Israel and the world that he loved were suffering and, for God, there was no other possible response. It was not a selfish jealousy, but rather one borne out of love for his creation.
So God gives Ezekiel a vision. He takes him to the temple gate and shows him the image in the temple that had caused God to be jealous – and Israel to lose the power that should have been theirs. We don’t know what the idol was that provoked this reaction from God, most experts believe that it was an image of Baal, but it doesn’t really matter. Any image would cause God to be jealous and for his blessing to cease to flow to his creation.
There is still a people that God wants to use to bless the world. I believe that this people is still Israel, but that the Christian church, the adopted children of Abraham, have been added to the fight. But that can only happen if we put our idols away and allow God to bless us. Any other response will do nothing but arouse the jealousy of God one more time.
Tomorrow’s Scripture Reading: Ezekiel 9