For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.
I had to stop and mull this statement over for a bit. Three times in Deuteronomy and three times in Exodus, God is called a jealous God, but 1 Corinthians 13 states that love is not jealous and 1 John tells me that God is love. I could easily end up chasing my tail on this. If God is Love and Love is not jealous and God is a jealous God then … what?
A quick glance into the concordance tells me that the Hebrew word used in this verse (and those other Old Testament places mentioned) is a term used only for God in The Bible and describes God’s intolerance for rivals. God wants us to be One God people and He, for His part, is a one me God. To put it into more understandable terms, He wants His relationship with us to be exclusive. It is like the old time movies where the guy and gal are dating and they decide to be exclusive and not see anyone else. They are devoting themselves to one another and to no one else. And, as finite beings, this is good policy. Maintaining one healthy relationship is exhausting to some of us (fingers pointing at myself) and that is doing the work imperfectly and sometimes failing to maintain that healthy relationship. God is not thus limited. But God does, when He speaks to Israel, make promises that are exclusive to them. It is not that God loves the rest of us any less, but that He has a unique relationship with Israel and He is not going to extend that same relationship to anyone else.
If I jump over to 1 Corinthians, the word used for jealous is derived from an ancient Greek daemon (the personification of an idea, like Nike — the winged woman, not the company) named Zelos. Both the deamon and the word captured multiple ideas into one container. The idea of zeal, or devotion to a person, idea, or cause comes from the word used. So, too, is the concept of jealousy bound up in the idea. Nestled in among the ideas I would expect is an unexpected concept: envy. In fact, several translations of the verse in 1 Corinthians render the phrase love does not envy.
So the apparent contradiction resolves itself and I reach the conclusion that God is, in fact, a jealous God; that God wants an exclusive relationship with me. The idea is implied when believers are collectively referred to as the bride of Christ. And I conclude that God is not envious. About what, after all, should be envious of me?
Father, thank You for Your desire to have an exclusive relationship with me. Please forgive me my wandering heart and draw me to Yourself with cords of love. I know that I am weak and often unfaithful, please stay zealous for me and jealous for me and, as one hymn has, take my heart and seal for Your courts above.