What Does It Mean That God Is Jealous?

Q: The Bible says God is a “jealous God.” Wouldn’t this mean God is imperfect?

A: If a man loves his wife and knows that she is having an affair, and he’s not grieved, that would be abnormal. And this is how God means He is a jealous God (Exodus 20:5).

A normal, even godly, response is to be distressed by a wandering spouse. Now the defect of jealousy is when a person is being faithful, and their spouse is constantly mistrusting them. That’s actually a kind of phobia that springs from irrational insecurity.

People are often jealous and distrustful without cause. And I’ve seen this destroy marriages and otherwise positive relationships. That is a fault—a defect in human nature. So there are two sides of the jealousy coin. On one side there’s an appropriate, normal jealousy from love and singleness of devotion. The other side is an abnormal jealousy from suspicion and fear.

In a sense, the Lord has married the church; we even take His name. And we take His name in vain when we call ourselves Christians and worship other gods. He has a right to be jealous if we decide to give our devotion to other gods after we have professed to accept Him as our husband. He wants our loyalty because we have promised it to Him through repentance and baptism.

But the other form of jealousy … where a man follows his wife around and secretly checks her mail … that’s a sickness born of mistrust.


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