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Monday, January 17, 2005

Jealous Love

I just finished the book of Judges in my Bible study time. As I think through the characters in the book I see so many who failed miserably. Towards the end of the book there are several instances of immorality, whether that be Samson's relationship with a prostitute or the men of Gibeah wanting to have homosexual relationships with a visitor but contenting themselves with brutally raping and murdering his wife instead. I see that and think, no wonder God punished Israel over and over again for their sin. But then God was so very quick to forgive them when they repented, then to defeat their enemies and to bless them until they fell into sin again.

Judges gives us a very different picture of love than what we see in American culture today. It is a love that is forgiving, giving, and jealous. I think we can pretty easily understand how God shows His love by giving to His people, and by forgiving His people. But many have difficulty comprehending how God shows his love just as clearly when He is punishing sin.

Exodus 34:14 says, "for you shall not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God." This is not the type of sinful jealousy that we might see in ourselves. This is a pure and righteous jealousy coming from a perfect, holy God who loves His people with a perfect love and wants to have a relationship with them. However when God's people sin they break that relationship with Him. As we see with the Israelites, when they refused to put away their sinful ways and return to God, the only way for God to restore a relationship with them was to punish them. He would allow another nation to conquer the Israelites, and allow them to be in captivity for as long as it took for them to come to their senses and cry out to God once more. Then He answered. Over, and over, and over again He answered them. You see, God loved the Israelites. He had chosen them. He wanted to have a close, intimate relationship with them. He loved them jealousy and would not accept them turning away from Him. So He did whatever it took to bring them back, and did it time after time after time.

Israel is not out of the picture. God promises to restore His relationship with that nation once again. However at this point in history God has also allowed people of all nations who will call on the name of Jesus to enjoy that same intimate love with Himself. And it is still a giving, forgiving and jealous love. I am so glad that God loves me enough to make life hard when I rebel against Him once again. I am thankful that He takes the time to give the appropriate consequences to my unrepentant sin. Of course I'm not saying that I like life to be hard or that I enjoy the consequences of my sin. But I am awed that the creator of the universe loves me so jealously that He will go out of His way to do whatever it takes to draw me back into His arms.

I thank God for His jealous love.


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