“True Love’s Jealousy” – Deuteronomy 4:15-31

April 2nd, 2017

Deuteronomy 4:15-31

“True Love’s Jealousy”

Call to Worship: Psalm 135

Aux. text: Hebrews 12:18-29


Service Orientation: God is love. The fire of God’s love for you is far too hot for Him to passively watch you destroy yourself by your pursuing inferior affections.


Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. — Dt 4:24


Jealous = Strongs #7067   “Qana”


Jealous – Webster’s = 1a: Intolerant of rivalry or unfaithfulness b: Suspicious that a person one loves is not faithful   2: Hostile toward a rival or one believed to enjoy an advantage   3: careful in guarding a right or possession


Jealous – Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible  “An ardor or zeal for something believed to belong properly to one.”


Jealousy is the intense emotion aroused by the infringement of one’s right (or presumed right) to exclusive possession or loyalty.  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia–Volume One, 971)


The word-group to which zēlōtēs belongs refers to a passionate devotion to a person or a cause, combining within its semantic range senses both of “jealousy” and of “zeal”.  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: Vol. 4, 1175)


This verb expresses a very strong emotion whereby some quality or possession of the object is desired by the subject. (R. Larid Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Bruce K. Walke; Theological Wordbook of the OT, 802)


The term may be used in a purely descriptive sense to denote one of the characteristics of living men (Eccl 9:6), or in a derogatory sense to denote hostile and disruptive passions (Prv 27:4) or in a favorable sense to denote consuming zeal focused on one that is loved (Ps 69:9[H 10]).  (R. Larid Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Bruce K. Walke; Theological Wordbook of the OT, 802)


. . . this root does not express superficial emotion.  God says the righteous are not to long deeply after the apparent (but short lived) prosperity of the wicked (Ps 37:1).  A consideration of their ultimate end led the psalmist to cease to envy (Ps 73:3).

The central message of our word, however, relates to “jealousy” especially in the marriage relationship.  Adultery was punishable by death (Lv 20:10; Dt 22:22).  By marriage the “two become one flesh” (Gn 2:24).  Hence, adultery was a severing of the body—a form of murder. (R. Larid Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Bruce K. Walke; Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, 802)


Background Information:

  • Paul may have had Dt 4:15-24 in mind when he wrote Rom 1:18-23. When people forget the grace of God in redemption, revelation, and covenant, they become ungrateful, have no fear of God (asebeia, rendered “ungodliness” by the NIV), and act corruptly (adikia, rendered “unrighteousness” by the NIV).  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 139)
  • (v. 15) (From Hebrews 12:22-29) No one might touch God’s holy mountain, not even an animal that strayed near it. Should man or animal touch the mountain, God said, “he shall not be permitted to live” (Ex 19:13).  The Israelites had to execute the person or animal by stoning him to death or by shooting him with arrows.  They were not allowed to touch him.

The stress, then, is on God’s holiness.  God wanted the people to be aware of his sacred majesty.  The Israelites were filled with fear and terror.  Even Moses, to whom God would speak as to a friend, was afraid (Ex 33:11).  (William Hendriksen & Simon Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Thessalonians, the Pastorals, and Hebrews, 390)

  • (v. 15) . . . be very watchful of yourselves. It should be noted that the Hebrew freely swings between second-person plural and second-person singular, an oscillation perfectly idiomatic in biblical Hebrew and by no means to be attributed to a collation of different sources.  It may be that the speaker on occasion switches to the singular form in order to emphasize the effect of imperative address to each individual, but that is not certain.  (Robert Alter, The Five Books of Moses, 899)
  • (v. 15) When people feel weak and vulnerable, they could be tempted to look to something tangible, something they could see and touch, like an idol. Believers could also get caught in that trap.  The answer to this trap is a proper understanding of God’s Word.  It is the word of the Lord who “spoke. . . out of the midst of the fire.”  This word was given in an awesome way.  That reminds them this is the word of the almighty Creator and Lord of the universe.  It would be wise not to clash with such force.  Again we are reminded that the belief in the divine origin of the Bible helps give us an inclination to faithfully live in submission to the Word.  The Word then is a tangible aid to faithfulness and a preventative to the danger of idolatry.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 127-8)
  • (v. 16) . . . a sculpted image of any likeness, the form. Philologists have sought to draw technical differences among these terms, but the manifest point of their deployment here is the stylistic force of their synonymity:  any manner or shape of image or icon will lead Israel on the path to ruin.  (Robert Alter, The Five Books of Moses, 899)
  • (v. 16) Dt 4:15-19 gives us an understanding of why idolatry is contrary to Hebrew theology. Man cannot be a complete representation of God since He is transcendent.  Any attempt to represent God in an idol would be an attempt to undermine His transcendence.  There is no way man can limit God!  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 87)
  • (v. 16) Only one course will break this vicious circle, viz., to find the true God and see him as he is. Yet unaided, man cannot discover the true nature of God.  Only God can reveal that, and he had done so at Horeb.  Yahweh of Israel had no form, but was supernatural, or we may say, Spirit.  (George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible Vol II, 355)
  • (v. 19) This clause simply states that these celestial objects were given to all mankind for the physical benefit of the earth and were not proper objects of worship at all (Gn 1:14-18). (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 45)
  • (v. 20) From this mention of the word iron furnace, there can be little doubt that the Israelites were employed in Egypt in the most laborious works of metallurgy. Digging, smelting, and forging of iron, in so hot a climate, must have been oppressive works indeed.  (Adam Clarke, Clarke’s Commentary, Vol. 1, 458)
  • (v. 20) Moses’ powerful expression in verse 20, likening Israel’s stay in Egypt to an “iron-smelting furnace,” not only recalls what a painful experience it was; slave masters oppressed the Israelites with forced labor and worked them ruthlessly (Ex 1:12, 13). It also suggests that the Lord’s purpose was to test and refine Israel to be his own people.  Isaiah described Judah’s experience in the Babylonian captivity in a similar way:  “See, I have refined you, though not as silver, I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. (Isa 48:10).”  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 52-3)
  • (v. 21) Again, the barring of Moses from the promised land is attributed not to any act or gesture of his–for here he is the impeccable leader, God’s mouthpiece–but to the mistrustful words of the Israelites in the incident of the spies. (Robert Alter, The Five Books of Moses, 901)
  • (v. 23) Carelessness is the mother of sin. If we are not careful we can fall into a trap of Satan without deliberately planning to do so.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 137)
  • (v. 24) Fire repels as much as it draws. One is unable to touch it and is destroyed in touching it.  It can be seen clearly but not approached and touched (cf. 2 Sm 6:6-7).  (Patrick D. Miller, Interpretation: Dt, 59)
  • (v. 24) This noun (jealous), modeled after the Piel infinitive, is used solely of God and in the context of idolatry. It shows the parallel between adultery and idolatry.  As a husband holds his wife to himself and is permitted to kill her and her paramour in the case of adultery, so God relates to his people.  It occurs only in the Pentateuch (five times).  (R. Laird Harris, Theological Wordbook of the OT, Vol. 1, 803)
  • (v. 24) “God is spirit, and those who worship him should worship in spirit and in truth.” Our God is also “a consuming fire.”  Therefore God is called by two names:   “spirit” and “fire.”  To the just he is spirit; to sinners he is fire.  (Origen, Homilies on the Gospel of Luke 26.1)
  • (v. 24) God as a consuming fire (cf. Ex 24:17) indicates his propensity to consume that which is dross or unholy in his presence or to consume his enemies, as the phrase “like a fire consuming” is used in a ninth-century Phoenician text (where the beard and hand of the enemy was burned). Those who break God’s laws are rebels.  God is a covenant prosecutor, a function of ancient Near Eastern gods.  They rained down fire on the earth just as Yahweh had at Sodom and Gomorrah.  (John H. Walton, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Vol. 1, 446)
  • (v. 31) The covenant with Abraham was unconditional and eternal; therefore it could not be broken (Gn 17:1-7; Ex 32:13; Freeman 1064). The Abrahamic covenant is cited also in 7:8-9, 12; 8:18; 29:12 (13).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 252)


The questions to be answered are . . . Why does God allow Himself to be referred to as jealous?   How can a righteous, good, pure, and holy God be jealous?


Answer: Unlike mankind’s jealousy, God’s jealousy is not motivated by any selfish concerns at all.   His fiery, hot jealousy is concerned only for what is best for the beloved.


The Word for the Day is . . . Jealous


The extrusion process for Billy Graham started early and lasted a lifetime. As a young man, he wrestled with God as not only loving Father but also “consuming fire.” (Harold Myra & Marshall Shelley; The Leadership Secrets of Billy Graham, 31)


Why is true love jealous?:

I-  True love is jealous of ignorantly conceived, idolatrous, adulterous affections that disrupt the divinely created order(Dt 4:15-19; see also:  Ex 20:5; 34:14-16; Dt 32:16-21; Ezek ch 16; Mt 10:37-38; Lk 14:26; 1 Cor 7:32-35 as well as Jer 3:8-20; Bk of Hosea; Zech 8:2; Mt 12:39; 16:4; 2 Cor 11:2; Eph 5:24-28; Col 1:21; Jam 4:4-5; Rv 19:7; 21:9; as well as Lv 26:30-31; Jer 1:16; 18:15; 32:29; Ezek 6:4-13)


The list of possible “shapes” that idols might take (vv. 16-19) is given in an order that precisely reverses the order of the creation narrative:  human beings, land animals, birds, fish, the heavenly bodies.  The point, probably being made deliberately through this literary feature, is that idolatry not only corrupts God’s redemptive achievement for God’s people (v. 20), but perverts and turns upside-down the whole created order.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 51)


The development of the prohibition of image-making closely follows Gn 1:14-27, with a reversal of the order of creation there:  images of male or female; animals on the earth; birds in the sky; creeping things; fish; the sun, moon and stars.  The creation of human beings in the image of God is not directly mentioned, but is strongly suggested in v. 16.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 108)


The hierarchy of creation was ordained by God for human’s use and dominion, and man in turn was to recognize the single divine source of all creation.  The elevation of any component of the created world to an object of worship is thus seen as a perversion of the whole plan of cosmogonic harmony and hierarchy.  (Robert Alter, The Five Books of Moses, 900)


Once again, the language harks back to the first account of creation, which concludes with the completion of the earth and the heavens “and all their array.’  In a historical period rife with religious syncretism and cultural assimilation, the writer stresses the dangerous enchantment of the beauty of the natural world, which could easily lead people to deify and worship the various manifestations of that beauty.  (Robert Alter, The Five Books of Moses, 900)


Just as the people’s idolatry would reverse the very order of creation (vv. 16-19), so also it would entail a judgment that would reverse the covenant with Abraham:  only a few of you will survive (v. 27) clearly contrasts with the promise of growth and multiplication (cf. 1:11).  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 53)


When Moses lists the forms of graven images prohibited (vv. 16-19), his sequence is the opposite of the creation sequence of Gn 1:2-4a: male and female, beast and animal, creeping things, bird, fish, and heavens.  For the Israelites to abandon their Lord and to engage in idolatry would be to reverse His will for their lives.  It would equal the undoing of God’s creation.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 87)


Idols are not necessarily physical.  Many have identified money, sex, and power as pervasive idols in our day.  However, the same may be true of our spouses, our children, our hobbies, our books.  If we are unwilling to give them up for the sake of the kingdom, they have become idols and God is robbed of the exclusive worship he deserves.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 139-40)


Jealous comes from the Greek zēlos which has in it the idea of burning heat.  The idea is that God loves men with such a passion that he cannot bear any other love within the hearts of men.

It may be that jealous is a word which nowadays we find it difficult to connect with God, for it has acquired a lower significance; but behind it is the amazing truth that God is the lover of the souls of men.  There is a sense in which love must be diffused among all men and over all God’s children; but there is also a sense in which love gives and demands an exclusive devotion to one person.  It is profoundly true that a man can be in love only with one person at one time; if he thinks otherwise, he does not know the meaning of love.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: James and Peter, 104-05)


Here the fire represents not merely the personal presence of Yahweh, but his burning fury in the face of covenantal infidelity, expressed specifically in idolatry.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 131)


Hear what is written:  “Our God is a consuming fire.”  What does the God of fire consume?  Will we be so senseless as to think that God consumes the firewood or straw or hay?  But the God of fire consumes human sins.  He consumes them, devours them, purges them, as he says in another place, “I will purge you with fire for purity.”  (Origen, Homilies on Lv 5.3.2)


The images of cloud and fire and the voice without form point us to the heart of the prohibition of images as Deuteronomy 4 interprets it.  The theological basis for this commandment is to be found in the mystery, transcendence, ineffability, and wholly “otherness” of God, who does not reveal self in transparent ways or in ways that allow one to see (as one sees the astral bodies) or touch (as with humanly created objects) God.  Twice the claim is made:  “You saw no form.”  Such is the reality of God, and no human action can alter that.  The commandment is to ensure Israel’s continuing realization of that transcendence.  (Patrick D. Miller, Interpretation: Dt, 59)


Because the Lord had not assumed any particular outward form when he spoke to Israel at Sinai, he commanded Israel not to represent him with an outward form when they worshiped him.  Such a command went entirely contrary to how Israel’s neighbors worshiped their gods.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 52)


No image is suitable to God, because He would not be perceived by His people otherwise than in a voice.  But then also fire was a symbol of His presence, yet He testified by it that His glory is incomprehensible, and thus would prevent men from idol-making.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. II, 121)


The gods of Egypt, Greece, and Rome appeared commonly in the forms of beasts, birds, and reptiles.  Since, moreover, the gods were thus suggested as gross and sensual, their worship was attended by immoral and licentious practices which resulted at times in complete perversion.  The worshiper in such a cult cannot rise to higher spiritual levels than the gods whom he adores.  Doomed to progressive corruption, he earns the disgust of the true God, who in his wrath gives the idolater over to “a reprobate mind” (Rom 1:28).  (George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible Vol II, 355)


God is depicted as Israel’s husband; he is a jealous God (Ex 20:5).  Idolatry is spiritual adultery and merits death.  Phinehas played the faithful lover by killing a man and his foreign wife, and thus stayed the wrath of divine jealousy (Nm 25:11).  Joshua repeated the fact that God is a jealous God who would not tolerate idolatry and the people voluntarily placed themselves under God’s suzerainty (Josh 24:19).  Through idolatry Israel incited God to justified wrath, e.g. in the days of Ahab, and God punished them.  Ultimately, repeated warnings went unheeded and God gave his people the justice due their spiritual adultery (Ezk 5:13; 8:3, 5; 16:38).  The Psalmist identified the jealousy of God as the cause of the exile and he besought his Sovereign to quench his wrath against Israel (Ps 79:5).  According to promise God rested his jealous wrath against Israel (Ezk 16:42; cf. Dt 30) and turned against those who had misused them (Ezk 36:5-6).  So strong is his disposition to vindicate his name (Ezk 39:25) and his people, that all the earth felt his wrath (Zeph 3:8).  Thus it will be seen that the action informed by this intensity may result in ill and perdition and is associated with words denoting wrath (Nm 25:11; Ezk 16:38, 42; 36:6; 38:9) and anger (Dt 29:19 [H 20]), and as a consuming force with fire (Zeph 1:18; 3:8).

On the other hand the divine action accomplished with “jealousy” may result in good and salvation.  Thus this arduous love effected the return (Isa 42:13).  The restoration of Israel does not, however, exhaust God’s gracious activities in behalf of his people.  He will effect their salvation (the restitution of a perfect relationship between himself and his creatures), which they lost in father Adam, by a second Adam–Immanuel (Isa 9:7 [H 6]).  Furthermore, the return from the exile foreshadowed an even greater event–God’s creating and choosing a perfect bride through his Servant (Isa 42:13).  God’s jealousy when offended issued in just retribution, but when stirred by his grace it resulted in eternal love.  Hence, the church is called the bride of Christ.  It is now being perfectly prepared and preserved for the wedding.

God expects man to return his love.  Love, however, is not simply an emotion.  It is a structured relationship.  To love God is to obey him.  So the word is used to denote a passionate, consuming “zeal” focused on God that results in the doing of his will and the maintaining of his honor in the face of the ungodly acts of men and nations.  Phinehas, Elijah and Jehu are particular examples of his zeal.  Saul (2 Sm 21:2) and Jehu (2 Kgs 10:16) were prompted by their ardent zeal (jealousy) for God to commit acts violating his commands.  Thus, they stirred the wrath of God who is jealous for his name (Ezk 39:25)–that it be vindicated by the keeping of the whole law (Dt 29:20 ]H 19]).  The godly (esp. Messiah) are consumed, therefore, by an ardor (jealousy) to exalt God by maintaining purity of worship (Ps 69:9 [H 10]), and purity of obedience respecting the whole of God’s word (Ps 119:139).  (R. Laird Harris, Theological Wordbook of the OT, Vol. 1, 802-3)


Howsoever God chose to appear, or manifest himself, he took care never to assume any describable form–He would have no image worship, because he is a SPIRIT, and they who worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.  These outward things tend to draw the mind out of itself, and diffuse it on sensible, if not sensual, objects; and thus spiritual worship is prevented, and the Holy Ghost grieved.  Persons acting in this way can never know much of the religion of the heart.  (Adam Clarke, Clarke’s Commentary, Vol. 1, 458)


Yahweh has no “form,” but he decisively speaks.  Idols are visible but dumb.  Yahweh is invisible but eloquent, addressing his people in words of promise and demand, gift and claim.  This introduces a fundamentally moral distinction into the contrast between the faith of Israel and surrounding visual polytheism.  What sets Yahweh apart is not that he looks different, but that he calls for a people who will look different, with a different way of life, a different social order, and a different dynamic of worship.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 51)


Not only is the worship of other gods or images of other gods prohibited; any iconic form of the worship of the Lord is unacceptable.  The commandment in its usage here thus points the people away from two categories of objects.  One of these categories includes those objects that by their desirability and tangibility, their potential claim on our lives (e.g., sun and stars), could replace or contend with the Lord of life and nature and history for our fullest loyalty and surrender.  The other category includes those objects that by their tangibility, visibility, and attractiveness could serve to represent God for us.  They thus obscure the true relationship that belongs between Creator and creature, dissolve the mystery, eliminate the transcendence, and reduce the God above God to an “available god,” opening up all our instincts to seek control over that which truly controls us.  The true danger of all symbols, metaphors, and images (tangible, visible) is that they may reduce the irreducible reality that stands behind them all.  That is even possible for the word in some form, but the word has a different character–both power and elusiveness, identification with the speaker and distinctiveness from the speaker.  The word speaks and tells.  It comes from the mystery that is God, but it does not eliminate they mystery.  (Patrick D. Miller, Interpretation: Dt, 60)


If a bridegroom on his wedding night sat down to negotiate terms of infidelity—”OK, you’ve guaranteed the future by promising to stick with me regardless.  Just how far can I go with other women?  Can I hug them?  Kiss them?  Go to bed with them?  How often?  How many?—we would call such a husband a fraud, a pathologically sick man.  If he approaches marriage that way, he will never learn the meaning of true love.  And if a Christian approaches forgiveness the same way—“Let’s see, God has promised forgiveness in advance.  What can I get away with?  How far can I push it?”—that Christian will end up equally impoverished.  Paul’s response says it all:  “God forbid!”  (Philip Yancey;  Finding God in Unexpected Places,, 186)


It is this spiritual intercourse with God that is the ecstasy that is imagined and hinted at in all earthly intercourse; physical or spiritual.   And I think that is the ultimate reason why sexual passion is so strong and so different from other passion; so heavy with suggestions of profound meanings that always just elude our grasp.  I don’t think any practical need can account for it.  I don’t think any animal drive can explain it.  No animal falls in love or writes profound romantic poetry or sees sex as a symbol of ultimate meaning of life because no animal is made in the image of God.  Not just sexuality, but human sexuality is that image.   And human sexuality is a foretaste of that self-giving, losing and finding the whole self, a foretaste of that oneness and manyness that is the very life of the Trinity and the joy of the Trinity.   And what is why we long for it without knowing it.  That is why we tremble to stand outside of ourselves in the other.  That is why we long to give our whole selves, body and soul, because we are images of God the sexual being.  We love the other sex because God loves God.  And this early love is so passionate because heaven is full of passion, of energy, and dynamism.  That is one of the reasons God invented families.  You can’t love or hate anybody as much as your own family.  Families are full of passion.  Heaven is not boring or blasaise.  It is passionate because God is passionate.  Jesus Christ who is our window to God was not a stoic or a Scribe or a Scholar.  He was a lover.  I think we correctly deny that God has passions in a passive sense.  He is not moved or driven or conditioned by them as we are.  He cannot fall in love for the same reason the ocean cannot get wet.  He is love.  (Peter Kreeft lecture “Sex in Heaven”)


As a consuming fire, God purifies what is precious and destroys what is worthless.  As a jealous God, He intensely covets righteousness among His people and His own prominence in their lives.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 88)


God is several times described as jealous for His honor, His holy name.  He desires fervently that His due status and honor be preserved, that the worship that belongs to Him should be given to Him.  The analogy frequently used is a husband’s concern for the love of his wife.  This is an expression of the holiness of God, which cannot endure any unfaithfulness.  Just as a husband cannot be indulgent of adultery on the part of his wife, so no infidelity is endured by God.

It was this exclusiveness of concern that underlay the strong emphasis upon monotheistic worship among the Jews.  Because Yahweh is the only true God, He alone is deserving of man’s worship and devotion.  It motivated the prohibition of intermarriage with the heathen nations around Israel, lest they should depart from the exclusive worship of the one true God.  An OT example of God’s jealousy is found in Exodus 32, where God was angered by the Israelites’ worshiping the golden calf.  Herod was struck dead because he did not disavow the attribution of deity to himself (Acts 12:21-23).

Similarly, the exclusiveness is reflected to the teachings of Jesus:  “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no man comes to the Father, but by me” (Jn 14:6).  “He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me” (Mt 10:37).  To determine that a potential follower really was giving to Him his supremacy, Jesus would put such a person to a test, as when He asked the rich young man to sell all that he had, and come and follow Him.  Because Jesus, like the Father, is the only true God, and because He is the only mediator, He could rightfully exercise this jealousy.   (Merrill C. Tenny, The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible–Volume 3, 410)


The order used by Moses and Paul to describe such unfaithfulness is the exact opposite of the order in which God created the world according to Genesis 1.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 128)


Today idolatry can take various forms.  Sometimes the idol could be wealth, education, or prestige, if we pursue these at the cost of Biblical principles.  Idolatry could be the unacceptable pleasure received through sex outside of marriage or through getting high on a chemical like a drug or alcohol.  It could be our love for a person, which we will pursue even though that relationship is not sanctioned by God.  Our idol could also be the security that we try to receive through getting a word from a psychic counselor, astrologer, or soothsayer.

We succumb to these idols in a similar way to the way people succumb to literal idols.  When we lose our vital relationship with God through disobedience, the Bible’s hold on us gets less and less.  In the insecurity that results from losing our security in the eternal Word, we could shift to looking to another image for security.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 129)


The idol under adultery is I can get more satisfaction from a lover than from God.  The essence of the lyrics of love songs is that a lover is everything to me.  You bring me life.  You are my life.  You are everything to me.


II-  True love is jealous of the best for the beloved.  (Dt 4:19-24; see also: Gn 50:20; Lev 26:4-10; Dt 7:13-15; 8:18; 1 Chr 29:12-14; Ps ch 1; ch 23; ch 103; ch 104; ch 107; Ezk 39:25; Joel 2:18; Mt 6:26-33; Rom 8:28; 1 Cor 2:9; 2 Cor 9:8-10; Eph 3:14-21; 5:21-33; Jam 1:17)


He is jealous for you now, jealous for your spiritual welfare, jealous for you in every temptation and in every trial, jealous lest you should be robbed by covetousness, compromise, worldliness, prayerlessness or disobedience in any shape or form.  He is jealous that you should have that fullness of blessing, those riches of grace that he longs to bestow upon every one of his people.  (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 261)


God is jealous.  God doesn’t want to lose to another what He possesses.  He knows He is the best for us and so He is jealous when we give our time, resources, money, or our affections to anything other than Him.  Why is God jealous?  Because He loves you so much He wants you to have the best.  And the best is God.


Moses’ characterization of Yahweh as El Qanna (Impassioned El) is equally dramatic.  The usual interpretation as “jealous” is misleading because we commonly view jealosy as in illegitimate disposition akin to envy or covetousness.  However, in the OT, this term usually speaks of the legitimate passion that is aroused when interference from a third party threatens a proper relationship. Particularly a marriage relationship when another “lover” enters the picture.  Yahweh is an impassioned God, who treasures Israel as his covenant people.  This love is fueled, not by an exploitative need to dominate, but by ardor for the well-being of the object.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 132)


Father Zossima, a character in Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, comments, “Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing, compared with love in dreams.”  The real thing wants the best for the beloved, and that may mean a mother denying her child’s insistent plea for more candy, or a social worker holding his client responsible for destructive behavior, or a wife demanding a change in the behavior of her abusive husband–or God damning to hell the sin that is destroying creation.  (Donald W. McCullough, The Trivialization of God, 94)


God intended us to live in blessed fellowship with him, with our consciences clear and our lives pure because we obey him.  He intended us to be joyful because we have achieved the end for which we were made:  enjoying intimacy with the God whom we love deeply.  This beautiful plan is destroyed when idols and nature take the place of God in our lives. We become corrupted, spoiled.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 128)


We think that idols are bad things, but that is almost never the case.  The greater the good, the more likely we are to expect that it can satisfy our deepest needs and hopes.  Anything can serve as a counterfeit god, especially the very best things in life.  (Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods, xvii)


The greater the agape love of the lover for the beloved, the greater the heartbreak and pain the lover suffers when the beloved chases after that which is incapable of bringing real peace, happiness and joy. — Pastor Keith


“God loves you just the way you are.   God loves you too much to allow you to stay there.”  —Buddy Greene


In his book Blessing out of Buffetings, Alan Redpath says, “The jealousy of God…is the greatest flame that burns in the heart of deity…a concern for the purity, the holiness, the greatness, the glory of his people.”  What a marvelous, humbling thing it is that God should have a passionate concern that we should be a pure, holy, great and glorious people!  (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 261)


Although the word jealous is frequently used in a negative sense in English, it also takes a positive sense at times.  For example, Paul says to the Corinthians, “I feel a divine jealousy for you” (2 Cor 11:2).  Here the sense is “earnestly protective or watchful.”  It has the meaning of being deeply committed to seeking the honor or welfare of someone, whether oneself or someone else.

Scripture represents God as being jealous in this way.  He continually and earnestly seeks to protect his own honor.  He commands his people not to bow down to idols or serve them, saying, “for I the LORD your God am a jealous God” (Ex 20:5).  He desires that worship be given to himself and not to false gods in the land of Canaan, giving the following reason:  “For you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” (Ex 34:14; cf. Dt 4:24; 5:9).

Thus, God’s jealousy may be defined as follows:  God’s jealousy means that God continually seeks to protect his own honor.

People sometimes have trouble thinking that jealousy is a desirable attribute in God.  This is because jealousy for our own honor as human beings is almost always wrong.  We are not to be proud, but humble.  Yet we must realize that the reason pride is wrong is a theological reason:  it is that we do not deserve the honor that belongs to God alone (cf. 1 Cor 4:7; Rv 4:11).

It is not wrong for God to seek his own honor, however, for he deserves it fully.  (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, 205)


If I cry out against God because of a great loss, I have just revealed my idol; that thing or person he blessed me with, rather than He who blesses me.  — Buddy Briggs


What the OT calls idolatry, enlightened Westerners call addictions. (Philip Yancey; Finding God in Unexpected Places, 15)


The consequences of sin are so bad that even though there is forgiveness, sinning is never worthwhile.  Our greatest and most enduring joys and pains have to do with relationships.  The pleasures of sin have to do with a shallow and perhaps intense gratification that disappears soon after the sinful act.  So after the act we have to live with the misery of knowing we have done wrong and also knowing that we have violated the relationships that hold the key to our true happiness.  So one reason we stay away from sin is that we are committed to happiness.  We choose the enduring joys of a relationship with God and those we love over the fleeting pleasures of sin.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 141)


The sense here is that God’s zeal for his people is such that he will not tolerate unfaithfulness or seeing his people dishonored.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 135)


III-  True love is jealous and will do all that is  necessary to capture the beloved’s errant             affections. (Dt 4:24-31; see also: Bk of Hosea; Rom 5:8-10; 1 Cor 13)  


The key to our return to God after sin is not any attitude of ours but the mercy of the covenant-keeping God, who is committed to us.  He wants us to come back to him and will do everything within his principles of holy love to make that possible.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 144)


When something goes wrong, our insecurity and feelings of being rejected surface, and we act as if we cannot believe that God will look after us.  At such times we are tempted to be unfaithful.  When we keep clinging fervently to the twin truths of our past wretched state and our present glorious state, the temptation to unfaithfulness will lose its power.  We reason that it would be great folly to miss all the glorious blessings that are ours by right by moving away from God.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 131)


Although Deuteronomy’s version of the covenant curses ends with judgment, perhaps inspired by Yahweh’s own words in Leviticus 26, here Moses declares that Israel’s story cannot end in judgment.  In the end, Yahweh’s disposition and character guarantee their hope:  “the LORD your God is a merciful God (v. 31).  The word rahum speaks of warm and tender affection, like the love of a mother toward a child (Ex 34:6-7).  Yahweh’s passion does indeed burn with vexation and rage at infideltiy, but it also burns with compassion for Israel, his child (cf. Hos 11:8-9).  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 134)


He loves Thee too little who loves anything together with Thee, which he loves not for Thy sake.  (Augustine).  In other words, if created things are seen and handled as gifts of God and as mirrors of his glory, they need not be occasions of idolatry—if our delight in them is always also a delight in their Maker.  (John Piper; Desiring God, 143)


(From Hebrews 12:22-29) They fully understood that the fiery storm raging at the top of Mount Sinai was much more than a display of natural forces.  God himself was present and made himself heard by the sound of the trumpet (Ex 19;16; 20:18).  Then God spoke to the people and gave them the Decalogue–that is, the covenant (Dt 4:13).  God came to the Israelites with this covenant so that the fear of God himself might reside in his people to keep them from sinning (Ex 20:20).  The overwhelming sight and the thunderous voice of God struck mortal fear into the hearts of the people, so that those who heard it begged no further word be spoken to them (see also Ex 20:19; Dt 5:25-26).  (William Hendriksen & Simon Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Thessalonians, the Pastorals, and Hebrews, 390)


To those who submit gladly to the truth of God about themselves as sinners, and about Christ as the Savior, and about the Holy Spirit as the Sanctifer, and about God the Father as Creator–to them sex and food are sanctified.  That is, they are pure.  They are not unclean idols competing for our affections, which belong supremely to God.  They are instead pure partners in the revelation of God’s glory.  They are beams of his goodness along which the pure in heart see God (Mt 5:8).  (John Piper, When I Don’t Desire God, 189)


“You asked for a loving God:  You have one.  The great spirit you so lightly invoked, the “Lord of terrible aspect,” is present:  not a senile benevolence that drowsily wishes you to be happy in your own way, not the cold philanthropy of a conscientious magistrate, not the care of a host who feels responsible for the comfort of his guests, but the consuming fire Himself, the Love that made the worlds, persistent as the artist’s love for his work and despotic as a man’s love for a dog, provident and venerable as a father’s love for a child, jealous, inexorable, exacting as love between the sexes . . .  It is certainly a burden of glory not only beyond our deserts but also, except in rare moments of grace, beyond our desiring.”  (C. S. Lewis; The Problem of Pain, ch 3, 46-7)


Although the emphatic verbs framing verse 26 seemed to suggest that Yahweh would respond to Israel’s apostasy by completely annihilating them, the reference to a remnant in verse 27 had opened the door ever so slightly to divine grace.  Now Yahweh declares in unequivocal terms that because he is gracious, he will neither destroy Israel nor allow Israel to destroy herself.  Israel may forget the covenant of Yahweh (v. 23), but Yahweh will never forget the covenant of the “forefathers.”  Israel’s future is as secure as the eternal covenant and the unchangeably gracious character of God.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 134)


When the going gets tough, we begin to complain against God and accuse him of not looking after us.  We say things like, “I was better off before I committed my life to Christ.”  We were sinners destined for Hell, and now we have been given an eternal home in Heaven.  And yet we say it was better for us before we came to Christ!  We have forgotten the misery of unbelief and the destiny of unbelievers.  This is why it is important for us to occasionally remember who we were before we were saved.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 130)


After describing the pre-conversion state of the Ephesians Paul does a similar thing in the passage just quoted.  He tells them what God has now made them into:  “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Eph 2:13).  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 131)


“Returning” to the LORD probably means “repenting” here, as it frequently does in the prophets (Hos 6:1; Jer 3:22; 4:12; and cf. Jdg 2:19; 8:33; 1 Sm 7:3; 1 Kgs 9:6; 2 Kgs 17:13; 23:25-26).  In both Hosea and Jeremiah, however, the theme comes to embrace the idea of return to the land following exile, though repentance is subsumed within this returning (Hos 14; Jer 31:17-18, 21).  And while Dt 4:29-31 is most like 1 Kgs 8:46-53, the similar Dt 30:1-10 stands closer to Hosea and Jeremiah, because there the hope of return to land is explicit.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 111)


If the person repents he is accepted by God immediately.  So forgiveness is assured on the basis of the work of Christ.  If the person does not repent, the church may need to drop that person from the membership of the church, which is what Jesus and Paul intend in the NT church discipline passages.  Paul describes this as delivering the person to Satan (1 Cor 5:5; 1 Tm 1:19, 20), which probably means taking off the protective covering that comes with the security of being part of God’s covenant community.  In both those instances Paul’s aim is that the person repents and comes back to God after expereiencing the pain of church discipline.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 137)


Will it be possible for those who have been so dishonest with God to truly seek the Lord with all their heart and all their soul?  It is, but because of the deception they practiced when they went into sin, it will not be automatic.

Those who go into sin saying, “Later I will ask God to forgive me” will have to drastically change their outlook if they are to truly repent.  They would have to repent of their outlook of presuming upon grace even more than their view of the sin they committed.  That outlook is far more serious than the act they committed.  It is an insult to God upon whose mercy the stability of the whole world rests.  It is a deliberate attack upon the very thing that keeps us from being destroyed this very moment.  We are people who should have been sent to Hell immediately.  But because of God’s mercy we have been spared.  To abuse this mercy, then, is a very serious thing.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 141)


The value of this promise of forgiveness is that it keeps us from giving up after we sin.  When some people fall, they think their situation is so hopeless that they give up hope.  Then, given the power of temptation, they go deeper into sin.  So God, in his abundant love, takes the huge risk of promising sinners forgiveness even before they commit sin.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 142)


If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud.  Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.  If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage.  I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others do the same.  (C. S. Lewis; Mere Christianity, bk 3, ch 10, pgs. 119-120)


First, we must understand that God is the author of all pleasure.  There is a revealing passage in C. S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters, when he has the Senior Devil say to his understudy, Wormwood:  “Never forget that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and normal and satisfying form, we are, in a sense, on the Enemy’s ground.  I know we have won many a soul through pleasure.  All the same, it is His invention, not ours.  He made the pleasures:  all our research so far has not enabled us to produce one.  All we can do is to encourage the humans to take the pleasures which our Enemy has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees, which He has forbidden.  Hence we always try to work away from the natural condition of any pleasure to that in which it is least natural.  An ever increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure is the formula.  (C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters and Screwtape Proposes a Toast, 50)  (Kent Hughes, James, Faith That Works, 170-71)


If there is a sincere repentance, God will accept it and hold them fast, not forgetting the promises of the covenant.  The words in the latter days are not here to be understood eschatologically, as in the Prophets.  They are simply a relative expression meaning “in the future.”  Vs. 31, introduced by the word for, provides the reason for which the remnant of Israel may return to God with confidence.  He is a consuming fire to the sinner, but a merciful God to the repentant.  (George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible Vol II, 357)


At Sinai the Lord’s people were married to him, for the covenantal ceremonies have features of a marriage celebration.  Israel was to walk after the Lord, their God and husband; the goal of the covenant was fidelity.  The people were “to follow passionately” after their God.  But even a betrayed husband and covenantal partner could be reconciled.  (John H. Walton, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Vol. 1, 446)


The ban on Moses may be understood as cautionary; as he failed to inherit, so they might cease to enjoy the inheritance, if they prove unfaithful to the covenant, an allusion to the Ten Commandments, v. 13 (22-23).  The warning fuses together the twin themes of Deuteronomy 4 (covenant and idolatry) as closely as anywhere.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 109)


But if from thence thou shalt seek the Lord.  God is long-suffering and of tender mercy, and waits ever ready to receive a backsliding soul when it returns to him.  Is not this promise left on record for the encouragement and salvation of lost Israel?  (Adam Clarke, Clarke’s Commentary, Vol. 1, 459)


The only way out of any future predicament resulting from infidelity rested on unequivocal recommittal to the Lord–a returning to him “with all your heart and with all your soul.”  This same spiritual commitment is mentioned in 6:5; 10:12; 11:13; 26:16; and 30:2, 6, 10.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 47)


The nation may fail to uphold the covenant; the people may forget their Lord; but when they turn back to him in faith and obedience (v. 30); he will mercifully accept them.  He will not forget the covenant based on his promises (v. 31).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 47)


This is a situation where part of God’s punishment is that of permitting the sinners to do what they want to do (see Rom 1:24, 26, 28).  In this case what they want is to worship other gods.  Moses reminds the people that this is a futile exercise since these are lifeless idols, the work of human hands.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 136)


In the Bible, too, we have stories of people who were given a second chance and returned to God, after backsliding, to become his mighty instruments.  David, Jonah, and Peter are prime examples.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 139)


Sincere conversion is, therefore, prescribed; for “all the heart” is precisely equivalent to an upright heart, (integrum), which is contrasted with a double or feigned one; and this must be noted, lest a sense of our infirmity should disturb us; for, since it is not possible for men to give themselves wholly to God, the knowledge of their own inability is apt to induce listlessness; whereas, provided we do not deal deceitfully, it is declared that our penitence is approved by God.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. IV, 271)


He here shews the advantage of punishments, on the ground of their usefulness and profit; for what the Apostle says is confirmed by experience, that “no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous; nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness to them that are exercised thereby” (Heb 12:11).  Lest, therefore, they should be provoked to wrath by God’s stripes, he reminds them of their usefulness to them, because they would never turn to God unless aided by this remedy.  He tells them that, after they shall have been afflicted by the curses of God, if they sought after Him, they should find Him:  and further, he gives them grounds for hope both in God’s nature and in His covenant.  He assures them that God will be willing to be appeased, because He is by nature merciful; but he adds another confirmation of this, which is more certain and familiar, viz., because God had adopted them by a perpetual covenant.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. III, 271)


It is as if God says, “Very well, if gods of wood and stone are what you want, then these are what you will get” (cf. 28:36, 64; Jer 16:13).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 249-50)


“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”  (John Piper, Desiring God)


As Israel’s sovereign, Yahweh had a right to demand His people’s exclusive loyalty.  This was the first and most basic stipulation of the covenant (cf. the first commandment:  “You shall have no other gods before me,” Ex. 20:3).  Nonetheless, the OT records Israel’s perpetual lapses into idolatry, and it was this unfaithfulness that provoked Yahweh’s jealous wrath (cf. Nm 25:3, 11; Dt 29:18-20; 32:16, 21; 1 Kgs 14:22f.; Zeph 1:18; 3:8; cf. also Ezk 8:3, 5, where the idol in Ezekiel’s vision is called “the image of jealousy” because it provoked Yahweh to jealousy).  Frequently the metaphor of a marriage was used to describe the relationship between Yahweh and His people, with Yahweh depicted as the jealous husband and Israel as the adulterous wife (cf. Ezk 36:41f.).  There is another side, however, to Yahweh’s qinhâ, namely, His jealousy for His covenant people, which is expressed in pity and zeal for Israel’s renewal and results in judgment upon Israel’s enemies and the restoration of Jerusalem (e.g., Ezk 36:5-7; 38:18f.; 39:25; Joel 2:18f.; Zech 1:14-17; 8:2f.).  (3) Yahweh’s claim to the exclusive allegiance of His people arises out of His unique nature as the only true God, the sovereign Lord of all creation.  No other gods can rival Him; thus Yahweh alone is deserving of His creatures’ exclusive and wholehearted devotion (cf. Ps 95-97, etc.; Dt 6:4f.).  Yahweh’s jealousy is an expression of His holiness (cf. Josh 24:19; Ezk 39:25).  His very name is Jealous (Ex 34:14).  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia–Volume One, 972)


We might have expected a promise that those who responded to this appeal would return to their homeland; instead, they are invited to “return to the Lord” (v. 30), although verse 31 adds that God will not forget his earlier promises to Abraham and the other patriarchs of Genesis–promises which first and foremost included the Promised Land.  It is far more important to be in close touch with God than to live in any particular place on earth, however sacred to God or dear to us.  (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 32)


God says to Hosea, “Hosea, you see this woman over here named Gomer?  Marry her.”

So Hosea says, “Sure.  I‘m a prophet.  You’re God.  You spoke to me.  I’ll marry her.”

And it is not long after he is married to her that he realizes that she has wayward feet.  That she is not being faithful to him, that she is being sexually unfaithful to him.

And as she begins to have children, he realizes that they are not his children. In fact, he names one of them not mine.

And finally her unfaithfulness gets worse and worse and worse, until eventually she leaves him and leaves the kids, and goes off to one man and goes off to another man and goes off to another man.  And finally that last man, because she is so faithless, she is breaking every promise, she is lying) and finally he sells her into slavery.

Hosea turns to God and says, “Remind me why you asked me to marry her”.

And God basically says, “So you will know something about my relationship to you.  Now you will know what it is like for me. So you will know what it is like to be me.  And here is what I want you to do Hosea.  I want you to go where she is being bid on and I want you to purchase her freedom and I want you to take her back and then you will know what it is like to be me”.

And so there is poor Gomer.  From what we can tell she  was probably being bid on as a slave and she is probably stripped naked as they were so that the buyers could see what they were buying.  And she is standing there and  suddenly to her shock she hears her husband’s voice bidding and he purchases her freedom.  And he walks up to her and instead of berating her, he takes his cloak off and covers her nakedness and says, “Now you will come home and be my wife.”

This story is nothing compared to what God has done for you. Hosea had to go to the next city but God had to come to earth from heaven to find you.  Jesus didn’t purchase you back with money, but went to the cross and paid with his life blood.  Jesus was stripped naked in order for us to be covered with the robe of righteousness.  (Tim Keller sermon “No One Seeks God”)



Worship Point:  Worship the God of the Universe who loves you with a true love and is jealous of your affections.


The OT rituals and ceremonies heavily accent this need for the worshiper’s preparation for and participation in the various prescriptions and requirements that have to be met.  Consider David:  “I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God which cost me nothing” (2 S. 24:24).  “You cannot serve the Lord” was Joshua’s admonition (Josh 24:19) to a people who in their easygoing, idolatrous ways had forgotten that “he is a holy God; he is a jealous God,” who requires a whole-hearted and unshared dedication to His name and a commitment to His cause in terms of a full allegiance and avowal.  Put into modern terms, these biblical verses stress the seriousness of our worship and the imperious claim it lays upon us.  A flippant attitude to worship is obviously out of place and shows only that we have not yet even begun to understand what the worship of God is intended to be and do.  Conversely, a deep sense of privilege in our approach to God will mean that our worship will be ordered with careful thought and thus will be acceptable to Him.  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, 1131)


When Moses went to meet with God, nothing–not even a layer of cloth–was allowed to hinder his gaze upon God.

That passage gives us insight into two things:  the deep revelation of God, and the change it brings to those who experience it.  The greater the revelation, the greater the transformation.  Unveiled in his worship and given incredible access to the presence of God, Moses also became a changed worshiper who glowed with the glory of God.

The NT has amazing news for us that we, too, can be unveiled worshipers:  “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:18).

God has invited us into an incredibly privileged place in worship.  In one sense, the Almighty need not reveal Himself to anyone.  He is a consuming fire, blazing with power and holiness.  And yet He burns with a heart of love for His people, longing to usher each one of us into deeper levels of glory.  It is there we are transformed ever more into His likeness.  As someone once put it, “Beholding is becoming.” (Matt Redman; The Unquenchable Worshiper, 62-3)


“One so often hears people say, “I just can’t handle it,” when they reject a biblical image of God as Father, as Mother, as Lord or Judge; God as lover, as angry or jealous, God on a cross.  I find this choice of words revealing, however real the pain they reflect:  If we seek a God we can “handle,” that will be exactly what we get.  A God we can manipulate, suspiciously like ourselves, the wideness of whose mercy we’ve cut down to size.” (Kathleen Norris)  (Phillip Yancey; Reaching for the Invisible God, 112)


(From Hebrews 12:22-29) Even though Christ has granted us unusual privileges, we must be aware of God’s awesomeness and holiness.  Therefore we worship him with reverence and awe.  (William Hendriksen & Simon Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Thessalonians, the Pastorals, and Hebrews, 401)


The only means for keeping worship free of idolatries is to keep God the subject.  God frequently loses that role if churches insist on catering to the cultural idolatry of choice.   Canadian sociologist Reginald Bibby shows that “some churches today may be declining not because they offer too few choices but too many.”    (Marva Dawn; Reaching Out without Dumbing Down, 285)


The distinction is between what is seen and what is unseen.  We in our age are well aware of the tremendous invisible power of electricity, for instance, and ancient peoples were no less away of the mysterious power of the fertility of the soil, for example, but in every age, man is all too prone to trust what he can see, to give his attention to what is in front of him, and to neglect more intangible realities.  We plan for tomorrow rather than next week; we prefer to treat surface symptoms and ignore the hidden infections.  We prefer, it may be, to worship money, comfort, convenience, or status, rather than the challenging God who continues ever and again to bring his words (v. 12) to our attention.  It is much easier to worship an idol, bow to a crucifix, send a check to the local church, than it is to listen to the voice of the invisible God.  The Israelites were by no means the only ones who were inclined to choose a form rather than a voice (v. 12).  (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 30)


Gospel Application:  Jesus’ jealous love for us is demonstrated in that while we were adulterous enemies of His He was willing to die for us so we might have the hope of eternal life.  We also enjoy the assurance, peace, joy and security of knowing that Someone truly loves me.   (2 Chr 7:13-14; Neh 9:17; Isa 54:4-6; Jer ch 3; 15:19; Ezk 16:60-63; 18:21-23, 32; Bk of Hosea; Hos 14:1-2; Zech 1:3; Mal 3:7; Mt 4:17; Mk 1:14-15; Acts 2:38; 17:30; Rom 5:8-10; 2 Pt 3:9; 1 Jn 1:9 as well as Nm 15:37-41; Lk 7:40-50; Jam 4:4)


(From Hebrews 12:22-29) What a difference between the description of Mount Sinai and that of Mount Zion!  What a contrast!  The first scene is one of doom and dread; the second scene portrays life and joy.  (William Hendriksen & Simon Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Thessalonians, the Pastorals, and Hebrews, 392)


The Bible says that as the head of his bride, the church, Christ serves as her Savior (Eph 5:23), Jesus gave himself out of love to make the church holy, radiant, and blameless (5:25-27).  Christ’s example shows that headship involves taking responsibility–even to the point of personal sacrifice–for the well-being of another.  (Bryan Chapell, Each for the Other, 26)


Fellowship with the Father and the Son, that intimate, holy, and unceasing communion, is the reason for man’s creation.  That fellowship has been restored to us in Christ Jesus. (Andrew Murray, Receiving Power from God, 42)


WHEN WE sin, we are in essence saying to God:  I love what this other thing does for me more than what YOU do for me God.   We are like a spouse who is found in adultery with another lover.   Repentance can only be seen properly when we see ourselves as an adulterer going back to our faithful mate when we have sought the arms of another.


A wife who is 85% faithful to her husband is not faithful at all.  There is no such thing as part-time loyalty to Jesus Christ.  —Vance Havner


The picture of Israel as the bride of God and of God as the husband of Israel has something very precious in it.  It means that to disobey God is like breaking the marriage vow.  It means that all sin is sin against love.  It means that our relationship to God is not like the distant relationship of king and subject or master and slave, but like the intimate relationship of husband and wife.  It means that when we sin we break God’s heart, as the heart of one partner in a marriage may be broken by the desertion of the other.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: James and Peter, 102)


(From Hebrews 12:22-29) The prophet predicted a shaking of the heavens and the earth.  The writer transposes the terms heaven and earth to show the sequence of the effect of Christ’s work.  The earth shook when Jesus died and when he arose (Mt 27:51; 28:2), but more importantly the preaching of the gospel and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit shook the entire world.  The heavens also experienced change:  the angelic hosts sing Christ’s praises (Rv 5:12); angels rejoice when one sinner repents (Lk 15:10); angels are sent out to minister to the needs of the believers on earth (Heb 1:14); and angels long to look into the mystery of salvation (Eph 3:10; 1 Pt 1:12).  It is Christ, therefore, who is at the center of this upheaval on earth and in heaven.  He will cause heaven and earth to shake when he appears a second time (Mt 24:29; 2 Pt 3:10).  (William Hendriksen & Simon Kistemaker, NT Commentary: Thessalonians, the Pastorals, and Hebrews, 398-9)


Every time a church family gathers for worship, we come as idolaters or recovering idolaters.  We all fight allegiances to someone or something other than God that make a claim on our lives.  To pretend otherwise is to be naive and unprepared for the serious work of realignment we need.  (Mark Labberton, The Dangerous Act of Worship, 62)


A man may either use the world or be used by it.  To use the world as the servant of God and men is to be the friend of God, for that is what God meant the world to be.  To use the world as the controller and dictator of life is to be at enmity with God, for that is what God never meant the world to be.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: James and Peter, 103)


Spiritual Challenge:  Be very careful to maintain your covenant relationship with your husband Jesus.  He is jealous of your affections because He is your true love and has sacrificed greatly to insure you enjoy only the best of this fallen world and the next perfect world. (Prv 4:23; Mt 10:37-39; ch 13; Lk 14:26)


We never break the other commandments without breaking the first one.  Why do we fail to love or keep promises or live unselfishly?  Of course, the general answer is “because we are weak and sinful,” but the specific answer in any actual circumstance is that there is something you feel you must have to be happy, something that is more important to your heart than God himself.  We would not lie unless we first had made something—human approval, reputation, power over others, financial advantage—more important and valuable to our hearts than the grace and favor of God.  The secret to change is to identify and dismantle the counterfeit gods of your heart.  (Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods, 166)


As Jesus says in the parable of the sower, “the desires for other things come in and choke the word [of God], making it unfruitful” (Mk 4:19; also see Lk 8:14).  In time, man becomes a slave to the desires of his heart and separates himself from God (Rom 1:24; 2 Tm 4:3; Jas 1:14; 2 Pt 3:3; Jude 16, 18).  (Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: James, 130)


Most of us instinctively turn to government to solve our social problems.  It’s a habit reinforced from the time we’re young.

Listen to these quotations from the teachers’ edition of a fifth-grade social studies textbook.  “Today, when people lose their jobs,” the textbook says, “they can get some money from the government.”  A few pages later the book says, “Today, families who do not have enough money for food can get money from the government.”  A few pages later we read, “Today families who cannot afford to pay their rent can get help from the government.”

The message is obvious:  Government is the solution to every social need.

Here’s a remarkable quotation that sums it all up.  Explaining why the national government has grown so large, a junior-high civics textbook says that over time, “people were no longer content to live as their forefather had lived.  They wanted richer, fuller lives.  They wanted the government to help make their lives rich and full.” 

This goes far beyond the traditional philosophy of limited government, in which the state is given only certain specified tasks, such as operating a police force and regulating traffic.  And it shows that Americans have fallen prey to what political writer Jacques Ellul calls “the political illusion”:  the idea that government is actually capable of creating the good life, the good society.

This is nothing short of idolatry, treating the state as a god.

But like all idols, the state inevitably disappoints those who worship at its shrine.  A government that can’t even manage the simple accounting task of balancing its budget is certainly not capable of making people’s lives “rich and full”–not by turning to government but by turning to God.  The kingdoms of this world rise and fall, but the kingdom of God will rule in human hearts for eternity.  (Charles Colson, A Dangerous Grace, 125-6)


What other gods could we have besides the Lord?  Plenty.  For Israel there were the Canaanite Baals, those jolly nature gods whose worship was a rampage of gluttony, drunkenness, and ritual prostitution.  For us there are still the great gods Sex, Shekels, and Stomach (an unholy trinity constituting one god:  self), and the other enslaving trio, Pleasure, Possessions, and Position, whose worship is described as “The lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life” (1 Jn 2:16).  Football, the Firm, and Family are also gods for some.  Indeed the list of other gods is endless, for anything that anyone allows to run his life becomes his god and the claimants for this prerogative are legion.  In the matter of life’s basic loyalty, temptation is a many-headed monster.  (James Packer; Your Father Loves You)


What you see when the veil is drawn back on the many “spiritualities” of our day is that they are so many versions of idolatry.  They are nothing but human attempts to use human means to achieve identity and power for the individual.  Idolatry is marked by the will to use God for our purposes.  So many of our “spiritualities” today, including many that go under the name of “Christian,” are really forms of idolatry. (Dallas Willard; The Great Omission, 48)


So when people are tempted to break their covenant with God, we should remind them that God is a consuming fire.  Though the desire to save ourselves from punishment does not look like a very noble motive, if it keeps us from committing a terrible sin we should gratefully use it, as the Bible does.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 135)


When your loyalty is to God on weekends but only to the bottom line on weekdays, you’re driving a wedge between yourself and God.  It would be like saying to your spouse, “As long as I’m home, I’m committed to you.  But when I go off to work, well, I might fool around a little.”  That would create a rift in your relationship, wouldn’t it?  Similarly, if you’re living a fragmented faith, you’re saying to God, “I’m committed to you in certain areas of my life.  But you need to know that when I’m at work, I’ve got a mistress called my career.”  Doesn’t it make sense that this would stymie your relationship with him?   (Lee Strobel; God’s Outrageous Claims, 52)


So What?:  Jesus is your true love.  Everything else are imitation want-a-bes.  It is only in Christ that will you find true love and all its benefits.


Our Lord calls himself a “jealous” God; he won’t tolerate any rivals for our devotion, any divided loyalties.  He won’t put up with being in second place in the human heart.  After all he’s done for us, he has every right to say, “Christian, I want first place in your heart and your life.”  Every human being is going to spend eternity either permanently united to him or else perpetually divorced from him.  Christianity is either the most important thing there is in a person’s life, or else it’s the greatest lie ever foisted on human beings.  The one thing Christianity cannot be is moderately important.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 53)


If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith.  Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak.  We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.  We are far too easily pleased. (C. S. Lewis)  (John Piper, Desiring God, 88)






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