Our God is a jealous God. He is jealous over His own glory and the faithfulness of His people. His jealousy is based on who He is and His covenant relationship with His people. Therefore, unlike unregenerate man, His jealousy is justified, righteous and devoid of any sinful passions.

As God’s covenant people, we are also expected to be jealous over His honour and the faithfulness of His people. Some biblical examples of god-ly human jealousy include:

Phinehas (Numbers 25:1-15)
The godly jealousy of Phinehas is spoken of in Numbers 25:11. “Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, hath turned my wrath away from the children of Israel, while he was zealous (jealous) for my sake among them, that I consumed not the children of Israel in my jealousy.” (Num. 25:11)

Balaam, the false prophet, was prevented from cursing Israel by the LORD. Whenever he opened his mouth to pronounce a curse, blessing would flow from his lips. However, Balaam wanted the riches from Balak, the king of Moab. Therefore, he came out with a crafty and devious plan. He understood the only way Israel could get hurt was if they sinned against God. Thus, he sprung the beauty trap (美人计) on the children of Israel. Enamoured by the daughters of Moab, the Israelites committed whoredom before the LORD. These strange women soon led the silly men to worship their gods. It was little wonder that the anger of the LORD was kindled against the children of Israel, resulting in the declaration of an order for all who were joined to Baal-Peor to be slain before the LORD.

Alas, despite this order, one man brazenly demonstrated his affection for a Midianitish woman in public! This was rebellion of the highest order. If allowed to persist, the congregation of Israel could be led away to whore-dom, and the name of Jehovah would be dishoured. Something must be done for righteousness sake! It was at this point that Phinehas stood up for the LORD, thrusting his javelin through the offending man and woman. 

The expression “while he was zealous for my sake among them” is literally “in his jealousy with my jealousy among them”. Phinehas slew the offending man not because he wanted a name for himself. Rather, he was concerned for God’s honour, and the faithfulness of God’s people. His jealousy was based on the jealousy of God. Therefore, he meted justice on the Lord’s behalf.

On the account of his godly jealousy, Phinehas was rewarded with the covenant of peace and the everlasting priesthood of Israel. “And that was counted unto him (Phinehas) for righteousness unto all generations for evermore.” (Ps. 106:31 KJV) Those who love the LORD above all shall be richly blessed.

Elijah (1 Kings 18; 19:10)
Elijah said in 1 Kings 19:10, “I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts.” Such jealousy for God was rare in an age of religious syncretism in the Northern Kingdom. The people were worshipping the LORD AND Baal. God therefore raised Elijah to prophesy against this rising tide of apostasy. At Mount Carmel, Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal and the prophets of the grove to see who could call fire from heaven. “… and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God.” (1 Kings 18:24)

The rest of the account is well-known. The prophets of Baal failed, but the prayer of Elijah prevailed. At the end of the miracle, the people shouted, “The LORD, he is the God; the LORD, he is the God.” (1 Kings 18:39) The prophets of Baal were subsequently slain at the brook Kishon. The LORD was glorified because of Elijah’s godly jealousy and bravery.

However, word soon reached the ears of Jezebel, who threatened to kill Elijah. The reaction of the people in support of Jezebel caused Elijah to flee beyond Beersheba and unto Mount Horeb. He expected the results of his jealousy to have a lasting impact on Israel, but that was not the case. God had to remind him that results often came not through the spectacular, but by the quiet workings of God’s spirit in the hearts of men. All he needed was to let God take care of the results. Beware how self-pity can damp our zeal for the LORD! 

David (Psalm 69:9)
In Psalm 69:9, David wrote, “For the zeal (jealousy) of thine house hath eaten me up; and the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me.” David was expressing his desire that God’s name be magnified in the midst of His inhabitation. He wanted the worship of God to be pure in the tabernacle. This jealousy for God’s name to be upheld in God’s house was so strong that it consumed David’s entire being like fire! He was even willing to take reproaches from others to ensure that God would be honoured in His designated place of worship.

This jealousy for God’s house can be seen in David’s desire to build a temple for God. Nevertheless, it was not God’s will for him to do so but his son. However, such was David’s jealousy for God’s glory that he still did his best to prepare as much resources he could gather for the future building of the temple. David testified to his son Solomon, “Now, behold, in my trouble I have prepared for the house of the LORD an hundred thousand talents of gold, and a thousand thousand talents of silver; and of brass and iron without weight; for it is in abundance: timber also and stone have I prepared; and thou mayest add thereto.” (1 Chronicles 22:14) Do you have such zeal for God’s work?

Psalm 69:9 is also used later to describe the Son of David, the Lord Jesus Christ, as he cleansed the temple (John 2:17). The presence of the money-changers and those who used religion to make a profit angered Christ greatly, for they had turned the house of God into a house of merchandise and a den of thieves (Matt. 21:13).

Similarly, godly jealousy demands us that we should also guard the worship of God zealously. It starts first with the saints approaching God with clean hands and pure hearts. We should also be careful to make sure that all elements of worship are according to Scripture and God-honouring. How serious are you therefore as you come to worship God in His house? Beware, an indifferent attitude in worship is a sign that we lack godly jealousy!

Dear readers, godly jealousy is commanded of every Christian. We must guard Christ’s name and honour jealously. Is He not our Master and our Saviour? Sadly, we are often more jealous of our own honour than Christ’s. Many will rise up in defiance when their name is under attack, but remain meek like a mouse when Christ’s Word is blasphemed. How tragic! Let us therefore pray that the Lord will grant us godly jealousy, just like the testimony of witnesses who had run before us.

Lovingly in Christ,
Preacher Clement Chew