I told someone the other day God is jealous for us. The man looked at me, folded his arms and said with half a smile, “Yeah, I have a problem with that!” What would you say to that man?
If someone didn't believe God was a jealous God, I would assume that they didn't understand what “jealous” meant in that context. If you told someone they were jealous it would likely be taken as an insult to their character, so people have a hard time wrapping their minds around what that means.
I would explain God's jealousy is not envy, unlawful desirousness or covetousness, or any of the negative uses of the word “jealous.” Rather, when we speak of God’s jealousy we are referring to someone unlawfully taking something that belongs to you. For example: I would ask him if he would be jealous for his child if someone were trying to convince them to do drugs, or if they started hanging out with a group of kids who you knew would be a bad influence on them? What if a man was flirting with his wife and she seemed to be flattered? Jealousy would be warranted in those cases! If you weren’t jealous there would be something wrong with you. You would be passive and uncaring for your loved-ones.
The problem is that we don’t typically use the word “jealous” in this sense and that is why it is hard for people to grasp this attribute of God. In the 80’s Oprah Winfrey was sitting in Church, in her account she said the pastor was proclaiming, in cadence style, the names of God. As he was listing them he said, “God’s name is Jealous!” (Exodus 34:14.) She sat there and erroneously thought to herself, “God is jealous of me?” This was the turning point for Oprah who left the Church and plunged headlong into New-Age Christian Mysticism. She has mingled demonic spiritualism it with her Christian roots and has now lead millions astray. She didn’t stop to think that she might be taking God’s jealousy the wrong way. What is ironic is that now God is jealous of her because she is drawing people away from Jesus!
The Bible is clear that God is jealous for us when we go after idols, false religions or things that pull us away from Him -- simply because we rightly belong to Him. For anyone who would take just a moment to look they would see God’s jealousy for us is one of love and care.
Take heed to yourself, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land where you are going, lest it be a snare in your midst. But you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images (for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God),
'You shall have no other gods before Me. 'You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
So too we should be jealous for our friends and family when they stray or go after false gods or false religion. Paul said to the Corinthians, “For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.”
(2 Corinthians 11:2-3)