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Our Jealous God

3rd Sunday in Lent

March 4, 2018

Lincoln Heights Lutheran Church

Our Jealous God


Exodus 20:1–6 (NIV84)
And God spoke all these words: 2 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 3 You shall have no other gods before me. 4 You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Dear Friends in Christ,

Joseph was the favorite son of Jacob. His brothers knew it because Jacob gave Joseph a very fine robe to wear, better than what the brothers had. Joseph was not humble about his position as favorite either. God gave him a dream that showed his brothers’ sheaves of wheat bowing to him. In another dream, the sun, moon and eleven stars bowed down to Joseph. God showed that Joseph would one day be ruler over even his family. But Joseph told his family these dreams and the Bible tells us that the brothers were jealous of Joseph.

This is sinful jealousy. The brothers were angry that Joseph received more stuff and more love from their father. They just knew that Joseph did not deserve this. They were being treated unfairly and they should have what Joseph has. They were jealous. Their jealousy led them to sell Joseph into slavery and bring back the richly ornamented robe ripped and covered with blood to convince Jacob that Joseph had been killed by a wild animal. It was sin for these brothers to be jealous. This sin of jealousy led to many and great sins by Joseph’s brothers.

Most of the time, the word jealous is in the context of sin. For us sinful humans, it is very difficult to be jealous without sin. But God describes himself as jealous several times in the Old Testament. Of course, our God does not and cannot sin. His jealousy must be different. What is God telling us by describing himself as jealous? Today, we look at Our Jealous God. Our Jealous God Warns Us. Our Jealous God Loves Us.

Our Jealous God Warns Us

You shall have no other gods before me. 4 You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,

The Lord himself speaks these words to his people. It has only been a couple of months since the people of Israel left Egypt. God has rescued them, provided manna and quail for them, and given them water in the wilderness. Now God gathers his people around Mount Sinai and speaks the Ten Commandments to them. Many times God speaks through a prophet to his people. But this time he speaks directly to his people. No one can claim that these are just suggestions from Moses. No one can claim that the Commandments are not for them. God speaks to everyone.

These commandments carry with them a warning. God is a jealous God and will punish those who hate him by disobeying his commands. The Lord attaches this warning to the First Commandment – You shall have no other gods before me. The one, true God is jealous in that he does not want us to give any attention to other gods. Our jealous God wants our full attention and devotion. He will not tolerate being just one among many gods in our life. He must be the first and only God we have.

We might think that this is an easy one. We know there is only one God, the Triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are not going to bow down to a statue. We won’t pray to Allah or Buddha. We won’t worship the sun, moon and stars.

The Israelites knew there is only one God too. They had seen the Lord in action as he divided the Red Sea so the people could walk through and then destroyed the Egyptian army that pursued them in the same Sea. They saw all the plagues the Lord brought against Egypt to free God’s people. The gods of the Egyptians were shown to be powerless and nonexistent. But you know what happened when the people finally settled in the Promised Land.

They looked around and were sinfully jealous of the unbelievers around them. They saw nations led by a human king and demanded that God give them a king to lead them. God wasn’t good enough anymore. Earthly peace and power became a god. They saw the unbelievers near them and wanted to marry them. Instead of the Lord and his Word remaining first in their life, they compromised with their new family by allowing false gods to be worshiped along with the true God. Marital and family peace became a god. The people looked at the power and wealth of their neighbors. If they are worshiping a certain god and get rich doing it, maybe we should try. If they are more powerful than us, maybe we should pray to the god they pray to. Power and wealth became their gods. The people were jealous of what others had and made the Lord just one of many gods in their lives.

Sinful jealousy can lead us to the worship of other gods too. Martin Luther’s explained what it means to have a god by writing: “A god is that to which we look for all good and in which we find refuge in every time of need” (Large Catechism). We look around and see people in this world who have it all. They have the house, the car, the nice neighborhood, the career, the vacation spots and so on. Why hasn’t God given me that. I would be so happy with those things. I’m going to go after those things. I’m going to make it my life’s goal to get those things because then I will be happy. And our god becomes material things because these things are the source of good in our life.

Or we look around and see someone with talents we don’t have such as athletic abilities, musical, speaking, arts, academic, mechanical and so on. Why didn’t God give me the talent to do that? I’m upset that I can’t do that. My life would be good if I could only do that. And again we have introduced a new god into our lives, the god of our own abilities.

We allow the gods of pleasure, wealth, power, popularity, and many more to stand beside the one, true God in our lives. Our God is a jealous God who will not allow any one or any thing or any idea to stand as his equal. The Lord will punish all who fear, love and trust in other gods – those who do not know him as well as those who allow the Lord to be in a tie for first in their lives. We have been warned.

Our Jealous God Loves Us

But the warning is given because our jealous God loves us.

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

The first words that God speaks to the people at Mount Sinai are not law. These words are not a warning, not a threat of punishment. These words are gospel. God tells the people who he is and what he has done for their good. First he reminds the people who he is.

He is the LORD, all capital letters. This is God’s personal name in the Old Testament. It is the name that reminds the people of what God called himself when he spoke to Moses in the burning bush. “I AM WHO I AM,” God declared to Moses not that long ago. This is the God who has always been and will always be, the God who is without beginning or end.

And the Lord is the only saving God. He rescued them from their bondage in Egypt. He showed them mercy and love by hearing their cries and delivering them from their enemies. The Lord did everything for them. He is a jealous God in that he does not want to ever lose those he has saved. He loved his people and wanted them to be his forever.

He still loves people and in Christ has shown that love to all people. Though we have given room in our hearts and lives to other gods, the Lord is not willing to lose us. Instead of giving us what we deserve for breaking the First Commandment and all the others, our jealous God sends his Son, Jesus Christ, to suffer the punishment we deserve. God the Father punishes his own Child to set us free from the bondage to sin and death. The Lord has rescued us, forgiven us, saved us. He is jealous for us in the best way possible. He wants us to remain his children now on earth and forever in heaven.

Jealousy can be good or bad. Think of a jealous boyfriend or girlfriend. Such a person could issue a threat to harm the other if they were to break up with them. That kind of threat or warning is not done out of love for the other but out of love for self. God often compares himself to a faithful husband in the Scriptures. Believers, we are his bride. The Lord gives us a warning not to go after another husband, another god. But this warning is given in love for us. The Lord knows that he is the only Savior and that anyone who rejects him will be lost forever. Our jealous God only wants what is best for us and that is to fear, love and trust in him above all things.

Every commandment of the Lord will show us our sin. However, we must also look at the commandments as God gives them to us. He gives them in love. He gives these commandments to the people he has saved. We praise and thank the Lord for saving us and therefore gladly obey what he commands.