The Divine Jealousy

by Ray Hawkins

God jealous! You must be joking. That would probably be our first impression, for we are creatures of dust with passions twisted by sin, so we usually see this emotion of jealousy only in its distorted ravages. But we must remember that God is holy, and it is from this 'spring' that His people, covenants and creation stem.

When calling the Israelite nation into a covenant relationship with Himself, the Lord God impressed upon them this point: "You shall not bow down to them (carved images) nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God . . . " (Exodus 20:5).

The consequences of idolatry, disobedience and stubbornness would flow not only from the Lord as Judge, but from Him as Lover whose care is despised and abused.

God's Jealousy Over Jerusalem

Strange as it may appear to us, God is jealous for His land. It was this Divine jealousy that removed the former inhabitants from the land, for they had polluted it with their idolatry and moral abuses. The Bible puts the anguish in the 'mouth' of the land a number of times so that it cries out to God for deliverance.

This seems to be the picture in Joel 2:18 when God will once again "be jealous for his land, and pity his people" after seeing it abused and tortured. What a day of reckoning it will be for those nations who fill that land with blood!

In the writings of Zechariah we discover that God is jealous for the city of Jerusalem. It is a concept that seems to overwhelm the prophet as he conveys it to the people. The implications are so staggering that even after the Babylonian exile and destruction of Jerusalem God reclaims Jerusalem for His own.

The Jews returned from seventy comparatively peaceful and prosperous years in Babylon, returned with zeal and hope to make Judea and Jerusalem live again, only to find it ruined and cowering. After an initial effort, when local inhabitants failed to respond and many non-Jewish settlers became obstructive, their vision was strangled.

The dream of rebuilding the Temple saw only a nightmare framework erected before the project ceased. Doubt began to eat out their faith and hope. Had the captivity annulled God's covenant with Abraham and David? Were they spiritual orphans, easy prey for idolatrous wolves surrounding them? If there were no ready clear-cut answers then Israel was doomed. But the answers given by Haggai and Zechariah held good – the nation came to life in May 1948!

"Thus says the LORD of hosts: 'I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with great zeal'" (Zechariah 1:14).

God jealous for that broken-down piece of rubble? God still concerned for a scattered and dejected nation? Impossible it would seem! But praise His name it's true. "The LORD will again comfort Zion, and will again choose Jerusalem" (Zechariah 1:17).

In the days of Haggai and Zechariah, it was like the Prince's kiss to Sleeping Beauty, when, awakening from the sleep of self-pity and hopelessness the nation began flexing its faith. To the work! The Temple is to be built. The Lord has not forgotten us. The symbol of His presence must be completed. He still has a purpose to accomplish and some blessings to bestow.

We can imagine the hostile reactions of hostile people surrounding Israel. Why would God still want to set His name there? The question has a familiar ring to it, and the answers will be found in God's faithfulness and His plan to redeem Israel and save the world from sin and eternal separation.

God made an eternal covenant with Abraham. It was unconditional and did not rest on the worthiness of Abraham's descendants through Isaac and Jacob. It rested upon His own Word. The nation might rebel, be misruled and be exiled, but it would not be cancelled out.

Then too the Lord made an eternal covenant with David. This lover of God was promised a descendant who would rule for ever. " . . . I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom . . . and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever . . . and your house and your kingdom shall be established for ever before you. Your throne shall be established for ever" (2 Samuel 7:12-16).

Once again no mention is made of conditions, nor is a time given when that descendant would commence His reign.

Zechariah was aware that God's purpose was bound up in the Temple. The sacrifices had to be resumed so that when the One came to fulfil their meaning it would not happen in a void. The great annual festivals had to be revived so that the people would come to Jerusalem from afar to worship. So, strengthened by faith and righteousness the people had a mind to work, though it was certainly not an impressive edifice that emerged from the rubble. It could not compare with Solomon's temple; indeed some of the "old men, who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this temple was laid" (Ezra 3:12).

Nevertheless it was to feel the tread in years to come of One greater than Solomon.

The King is Coming

Zechariah 9:9 tells of One who was to come: "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; he is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey."

This was one of the signs by which the Messiah, the inheritor of David would be recognized. It is possible that the nation, being without a king for so long, would need the dovetailing of historical fact and heavenly calling to verify the One who was great David's greater Son.

We have the verification of such an event recorded by four Jewish men – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John the son of Zebedee. "They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them, and set him (Yeshua) upon them . . . then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: 'Hosanna to the son of David! "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!" Hosanna in the highest!"

"All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: 'Tell the daughter of Zion, "Behold, your King is coming to you, lowly, and sitting on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey"'" (Matthew 21:7-9,4,5).

This acclaimed Prophet and Healer was the fulfilment of Zechariah's prophecy; the people could not help but proclaim the event; in fact, if they kept silent "the stones would immediately cry out" (Luke 19:40).

It is to Daniel 9:24-27 that we turn to appreciate why the stones would scream out. He revealed the very time and day when the Messiah would come and claim the Kingdom; when indeed He would be "cut off" , and it has been calculated by the Astronomer-royal Sir Robert Anderson that Daniel's prophecy was fulfilled to the very day when He was "cut off". Zechariah too said He would be pierced (12:10).

How sad and useless it would be if that were the end of the road for Mankind's salvation. How devastating it would be if the tomb were His lot and not the throne. He conquered the 'cutting off' by His resurrection, and His victory is Israel's and the Gentiles' hope of salvation.

It was not the time at His first coming for the Messiah to set up His kingdom, just as it was not the time for the glory of the house of the Lord to return in the days of Haggai and Zechariah. But the day will come because God remains jealous for Jerusalem.

"For thus says the LORD of hosts: 'Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory . . . the glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former, says the LORD of hosts" (Haggai 2:6-9).

In Zechariah 14 is the graphic account of the return of the Messiah. The first time he came in peace to bring atonement for salvation; the next time He will come with a sword to deliver His "kinsmen according to the flesh" (Letter to the Romans 9:3) from the slaughter of the nations.

"And the LORD shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be – 'The LORD is one, and his name one'" (Zechariah 14:9), and the prophet goes on to say: "And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles" (14:16).

When the Messiah returns to set up His kingdom we will appreciate just why He is jealous for His tortured city. "Thus says the LORD of hosts: 'I am jealous for Zion with great zeal; with great fervour I am jealous for her . . . I will return to Zion, and dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. Jerusalem shall be called The City of Truth, The Mountain of the LORD of hosts, The Holy Mountain'" (Zechariah 8:2,3).

"At that time Jerusalem shall be called The Throne of the LORD, and all nations shall be gathered to it, to the name of the LORD, to Jerusalem; they shall walk no more after the stubbornness of their evil heart" (Jeremiah 3:17).

We need to place ourselves under the protection of the Divine jealousy. We need to make this covenant-keeping eternally-faithful Lord God our Redeemer and Master. He has invited us to share His glory with Him by grace, not by our merit or status but by our response to His grace.

The moment we claim Him as Lord He has promised to come and dwell within, and so we may begin to taste the wonder of God's indwelling joy and peace and Person. It is a foretaste of what Ezekiel prophesied for the closing days of history for Jerusalem: "The LORD is there."