People often recoil from these two J words. Judgement and jealousy can sound like horrible aspects of the Lord’s character. But actually when you put the two together, you see a very different picture.
Judgement and jealousy are regularly twinned in the bible:
Ex 20:5; 34:14; Deut 4:24; 5:9; 6:15; 29:20; 32:16,21; Josh 24:19; 1 Kings 14:22; Ps 78:58; 79:5; Is 9:7; 26:11; 37:32; 42:13; 59:17; Ezek 5:13; 8:3ff; 16:38,42; 23:25; 35:11; 36:5; 36:6; 38:19; Joel 2:18; Zeph 1:18; 3:8; Zech 1:14; 8:2,3; 1 Cor 10:22; Heb 10:27
In fact Jealousy is at the very heart of the LORD’s character:
Exodus 34:14 Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.
Song of Solomon 8:6 …Love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the LORD.
Jealousy is the very Name and Flame of the LORD!
We baulk at this, having only negative connotations for ‘jealousy’. But…
a) The word in Hebrew and Greek can as well be translated zeal (in fact in Greek it is zelos! See the way it’s used in Rom 10:2 or Phil 3:6 for instance). In Hebrew it is derived from the word for ‘red’. It’s the idea of hot-blooded commitment.
b) The bible has all sorts of examples of good jealousy on a human level (e.g. 2 Cor 7:7,11; 9:2; 11:2)
c) Jealous love is – first of all – good, appropriate, hot-blooded, protective, possessive zealous ardour. Only secondarily does it imply opposition to rivals. And the existence of negative jealousy (e.g. Gal 5:20) is in fact a perversion of true jealous love. It is a zeal but not according to knowledge.
d) This is a good example of how all love must include a righteous jealousy or it’s not true love. Dr Braintree is not demonstrating true love to his wife because he’s not expressing real jealousy about Roger’s adultery…
So the God who is love is a Jealous God. That is His original and all-pervading nature.
Secondarily this implies a certain stance towards rivals – towards those who would threaten, steal, oppose or belittle His love. But this is absolutely secondary. Originally and to His very depths, God is love and the flame of His passion is the sunshine of His love.
However if and when rivals appear, that same flame will burn but with markedly different consequences:
Zephaniah 1:18 In the fire of His jealousy the whole world will be consumed, for He will make a sudden end of all who live in the earth.
Zephaniah 3:8 In the fire of my jealousy all the earth shall be consumed.
The whole world is headed for the flames. God will be all in all when He consumes the world. For those hidden by the LORD (Zephaniah means ‘The LORD Hides’) they will experience the sunshine of His love – as Zephaniah 3 goes on to describe. For those who stand apart from their Refuge it will be a judging, ravaging fire.
Same flames – very different experience.
“How can a God of love judge?” cries the outraged sceptic.
Well there should be outrage in that question. But it shouldn’t be outrage towards God. The great tragedy is that there are rivals to the love of God.
As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel? (Ezekiel 33:11)
Judgement is not necessary as though the flames burn brighter when the wicked are fuel. That would be like saying that jealous marital love requires adultery. No. Judgement is the strange and alien work of the LORD (Isaiah 28:21). But, when confronted with rivals, it’s the work of the LORD who burns with love.
It should be very obvious from this that love and judgement are not incompatible.