Beit Gamaliel

The House of Gamaliel: The confluence of knowledge and faith.

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Turns Out God is a Little Jealous

I was in California a few years back and was listening to a special speaker at a men’s breakfast. The speaker was not some well-known evangelist. Just an accountant who turned to faith in God. His telling of his story was what interested me. He talked of his life before he came to faith as if he were just a robot–a pawn moving square to square on the chessboard of life, at the mercy of some benevolent or malicious force.

As his story unfolded, he referred to a moment when his “spirit was awakened” inside of him. It was this moment that he had a revelation, or an epiphany, or some other significant moment of clarity wherein he realized he was mortal and lost.

I reflected on my own walk of faith and found it to be similar. While I was floundering, and chasing every hedonistic and self-serving idea that floated into my braid, I was dissatisfied, empty and desiring something of value. One night, my spirit was also awakened inside of me. I suddenly had a sense that there was the physical, self-seeking me, and, on the the other side, I had a realization that there was a voice in me that desired good, truth, morality. These were suddenly at odds.

Exodus 20:5 states that God is a jealous God. What is he jealous of? The passage is the second of the ten commandments and, contextually indicates that He is jealous if we create idols and worship those. However, immediately following He seems to issue this qualifier:

“…visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”

It appears as though God recognizes this conflict between wanting to have other gods, and wanting to love and keep God’s commandments.

The Christian new testament adds an interesting dimension in James 4:

Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”?

I am not confident that the word Spirit refers to the divine spirit in this passage. An enemy of God is a person who is friends with the world. However, God has made a spirit dwell in us, and for that spirit He is jealous.

The great Jewish sage, Chofetz Chaim believed that man had an evil inclination–all men are bent toward doing what is wrong–and that is our greatest obstacle in life. But when God rejuvenates a man’s spirit, it comes alive inside of that man and he begins to desire fellowship with God. And, at that point, God becomes jealous for that spirit.

God created us physically. But he also created us spiritually. Inside every man is a spirit that must be awakened to his own nakedness and shame. And, once awakened, that spirit can begin to bring the physical into subjection and control.

May our spirits awaken daily to our jealous God Who desires our communion and sole worship over all else.

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