By Femi Aribisala.
“Because Christians have provoked God to jealousy, God is also determined to make Christians jealous.”
Why is it that God heals some people and leaves others unhealed? Why is it that at healing crusades, unbelievers often get healed while Christians are not? Why is it that new believers start speaking in tongues while old believers don’t? Why is it that being a Christian does not guarantee that we are the most favoured and successful at whatever we do?
One basic reason often overlooked is that God is a jealous God. Moses says: “Jehovah, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” (Exodus 34:14). Accordingly, God often acts out of jealousy and he does many things in order to provoke his people to jealousy. God says to the Christian: “Seal me in your heart with permanent betrothal, for love is strong as death, and jealousy is as cruel as the grave. It flashes fire, the very flame of Jehovah.” (Song of Solomon 8:6).
Pilgrims in foreign land
God told Abraham his descendants would be strangers in a foreign land where they would be afflicted for some four hundred years. (Genesis 15:13). Why must they be strangers in a foreign land? Why must they be afflicted for four hundred years before God would bring about their salvation?
The reason is that the gospel must be true to life. The gospel is designed to impress on the Jews and all believers that this world is not our home. Heaven is where we belong: “For we are here for but a moment, strangers in the land as our fathers were before us.” (1 Chronicles 29:15).
Therefore, the gospel is better preached to the Israelites when they are prisoners in a strange land. A man in captivity in Egypt is in need of salvation from his jailers. Therefore, he is more than likely to be receptive to a gospel of salvation from this world of sin.
This indicates that God expects the believer to be implacably anti-establishment; we must not conform to the world. (Romans 12:2). But when, in spite of this, we still love the world instead of the kingdom of God, we provoke God to jealousy. James warns: “Don’t you know that if you love the world, you are God’s enemies? And if you decide to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4).
When Christians love money instead of God, we provoke God to jealousy. When we emphasise the flesh and ignore the spirit, we provoke God to jealousy.
God is jealous when Christians spend hours reading novels instead of his word. He is jealous because, even though he has told us man does not live by bread alone (Matthew 4:4); nevertheless we still prefer physical bread to spiritual bread; which is the word of God. As happened to Asa, God is jealous when sick Christians look first to doctors before looking to him; the author of life. (2 Chronicles 16:12-13).
God is jealous when Christians prefer the company of men to the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, he acts in seemingly erratic fashion. He gives and then he takes away. He will give Isaac to Abraham and then later ask Abraham to sacrifice Isaac as proof of his devotion to God. If Jacob’s heart is set on Rachel and not on Leah, he will shut up the womb of the beloved Rachel and make the hated Leah fertile.
Even though Sarah was ten years younger than Abraham, God will take Sarah away at the age of 127 years, while Abraham will be kept alive without Sarah for another thirty-eight years until the age of 175. He will take away Ezekiel’s wife in the prime of her life, without seeming regard for the feelings of Ezekiel. (Ezekiel 24:16-17).
Vengeance of God
How can we reject the fountain of living waters in preference for broken cisterns and not suffer the consequences? How can we despise the mercies of God and not expect to be punished? The scriptures warn that one day God’s jealousy is going to be explosive. (Zephaniah 3:8).
In the meantime, God’s vengeance has already begun among Christians and in our churches. Peter warns us about this: “The time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God. (1 Peter 4:17). Because Christians have provoked God to jealousy, God is also determined to make Christians jealous. He pays us back in our own currency. Jesus says: “With that measure which you measure, it shall be measured to you.” (Matthew 4:24).
If we won’t believe the truth of the gospel, God will make sure we will believe outright lies. When we refuse to grow in the things of God, Jesus says: “Everyone who has something will be given more, and they will have more than enough. But everything will be taken from those who don’t have anything.” (Matthew 25:29). Therefore, Isaiah cries out: “O LORD, why have you made us stray from your ways, and hardened our heart from your fear?” (Isaiah 63:17).
If we refuse to serve God at home, he will send us into captivity in his jealousy, so that we can serve strangers in a foreign land. (Jeremiah 5:19). If we reject his rule, he will ensure that children will be our princes and “babes” will rule over us. (Isaiah 3:4). If God is not the desire of our hearts, he will ensure that what we desire will be the death of us. (Psalm 78:29-31).
Rachel was obsessed with the desire to have a child. One day, she provoked her husband no end. “Give me children,” she demanded, “or I will die.” (Genesis 30:1). God answered her cry. She got two children and died. The children of Israel lusted after meat in the wilderness. God gave them what they wanted but sent leanness into their souls. (Psalm 106:15). When Israel asked for a king in preference to God, God gave them the kings they wanted, who later sent them back into captivity and forced labour. (1 Kings 5:13-18).
Since the Jews persisted in unbelief in spite of God’s entreaties and favour, God decided to shower his blessings on the Gentiles in order to provoke Israel to jealousy. He says: “I will provoke you to jealousy by those who are not a nation, I will move you to anger by a foolish nation.” “I was found by those who did not seek me; I was made manifest to those who did not ask for me.” (Romans 10:19-21).
By the same token, God is doing many things currently designed to make Christians jealous. Because many of us have disdained his out-stretched arm and rejected him, God has been showing favour to non-Christians; even those clearly undeserving of it in order to provoke Christians to jealousy. As a result, some unbelievers are going to end up in heaven, while many Christians will end up in hell.
This is the kingdom dynamic of salvation: “I will call them my people, who were not my people, and her beloved, who was not beloved. And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they shall be called sons of the living God.” (Romans 9:25-26).