I’ve struggled with the idea of God being jealous. Jealousy and envy seem like such human, base emotions – beneath God, in a way. But scripture tells and shows us examples where God expresses them.
I think part of my trouble in grasping this has been that I’ve defined jealousy by my own experience of it. I found these synonyms in my Roget’s Thesaurus – “envious, grudging, jaundiced” – and could immediately relate to them. I know all too clearly how jealousy toward a person or prize eats away my self-esteem. And after each episode, I’ve ended up both resentful and a little ashamed.
Is that what God goes through when he feels jealousy? No – I believe His experience is vastly different. For one thing, my own bouts with jealousy are rooted in insecurity – someone else has or is what I think I need. God is complete, and has no need of anything. He is totally secure. Also, to be honest, my longings are self-centered – the object of my ‘affection’ will benefit me first. In contrast, God’s longings are for our good: freely giving grace and peace to us, and making our lives better by His presence.
The Merriam-Webster definition of “jealous” paints a powerful picture: “intolerant of rivalry or unfaithfulness” and “vigilant in guarding a possession.” This evokes an image of God watching over and protecting something He already has and greatly cherishes. Rather than trying to grab hold of something out of fear or lack, God reaches down with deep love from a place of strength.
It turns out, the real struggle for me in looking at God’s jealousy isn’t in accepting that He feels it, but in accepting that the Lord of the Universe loves and desires me that much.