Wednesday, February 14, 2007

“I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God…”

At the end of his First Commandment, God makes an astounding statement which could sum up all Ten Commandments. He says, “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments” (Exodus 20:5-6).

This statement is astounding! Why? Because God is supposed to be perfect. For God to admit that He is “jealous” sounds like something less than perfection.

This is because “jealous” can mean more than one thing. When sinful people are jealous, it is an imperfect, selfish kind of jealousy – as when a husband feels suspicious every time his wife goes out of the house, or when a child feels uneasy because her best friend has other friends. But what God means by “jealous” is different.

Consider this picture of the male whooper swan. Swans are often pictured as graceful, gentle birds. But they are also large and powerful, sometimes dangerous! The male swan becomes especially aggressive when it is protecting its nest and family from predators and thieves. If a swan charges you like this, move away quickly! Like many other creatures, swans are jealous over their vulnerable children!

This is what God means when he declares He is “a jealous God.” That is why He gave these Ten Commandments, especially the First Commandment (“Have no other gods”). There is only one real and living God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He is the only God who forgives sinners and gives eternal life to all who believe in Him. Any other “god” is a trick of the devil, to lead us astray and destroy us. Because God loves us and wants to save us, He is jealous over us, like a fierce father swan protecting his children from enemies.

To God, there is no “neutral ground.” Whatever you serve above all things, whatever you value above all things, is your god. In Matthew 16:13 Jesus says that you cannot serve two masters. In 1 Corinthians 10:20, Paul writes that anything sacrificed to an idol is sacrificed to demons. Paul concludes: “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons” (1 Corinthians 10:21). God does not wish to “share” you with another god, whether that “god” is a spirit, a person living or dead, a lifeless object, or even yourself.

So the reason God gives the commandments is to protect you from false gods and false religions, which belong to the devil. These gods or faiths can only lead you away from your Savior, Jesus Christ. They can only harm you, and in the end, lead you to everlasting death in hell. So a major purpose of the Ten Commandments is to warn God's children away from danger: to protect us from being misled by false teachers, bad examples, and our own sinful desires.

The Ten Commandments also protect us from being misled about what God does, and does not, expect of us. You can read God’s Law in the Bible; you can even learn the Ten Commandments by heart. In this way, God protects you from false teachers who invent new rules, commanding one thing and forbidding another that God’s Word does not command or forbid. God’s Law also shines a spotlight on our sins, to keep us from trusting in our works or gifts to make us acceptable to Him. For if the Law reminds you that you need God’s forgiveness, it has done its true work!

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