Summary: God is not jealous as we so often are - his jealousy is a reflection of his love.
The God Who Is Jealous
Cascades Fellowship CRC, JX MI
July 19, 2009
Series: Little Letters – the Forgotten Wisdom of the Bible.
“God is love.”
So says the apostle John in 1 John 4:8. We know that God is love because he has demonstrated it through the cross. We know that God is the source and well-spring of love because he sent his Son, Jesus Christ, as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. God is love.
And we like that description of God, don’t we? It gives us the warm-fuzzies. When we think of love all kinds of pictures pop into our heads – the thrill and intimacy of romance; getting to know someone as well as you know yourself. Then there is the warmth and security of a parent’s love; being held gently in their arms, feeling safe from every harmful and frightening thing as you drift into the fog of sleep. We also think of the comforting and familiar love of family and friends.
Love brings to us a myriad of these balmy, soothing images. God is love – balmy and soothing. Is that what John is talking about?
That seems to be the general idea that many who quote this verse want John to be talking about. They always seem to pit God’s love against any form of his justice. In fact, many have been brought to the conclusion that talk of hell or eternal punishment is inconsistent with the Gospel message because “God is love.”
Sounds nice; sounds reassuring – sounds like the kind of God we all want, the kind that doles out blessings of every kind and winks indulgently at our little mistakes and indiscretions, “You’ll do better next time,” we imagine him saying.
But what we call “mistakes and indiscretions” he calls sin and iniquity and transgression and offensive and rebellion – even abomination. And he does far more than wink at us indulgently, which is why John mentions how we know God is love – we know it because he proved it at the cross… while we were yet sinners and enemies of God, Christ died for the ungodly.
No…., rebellion against God’s reign and transgression of his law must be dealt with, one way or the other. His hatred of sin runs so deep that he was willing to walk the avenues of death to defeat it – to destroy it by overthrowing the source of its power. God is jealous for what is his, he will repay.
Wait – if God is love how can he be jealous?
Enter the prophet Nahum. I was talking to our intern the other day about this series out of the Book of Nahum and he relayed a conversation he had with a friend. He was telling this friend that he was preparing a sermon out of the third chapter of Nahum and the friend said, “Nahum, what’s Nahum?”
“A book of the Bible” Caleb replied.
“No it isn’t!” his friend said.
“Yes, it is – he’s in the Minor Prophets….”
Now, perhaps some of you this morning thought the same thing when you looked at the text in the bulletin, “Nahum, what’s Nahum?” And if you did, don’t be too hard on yourself. If I were deprived of every digit on my body, I could still count the number of sermons I have heard on Nahum. The book detailing Nahum the Elkoshite’s prophecy is the epitome of the little letters that form forgotten wisdom of the Bible. In my Christian life I have heard exactly zero sermons on Nahum, have read only 1 sermon and so this morning as I preach from the Book of Nahum I am breaking new ground in my own life.
Perhaps one of the reasons we hear so little from the Book of Nahum is that we really know so little about the author and only a little more about his times. We know he was from Elkosh, but we’re not really sure where Elkosh was. Some say Capernaum – making the connection between Nahum and the “naum” in Capernaum. They suggest that the city was renamed for its most famous citizen. But truth be told – we just don’t know for certain.
We also know that the prophet’s name means “comfort,” which is very appropriate for his message, which we will see as the series unfolds. And we are certain that he lived somewhere in the mid-600’s BC – sometime between 663 BC and 612 BC. The earlier date – that is the 663 BC – we know because Nahum mentions the fall of Thebes in chapter 3 – and 663 is when Thebes fell. The later date, 612 BC we know because the things Nahum foresees happen in 612 BC.
Now typically, when a prophet came prophesying, he usually had something to say to God’s people about their sin and unless they repented God was going to bring judgment upon them. But Nahum was a little different.