The zealousness of God has had a bad rap over recent years. Apparently it’s no longer cool for God to be portrayed as either enthusiastic or strong-willed. The modern preference is for a tame, accommodating sort of God who just wants to get along with everyone and knows His place, which is clearly not meddling in world affairs or imposing His opinions on ‘enlightened’ mankind.
The prophet Isaiah envisaged God in a very different way:
For He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on His head;
He put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloak. (Is. 59:17)
Another version says: He wrapped Himself in a cloak of divine passion. (NLT)
What kind of God wraps Himself in passion? One who is intense, focused and zealous about what He intends to accomplish. One for Whom, when we see that cloak approaching, it would be wise to move out of the way.
The zealousness of God is as much a part of His character as are His gentleness and forbearance. The fact that the Bible portrays God as a kind and loving Father does not negate the fact that He is also ‘a consuming fire’ (Deu. 4:24, Heb. 12:29).The same Jesus who gathered children in His arms and fed the hungry multitude fashioned a whip with His own hands, scattering men and animals who dishonored His Father’s house (Jn . 2:15-17).
Let’s not be naïve. The One who once came as the suffering Lamb being meekly led to slaughter is returning as the conquering, risen Lamb with fire-filled eyes and authority to rule the nations with an iron rod (Rev. 1:12-16; 2:27). At the sight of Him one of His closest friends, the apostle John, fainted (Rev.1:17). Hmmm….not the typical Christmas card image is it?
So what is zealousness? One way to define it is an intense fervor of spirit. The Old Testament Hebrew word ‘qinah’ can mean ‘ardor, indignation, anger”, or even “jealousy”. People can be zealous about many causes but if the object of our zeal is not Christ, that zeal is misdirected. For instance, it was religious zeal that led Saul, later called Paul, to persecute the church (Phl. 3:6). Jesus also chose a ‘zealot’, so called because of his apparent former devotion to Judaism, as one of the twelve (Lk. 6:14-16 NASB). Fallen human zeal is particularly dangerous when combined with the religious spirit which renders it counter-productive to the authentic purposes of God.
It was the passionate, zealous nature of God that was instrumental in the creation of humanity. “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness….” was the thought uppermost in the mind of Father, Son and Spirit (Gen. 1:26). God intensely desired to create a being who would reflect His own perfect nature back to Him, through whom He could express His own multi-faceted personality and with whom He could enjoy perfect communion.
God has never let go of that intense zeal to have mankind walk beside Him in unbroken, perfect fellowship. It still burns within Him as fervently as it did at the dawn of creation. That zeal is founded on divine hope and God’s divine hope will not be averted, nor, ultimately, will it be disappointed.
It was because of that zealous, determined hope that God became man in Jesus Christ. It was because of that zealous, determined hope that Christ endured the humiliation and agony of the Cross. It was because of that zealous, determined hope that the Spirit moved heaven and earth to raise Christ from the grave. And it is because of that zealous, determined hope that Christ continues to fervently pursue a called out, holy people as His Bride.
Nothing in Heaven or earth can derail God’s zealous hope from being fulfilled. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are perfectly united in their passionate pursuit of the fulfillment of their original vision: to have a people in Their image and Their likeness.
At the very centre of zealousness is always something considered worth fighting for, even dying for. Sadly, many men and women throughout history have laid down their lives for misdirected causes, and still do.
God, in His perfect zealousness, has considered us worth fighting and dying for. Further, He is not ashamed to be called ‘jealous’ over us because His jealousy is not a human, carnal jealousy. It is holy.
The zealousness of God towards us has not diminished. We are His cause, we are His passion, and we are the direct object of His divine zeal. It is a zeal frightening in its power, all consuming in its purpose and formidable in its determination to see things through until the Bride is established in perfect communion with the Bridegroom.
This ardent passion of Christ for His Bride cannot be underestimated. It is His zeal for His Bride that is so beautifully expressed prophetically in Song of Songs:
You have made my heart beat faster, my sister, my bride; you have made my heart beat faster with a single glance of your eyes, with a single strand of your necklace. (SOS 4:9)
As inconvenient as it may seem to some, this God of ours is a consuming fire. Those who feel uncomfortable with this truth should consider adjusting their attitude, or get out of His way.
© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2013 Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included. To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.