Titles of the Father – The Jealous One

Titles of the Father – The Jealous One

Titles of the Father – The Jealous One.

“Then Manoah, father of Samson, asked the Angel of Yahweh, ‘What is your name, so that we may honor you when your words come true?’ The Angel of Yahweh replied, ‘Why do you ask my name? It is a name of wonder. It is unknowable, and too wonderful for you to understand!'” (Judges 13:18).

Trying to determine a list of God’s titles in the Hebrew Bible can be a tricky business, a daunting task. For one thing, the differences between a name and a title are unclear and they often overlap. There are times, too, when one is tempted to consider a common noun or adjective or metaphor to be a title if it happens to reference God. And there are plenty of times when we read of a character description of God, or a unique ability of God, and we find ourselves turning them into titles. So the titles of the Father that I will highlight in this series is a list, not the list. For all I know, there may not even be a definitive list of God’s titles. I aim to provide varied glimpses of God the Father in the Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament… who He is, what He can do, what He represents, what He has done. Most importantly, I pray the readers of these titles are able to maintain the Jewish tradition of using God’s titles as ways of addressing the Almighty. As we address God in prayer and worship, may we feel free to put a capital letter at the beginning of each title, making the title an aspect of His identity. In that way each title could be another way to honor God and recognize His greatness.

“Do not worship any other god, for the Lord Yahweh, whose name is The Jealous One (Kanna), is a jealous God.”         (Ex. 34:14).

Isn’t it interesting that we worship a God who is characterized by jealousy? Scripture establishes clearly that jealousy is one of the attributes of God. This is difficult for us to understand, because we only know of human jealousy, something we are repeatedly told to avoid like the plague. Human jealousy is rooted in hurt pride, selfish anger, insecure envy, a possessive spirit, and suspicious resentment. Human jealousy reflects a troubled relationship. But godly jealousy reflects a healthy marital relationship, believe it or not. God pictures Himself as married to believers. He is intolerant of rivals in His love for us, because He knows we will only be blessed and fulfilled, we will only flourish, when we have an exclusive spiritual marriage to Him. With this mind, God is a holy, righteous and jealous husband. Here are various thoughts about God’s jealousy:

  1. God’s jealousy is an angered love that stays love.” Tim Keller;
  2. God’s jealousy is God continually seeking to protect His own honor.” Wayne Grudem;
  3. God’s jealousy is that passionate energy by which He is provoked and stirred to take action against whatever or whoever stands in the way of His enjoyment of what He loves and desires.” Sam Storms;
  4. God’s jealousy is a praiseworthy zeal on God’s part to preserve something supremely precious.” J. I. Packer;
  5. God’s jealousy comes from a holy indignation at having His honor and power scorned by unfaithfulness. God is the only Being for whom jealous passion for His own glory is a supreme act of love.” John Piper;
  6. “The intensity of God’s anger at threats to His relationship with us is directly proportionate to the depths of His love. God’s jealous pursuit of His own glory and fame is the most loving thing He could ever do for you.” Sam Storms;
  7. The jealousy of Yahweh is His profoundly intense drive within to protect the interests of His own glory.” Ray Ortlund.

Our God is a jealous God, and for all the right reasons, since He is perfect and pure in whatever happens to be motivating Him. God is characterized as a righteously jealous God, because He is truthHe is love, and He is impassioned.

God is truth. It follows, then, that He would be a perfect stickler for the truth. All the earthly idols that claim devotion are unworthy, so God stands on the truth of His worthiness. Anything else, and He wouldn’t be true to Himself. God is divinely impatient with untruth, He doesn’t abide it, He meets it straight on. He doesn’t want His people to be lured into any kind of untruth, into the belief that He is merely one option among many. That is a falsehood. His glory is the absolute fact of the universe. There is only one true God, and He refuses to share His glory with gods and idols, because that would be an utterly false thing to do. “I am Yahweh, that is my Name; I will not yield my glory to another, nor my renown to idols.” (Is. 42:8). God righteously harps on the truth, and He refuses to be misrepresented by false gods or empty idols. He is jealous that He be honored exclusively, because that is the truth of the matter. He fights untruth through divine jealousy. He will forever reject a tainting of His sacred Name, because He is a warrior for the truth. God’s Name has been truthfully honored and worshiped for eternity in the heavens, and so naturally He would say, “I will be jealous for my holy Name.” (Ezek. 39:25).

God is love. He wants what is best for us. He wants to see us flourish. His jealousy seems to spring into action when His people, all people, are distracted from trusting Him exclusively. If He didn’t love us, He wouldn’t be jealous over our unfaithfulness, over things that lead us astray into self-destruction. God is true to His nature of love when He expresses His jealousy for us. What does one expect from a loving God, that He would simply shrug His shoulders and let “fate’ have its way? God considers Himself married to His people, bound by a covenant of love that is founded upon faithfulness. When there is idolatry of any kind, He becomes a jealous husband who intervenes and reminds us of His love for us. He is the jilted partner who woos the spouse back to Him, who mercifully seeks out the unfaithful partner and welcomes her back. Unlike human jealousy, God’s divine jealousy is pure and righteous and rooted in love. “The Lord be exalted, who delights in the well-being of His servant, and desires his servant’s prosperity.” (Ps. 35:27). When something gets in the way of the believer’s spiritual prosperity, or an unbeliever’s salvation, look out. Our God of love is a jealous God.

God is impassioned. The Tanakh, the official Jewish Bible, translates Exodus 34:14 this way… “You must not worship any other god, because Yahweh, whose Name is Impassioned, is an impassioned God.” God’s chosen people believe that He has demonstrated zeal down through biblical history, that He has a strong personality marked by conviction and holy passion. On the one hand, it seems almost silly to assign human emotion to the glorious God. On the other hand, God-made-flesh certainly revealed passion and zeal and what could be called emotion. We see the Father through the Son, so it seems emotion is not foreign to the character of the Lord God. Maybe all our imperfect, fallen emotions find their righteous origin in God the Creator. God certainly doesn’t have His emotional ups and downs like us. He of course isn’t moody in a human way, because He is the Rock, steady and stable through eternity. That’s what separated Yahweh from the gods of the ancient day, who were believed to be unpredictable and inconsistent. People lived their lives trying to figure out how to keep their gods happy. One never knew what to expect from those gods, whether the gods of Canaan, Egypt and Rome, or the more contemporary idols of technology, career and entertainment. To help us along the way, God let us read His mind somewhat by giving us Scripture and Jesus, the Word-made-flesh. God has a passion for truth and a zeal for love. That is His nature, and He will always be true to Himself. God’s essence as demonstrated by Yahweh in the OT and Jesus in the NT is eternally full of grace and truth, and passionately so.

“Watch out for yourselves, then, not to forget the covenant that the Lord your God has made with you… For the Yahweh your God is a consuming fire, an impassioned and jealous God.” (Deut. 4:23-24).