Sunday, August 28, 2011

Jealousy and Blessing

Jealousy and Blessing
August 29, 2011
Zechariah 8:2 "This is what the Lord Almighty says: 'I am very jealous for Zion; I am burning with jealousy for her.'"

Jealousy. We've all been jealous of someone else. We want what they have or we want their affection. Jealousy is a very volatile emotion. It can be dangerous to have jealousy and it is a dangerous emotion to arouse in someone else. It is especially hazardous to arouse the jealousy of the Lord. He calls Himself a jealous god. What is He jealous for? Simple: our affection. He wants our hearts. He wants us to serve Him and do everything as unto Him. The Lord wants us to think of Him before everything else. He wants to be first in our lives. Because of His jealousy, He watches our hearts very closely. He knows when we are turned toward Him or interested in something else.

It is easy to see how the Lord can become jealous when we are serving money or fame or status instead of serving Him. Those idols are obvious enough to see in our lives without a great degree of investigation. But other things make the Lord jealous, too, and they happen within the four walls of our churches. The Lord is jealous when we do good things just for the sake of doing good. While this seems silly, the Lord wants us to do good things because our hearts are turned toward Him. It's a bigger deal than you and I think; the Lord felt strongly enough about the topic to even write about it. In Zechariah 7, the Lord was frustrated with His nation because they were fasting and celebrating the Lord's feasts, as was their religious custom and tradition. And while this fasting and feasting was done correctly in the physical sense, following the instructions laid out by the Lord, the people's hearts were not truly in it. It was done out of habit. They did good things, but not for the sake of the Lord. They did it out of habit or custom. Because they didn't have their hearts in the right place, they were also easily enticed into sin. The Lord was frustrated with this and was jealous. He wanted their hearts, even if occasionally they followed a few commands.

This happens in the church. We volunteer, give to the needy, donate our time, but we do it out of habit sometimes. We do our good deeds because it is good, not necessarily because we are deeply in love with the Lord. When the Lord was jealous for His nation in Zechariah 7, He burned so deeply that He allowed financial and physical destitution into the land because He said their hearts were as hard as stone. They thought the Lord was angry with them; they didn't understand He was jealous for their affection, like a lover. He was jealous for their hearts. He promised, though, to bless them if they just turned their hearts toward Him (Zechariah 8). Listen to His words of blessing He promised if their hearts were turned toward Him: "The seed will grow well, the vine will yield its crops, and the heavens will drop their due." This outpouring upon the people was promised as an overflow of what the Lord's love would do for them. Just as jealousy led Him to bring devastation to the land, His love would bring them refreshment.

There is another, more famous, instance in the Bible when the Lord promises such a blessing. It was written earlier in the Bible found in 2 Chronicles 7:14, "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land." Notice, though, that His blessing required them to turn away from the other things they had set before their eyes. He wanted to be first in their lives back then and He wants to be first in our lives now. The act of turning your heart toward the Lord is not simply the act of turning away from sin (you can do good just for the sake of doing good). The Lord wants you to turn your heart toward Him and fall deeply in love with Him. He is jealous for you and your affection. He wants you to do good things, but because your heart is turned toward Him in love and adoration. Don't give your money out of habit, give it because you are in love with Him. Don't volunteer your time because it is the right thing to do, do it because you are passionate about the Lord. Don't participate in the church because that's what you've always done. Be an active participant because your heart is in step with the Lord's.

Fall in love with the Lord and do everything you do out of adoration for Him. You'll find that His love in return will be far greater than anything imaginable on this earth. Do everything you can to keep His jealousy subsided.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: 2 Chronicles 7, Zechariah 7 -9

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