We often think of jealousy as a bad thing, something we should avoid because our sinful hearts covet what others have. God’s jealousy, however, is appropriate and good. God’s jealousy is in regard to idolatry, which is worshiping anything other than the one true God of the Bible. God is jealous for people to acknowledge him as the only real and true God and worship him as such (Ps. 78:58).
1. God’s jealousy is proper to who he is.
God is not only described as jealous, but “Jealous” is given to him as a name (Exod. 34:14). This shows that to be jealous is one of God's attributes and is, in fact, an outworking of his being. All of God’s attributes are equally true, so God is never unjustly or unfairly jealous but always righteously jealous. God is a good and holy God who not only deserves all praise and honor but who also cares that people have what is best for them—and he knows that he is what is the very best for people.
Throughout the Old Testament, various analogies were used to describe God’s relationship with his people. One of the images used is that of marriage. Marriage demands faithfulness from both parties. God would be faithful to his people while his people would be faithful to God. As we see God’s story unfold, however, we find out that his people are anything but faithful, turning instead to other gods and inciting God’s righteous jealousy.
He is the one true God who created the world to be in fellowship with himself. He is the only one who can satisfy the longing of our souls. All other gods are fake, useless, and powerless, unable to hear or help the people who worship them (Hab. 2:18–19; Deut. 4:28). God pursues us and desires us to be reconciled to himself so that we might worship him and he might care for our every need (Matt. 6:25-33).
2. God’s jealousy is dangerous.
While God’s jealousy shows us that he desires people to be reconciled to himself, his jealousy is what brings about his wrath, punishment for idolatry. Idolatry is loving something other than God, and when this happens, God gets jealous. God will not tolerate the worship of idols, and when people do worship idols, this brings about his wrath and jealous anger (Deut. 6:15).
God is like a husband who is jealous of his wife giving her attention and love to someone else (Ezek. 16). However, God’s jealousy is directly connected with our good: worshiping God alone is best for us, and God knows that. Thus he has so woven his plan of redemption that he is glorified in our happiness and flourishing, which can only truly happen when we are in communion with him (Eph. 1:3-10).
3. God’s jealousy pursues us.
The truth is, ever since Adam and Eve sinned, it is now natural for us to worship idols rather than worship the one true God. We are selfish creatures who desire to be autonomous in the way God is, but doing so only leads to our destruction.
Despite our unfaithfulness to God, God was not content to let us worship powerless idols, nor did he devote everyone to destruction. Instead, he sent his own Son, Jesus Christ, to bear the burden of our unfaithfulness and to provide reconciliation between God and humankind (2 Cor. 5:18). God wants our attention and love because he loves us (1 Jn. 4:19). He wants us to be reconciled to him and be what he created us to be.
A God who does not need us—who is perfect in all things—wants us and our love and adoration (Deut. 6:5). What other god expresses this kind of desire? What other deity does not require us and yet willingly entered into an intimate covenantal relationship with us? There is no other God like the God of the Bible, who loves us before we are even able to love him back and who continually pursues us despite our sin and idols (Rom. 5:8).