Because of their misery in Egypt the children of Israel had cried to the Lord,who did not question them or determine their desires, but laid before them rules of cleanliness and conduct, and in Leviticus 11:45 declared His expectations: “For I am the Lord who brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy”. In the Old Testament there are 12 places where God is described as jealous. In each place there is a warning that God is not tolerant when service or worship is divided between Him and anything else.
This was not an agreement between two parties; it was God’s declaration that the Israelites were exclusively His own. There were rules and laws; there were promises for obedience, and punishment for disobedience, so – how was the situation improved for the average Israelite? You know the rest of this story, don’t you?
Here is another example of exclusive unity in Scripture: In Matthew 19:3 – 9 Jesus answers a Pharisee’s question, (“Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for just any reason?” ) by referring to Genesis 2:24, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife: and they shall become one flesh.’ “So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let not man separate.” The Pharisees, attempting to trap Jesus, respond (vs.7), “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” Jesus answers (vss.8-9), “Moses because of the hardness of your hearts permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.”
In both examples above, these unities exclude other additions. The Israelites were forbidden to add other deities, and when they did – God punished them, but he never abandoned them. God designed marriage for two individuals. When ancient or modern law-makers accommodate for “hardness of heart” that does not change the Creator’s intent, limit His Justice, or decrease His mercy. Christians may have varying opinions, but we can act in love and defer all judgment to God. We are primarily responsible for judging and correcting our own attitudes, words, deportment, temptations and sins, living in the world, but not of the world. How often do you judge and confess your faults and sins before the Lord, asking for his forgiveness, mercy and help in correcting them?
Here are the 12 places in Scripture (KJ, ASV, RSV) where God is described as jealous: Exodus 20:5 & 34:14; Deuteronomy 4:24 & 5:9 & 6:5; Joshua 24:19; Ezekiel 39:25; Joel 2:18; Zechariah 1:14 & 8:2 (3x). Another translation (NKJ) substitutes zealous in the Joel or great fervor in the Zechariah passages above, so the count varies among the newer translations or paraphrased Bibles.
What changed for the ordinary slaves - descendants of Israel? Certainly not attitude! They had seen miracles – plagues in Egypt, deliverance and destruction at the Red Sea, manna in the desert and the twin guiding pillars of daylight smoke and nocturnal fire – but bitter and long simmering resentment blinded them to the change which occurred. What they could understand was they had been delivered from one kind of slavery by a more powerful
Owner whose taskmaster was an 80-year-old man who had married an Ethiopian foreigner (Numbers 12:1).
According to Exodus 6:9 these former slaves were affected by “anguish of spirit and cruel bondage”. They must have thought that years of suffering should be compensated by a life free of work and responsibility, but immediately there were rules and tasks. From their embittered and distrustful viewpoint nothing had changed and they saw no benefit for themselves.
Dear Lord and Father of mankind, forgive my foolish ways. Re-clothe me in my rightful mind; In deeper love your service find; in deeper reverence praise. Search me, O God and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Amen
Today: Pray for Christians in Europe: for our SDB brethren in The Netherlands, Poland and Britain, also for France, Germany and Estonia. Oh yes – How long has it been since you confessed your faults and sins to the Lord?