Bible Society of South Africa

The jealous God – 12 June 2020

By Ben Fourie

Bible text(s)

4“Do not make for yourselves images of anything in heaven or on earth or in the water under the earth. 5Do not bow down to any idol or worship it, because I am the LORD your God and I tolerate no rivals. I bring punishment on those who hate me and on their descendants down to the third and fourth generation.

Exodus 20:4-5GNBOpen in Bible reader

n the original Hebrew, he is called El Qanna, which can be translated as “tolerate no rivals,” or as in the King James Version, “jealous God”. We can also say it means that God is demanding undivided faithfulness. These different translations, put together, give a good idea of what is meant by the original language.

This commandment speaks about idol worship and the Israelites would have understood it immediately, as all the nations around them and also the people of Egypt, where they were slaves for many years, worshipped idols. In the Near East of those days, the idea of monotheism or the worship of only one God was a strange idea, all the more if this God was an invisible one.

The God of Israel was not content to be one in a long line of gods. Throughout the Old Testament, we see that whenever He meted out punishment, it was because His people turned to idol worship again. God wanted their undivided faithfulness to the extent that He called Himself a jealous God in the sense that he would tolerate no rivals. He jealously guards the fact that he is the only true God.

Through the ages, the church also guarded “jealously” over the belief that the God of the Bible is the only true God. The church and our faith are built upon this belief. In our post-modern times, one hears about people more and more who still want to believe something, still want to be spiritual, but do not necessarily believe in this one God only. Everyone, they say, must find his or her salvation in their own way.

This cannot be. The Bible tells us so. God still tolerates no rivals and also wants our undivided faithfulness.

Prayer: Please help me to be steadfast in my belief that You are the only true God in the midst of an era where more and more people believe otherwise. Amen

Bible Society of South Africav.4.18.10
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