A Jealous God
Delivered on Sunday Morning, March 29th, 1863, by the
Rev. C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
"For the Lord, whose name is jealous, is a jealous God."Exodus 34:14.
HE PASSION OF JEALOUSY IN MAN is usually exercised in an evil manner, but it is not in itself necessarily sinful. A man may be zealously cautious of his honor, and suspiciously vigilant over another, without deserving blame. All thoughtful persons will agree that there is such a thing as virtuous jealousy. Self-love is, no doubt, the usual foundation of human jealousy, and it may be that Shenstone is right in his definition of it as "the apprehension of superiority," the fear lest another should by any means supplant us; yet the word "jealous" is so near akin to that noble word "zealous," that I am persuaded it must have something good in it. Certainly we learn from Scripture that there is such a thing as a godly jealousy. We find the Apostle Paul declaring to the Corinthian Church, "I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy, for I have espoused you to one husband that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ." He had an earnest, cautious, anxious concern for their holiness, that the Lord Jesus might be honored in their lives. Let it be remembered then, that jealousy, like anger, is not evil in itself, or it could never be ascribed to God; his jealousy is ever a pure and holy flame. The passion of jealousy possesses an intense force, it fires the whole nature, its coals are juniper, which have a most vehement flame; it resides in the lowest depths of the heart, and takes so firm a hold that it remains most deeply rooted until the exciting cause is removed; it wells up from the inmost recesses of the nature, and like a torrent irresistibly sweeps all before it; it stops at nothing, for it is cruel as the grave (Cant. 8:6), it provokes wrath to the utmost, for it is the rage of a man, therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance (Proverbs 6:34), and it over throws everything in the pursuit of its enemy, for "wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before jealousy?" For all these reasons jealousy is selected as some faint picture of that tender regard which God has for His own Deity, honor, and supremacy, and the holy indignation which he feels towards those who violate his laws, offend his majesty, or impeach his character. Not that God is jealous so as to bring him down to the likeness of men, but that this is the nearest idea we can form of what the Divine Being feelsif it be right to use even that word toward himwhen he beholds his throne occupied by false gods, his dignity insulted, and his glory usurped by others. We cannot speak of God except by using figures drawn from his works, or our own emotions; we ought, however, when we use the images, to caution ourselves and those who listen to us, against the idea that the Infinite mind is really to be compassed and described by any metaphors however lofty, or language however weighty. We might not have ventured to use the word, "jealousy" in connection with the Most High, but as we find it so many times in Scripture, let us with solemn awe survey this mysterious display of the Divine mind. Methinks I hear the thundering words of Nahum, "God is jealous and the Lord revengeth, the Lord revengeth and is furious, the Lord will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reseryeth wrath for his enemies." My soul be thou humbled before the Lord and tremble at his name!
Girt with devouring flame;
The Lord appears consuming fire,
And Jealous is his name."
God save you for Jesus' sake.
II. The Lord IS JEALOUS OF HIS SOVEREIGNTY.
He that made heaven and earth has a right to rule his creatures as he wills. The potter hath power over the clay to fashion it according to his own good pleasure, and the creatures being made are bound to be obedient to their Lord. He has a right to issue commands, he has done sothey are holy, and just, and wise; men are bound to obey, but, alas, they continually revolt against his sovereignty, and will not obey him; nay, there be men who deny altogether that he is King of kings, and others who take counsel together saying, "Let us break his bands in sunder, and cast away his cords from us." He that sitteth in the heavens is moved to jealousy by these sins, and will defend the rights of his crown against all comers, for the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.
This reminds us of the Lord's hatred of sin. Every time we sin, we do as much as say, "I do not acknowledge God to be my sovereign; I will do as I please." Each time we speak an ill-word we really say, "My tongue is my own, he is not Lord over my lips." Yea, and everytime the human heart wandereth after evil, and lusteth for that which is forbidden, it attempts to dethrone God, and to set up the Evil One in his place. The language of sin is "Who is the Lord that I should obey his voice; I will not have God to reign over me." Sin is a deliberate treason against the majesty of God, an assault upon his crown, an insult offered to his throne. Some sins, especially, have rebelhon written on their foreheadpresumptuous sins, when a man's conscience has been enlightened, and he knows better, and yet still forsakes the good and follows after evil; when a man's conscience has been aroused through some judgment, or sickness, or under a faithful ministry; if that man returns, like a dog to his vomit, he has, indeed, insulted the sovereignty of God. But have we not all done this, and are there not some here in particular of whom we once had good hope, but who have turned back again to crooked ways? Are there not some of you who, Sabbath after Sabbath, get your consciences so quickened that you cannot be easy in sin as others are and though you may, perhaps, indulge in sin, yet it costs you very dearly, for you know better? Did I not hear of one who sits in these seats often, but is as often on the ale bench? Did I not hear of another who can sing with us the hymns of Zion, but is equally at home with the lascivious music of the drunkard? Do we not know of some who in their business are anything but what they should be, yet for a show can come up to the house of God? Oh, sirs, oh, sirs, ye do provoke the Lord to jealousy! Take heed, for when he cometh out of his resting-place, and taketh to himself his sword and buckler, who are you that you should stand before the dread majesty of His presence! Tremble and be still! Humble yourselves, and repent of this your sin.
Surely, if sin attacks the sovereignty of God, self-righteousness is equally guilty of treason: for as sin boasts, "I will not keep God's law," self-righteousness exclaims, "I will not be saved in God's way; I will make a new road to heaven; I will not bow before God's grace; I will not accept the atonement which God has wrought out in the person of Jesus; I will be my own redeemer; I will enter heaven by my own strength, and glorify my own merits." The Lord is very wroth against self-righteousness. I do not know of anything against which his fury burneth more than against this, because this touches him in a very tender point, it insults the glory and honor of his Son Jesus Christ. Joshua said to the children of Israel when they promised to keep the law"Ye cannot serve the Lord, for he is an holy God; he is a jealous God; and he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins." So I may well say to every self-righteous person, "You cannot keep the law, for God is a jealous God," carefully marking every fault, and just to mark your iniquities; nor will he forgive your iniquities so long as you attempt to win his favor by works of law. Throw away thy self-righteousness, thou proud one; cast it with all other idols to the moles and to the bats, for there is no hope for thee so long as thou dost cling to it. Self-righteousness is in itself the very height and crowning-point of rebelhon against God. For a man to say, "Lord, I have not sinned," is the gathering-up, the emphasis, the climax of iniquity, and God's jealousy is hot against it.
Let me add, dear friends, I feel persuaded that false doctrine, inasmuch as it touches God's sovereignty, is always an object of divine jealousy. Let me indicate especially the doctrines of free-will. I know there are some good men who hold and preach them, but I am persuaded that the Lord must be grieved with their doctrine though he forgives them their sin of ignorance. Free-will doctrinewhat does it? It magnifies man into God; it declares God's purposes a nullity, since they cannot be carried out unless men are willing. It makes God's will a waiting servant to the will of man, and the whole covenant of grace dependent upon human action. Denying election on the ground of injustice it holds God to be a debtor to sinners, so that if he gives grace to one he is bound to do so to all. It teaches that the blood of Christ was shed equally for all men and since some are lost, this doctrine ascribes the difference to man's own will, thus making the atonement itself a powerless thing until the will of man gives it efficacy. Those sentiments dilute the scriptural description of man's depravity, and by imputing strength to fallen humanity, rob the Spirit of the glory of his effectual grace: this theory says in effect that it is of him that willeth, and of him that runneth, and not of God that showeth mercy. Any doctrine, my brethren, which stands in opposition to this truth"I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy," provokes God's jealousy. I often tremble in this pulpit lest I should utter anything which should oppose the sovereignty of my God; and though you know I am not ashamed to preach the responsibility of man to Godif God be a sovereign, man must be bound to obey himon the other hand, I am equally bold to preach that God has a right to do what he wills with his own, that he giveth no account of his matters and none may stay his hand, or say unto him, "What doest thou?" I believe that the free-will heresy assails the sovereignty of God, and mars the glory of his dominion. In all faithfulness, mingled with sorrow, I persuade you who have been deluded by it, to see well to your ways and receive the truth which sets God on high, and lays the creature in the dust. "The Lord reigneth," be this our joy. The Lord is our King, let us obey him and defend to the death the crown rights of the King of kings, for he is a jealous God.
While tarrying upon this subject, I ought also to remark that all the boastings of ungodly men, whenever they exalt themselves, seeing that they are a sort of claim of sovereignty, must be very vexatious to God, the Judge of all. When you glory in your own power, you forget that power belongeth only unto God, and you provoke his jealousy. When kings, parlaments, or synods, trespass upon the sacred domains of conscience, and say to men, "Bow down, that we may go over you"when we make attempts to lord over another man's judgment, and to make our own opinions supreme, the Lord is moved to jealousy, for he retains the court of conscience for himself alone to reign in. Let us humbly bow before the dignity of the Most High, and pay our homage at his feet.
Clad in majesty supreme!
Let all heaven his praises sing,
Let all worlds his power proclaim.
O let my transported soul
Let us crown him every day! Let our holy obedience, let our devout lives, let our hearty acquiescence in all his will, let our reverent adoration before the greatness of his majesty, all prove that we acknowledge him to be King of kings, and Lord of lords, lest we provoke a jealous God to anger.
III. THE LORD IS JEALOUS OF HIS GLORY.
God's glory is the result of his nature and acts. He is glorious in his character, for there is such a store of everything that is holy, and good, and lovely in God, that he must be glorious. The actions which flow from his character, the deeds which are the outgoings of his inner nature, these are glorious too; and the Lord is very careful that all flesh should see that he is a good, and gracious, and just God; and he is mindfill, too, that his great and mighty acts should not give glory to others, but only to himself.
How, careful, then, should we be when we do anything for God, and God is pleased to accept of our doings, that we never congratulate ourselves. The minister of Christ should unrobe himself of every rag of praise. "You preached well," said a friend to John Bunyan one morning. "You are too late," said honest John, "the devil told me that before I left the pulpit." The devil often tells God's servants a great many things which they should be sorry to hear. Why, you can hardly be useful in a Sunday School but he will say to you"How well you have done it!" You can scarcely resist a temptation, or set a good example, but he will be whispering to you"What an excellent person you must be!" It is, perhaps, one of the hardest struggles of the Christian life to learn this sentence"Not unto us, not unto us, but unto thy name be glory." Now God is so jealous on this point that, while he will forgive his own servants a thousand things, this is an offense for which he is sure to chasten us. Let a believer once say, "I am," and God will soon make him say "I am not." Let a Christian begin to boast, "I can do all things," without adding "through Christ which strengtheneth me," and before long he will have to groan, "I can do nothing," and bemoan himself in the dust. Many of the sins of true Christians, I do not doubt, have been the result of their glorifying themselves. Many a man has been permitted by God to stain a noble character and to ruin an admirable reputation, because the character and the reputation had come to be the man's own, instead of being laid, as all our crowns must be laid, at the feet of Christ. Thou mayest build the city, but if thou sayest with Nebuchadnezzar, "Behold this great Babylon which I have builded!" thou shalt be smitten to the earth. The worms which ate Herod when he gave not God the glory are ready for another meal; beware of vain glory!
How careful ought we to be to walk humbly before the Lord. The moment we glorify ourselves, since there is room for one glory only in the universe, we set ourselves up as rivals to the Most High. Penitent souls are always accepted, because they are not in God's way; proud souls are always rejected, because they are in God's way. Shall the insect of an hour glorify itself against the Sun which warmed it into life? Shall the potsherd exalt itself above the man that fashioned it upon the wheel? Shall the dust of the desert strive with the whirlwind? Or the drops of the ocean struggle with the tempest? O thou nothingness and vanity, thou puny mortal called man, humble thyself and reverence thy Great Creator.
Let us see to it that we never misrepresent God, so as to rob him of his honour. If any minister shall preach of God so as to dishonor him, God will be jealous against that man. I fear that the Lord hath heavy wrath against those who lay the damnation of man at God's door, for they dishonor God, and he is very jealous of his name. And those, on the other hand, who ascribe salvation to man must also be heavily beneath God's displeasure, for they take from him his glory. Ah, thieves! ah, thieves! will ye dare to steal the crown-jewels of the universe! Whither go ye, whither bear ye the bright pearls which ought to shine upon the brow of Christ? To put them on the brow of man? Stop! stop! for the Lord will not give his glory to another! Give unto the Lord, all ye righteous, give unto the Lord glory and strength; give unto him the honor that is due unto his name! Any doctrine which does not give all the honor to God must provoke him to jealousy.
Be careful, dear friends, that you do not misrepresent God yourselves. You who murmur; you who say that God deals hardly with you, you give God an ill character; when you look so melancholy, worldlings say, "The religion of Jesus is intolerable;" and so you stain the honor of God. Oh, do not do this, for he is a jealous God, and he will surely use the rod upon you if you do.
A flash of holy pleasure crosses my mind. I am glad that he is a jealous God. It is enough to make us walk very carefully, but, at the same time, it should make us very joyful to think that the Lord is very jealous of his own honor. Then, brethren, if we believe in Christ, you and I are safe, because it would dishonor him if we were not; for his own name's sake and for his faithfulness' sake, he will never leave one of his people; since "His honor is engaged to save the meanest of his sheep." Now, if Christ could trifle with his own honor, if he had no jealousy, you and I might be afraid that he would suffer us to perish; but it never shall be. It shall be said on earth and sung in heaven at the last, that God has suffered no dishonorable defeats from the hands of either men or devils. "I chose my people," saith the Eternal Father, "and they are mine now that I make up my jewels." "I bought my people," saith the eternal Son, "I became a surety for them before the Most High, and the infernal lion could not rend the meanest of the sheep." "I quickened my people," saith the Holy Spirit; the temptations of hell could not throw them down; their own corruptions could not overpower them; I have gotten the victory in every one of them, not one of them is lost; they are all brought safely to my right hand." Hide yourselves, then, under the banner of Jehovah's jealousy. It is bloody red, I know; its ensign bears a thunderbolt and a flame of fire; but hide yourselves, hide yourselves under it, for what enemy shall reach you there? If it be to God's glory to save me, I am entrenched behind munitions of stupendous rock. If it would render God inglorious to let me, a poor sinner, descend into hell; if it would open the mouths of devils and make men say that God is not faithful to his promise, then am I secure, for God's glory is wrapped up with my salvation, and the one cannot fail because the other cannot be tarnished. Beloved, let us mind that we be very jealous of God's glory ourselves since he is jealous of it. Let us say with Elijah"I am very jealous for the Lord God of hosts." May our lives, and conduct, and conversation prove that we are jealous of our hearts lest they should once depart from him; and may we smite with stern and unrelenting hand every sin and every thought of pride that might touch the glory of our gracious God; living to him as living before a jealous God.
IV. In the highest sense, THE LORD IS JEALOUS OVER HIS OWN PEOPLE.
Let me only hint, that human jealousy, although it will exercise itself over man's reputation, rights, and honor, hath one particularly tender place: jealousy guardeth, like an armed man, the marriage-covenant. A suspicion here is horrible. Even good old Jacob, when he came to die, could not look upon his son Reuben without remembering his offense. "He went up to my couch," said the old manand, as if the remembrance was too painful for him, he hurried on from Reuben to the next. The Lord has been graciously pleased to say of his people, "I am married unto you." The covenant of grace is a marriage-covenant, and Christ's Church has become his spouse. It is here that God's jealousy is peculiarly liable to take fire. Men cannot be God's favourites without being the subjects of his watchfulness and jealousy: that which might be looked over in another will be chastened in a member of Christ. As a husband is jealous of his honor, so is the Lord Jesus much concerned for the purity of his Church.
The Lord Jesus Christ, of whom I now speak, is very jealous of your love, O believer. Did he not choose you? He cannot bear that you should choose another. Did he not buy you with his own blood? He cannot endure that you should think you are your own, or that you belong to this world. He loved you with such a love that he could not stop in heaven without you; he would sooner die than that you should perish; he stripped himself to nakedness that he might clothe you with beauty; he bowed his face to shame and spitting that he might lift you up to honor and glory, and he cannot endure that you should love the world, and the things of the world. His love is strong as death towards you, and therefore will be cruel as the grave. He will be as a cruel one towards you if you do not love him with a perfect heart. He will take away that husband; he will smite that child; he will bring you from riches to poverty, from health to sickness, even to the gates of the grave, because he loves you so much that he cannot endure that anything should stand between your heart's love and him. Be careful Christians, you that are married to Christ; remember, you are married to a jealous husband.
He is very jealous of your trust. He will not permit you to trust in an arm of flesh. He will not endure that you should hew out broken cisterns, when the overflowing fountain is always free to you. When we come up from the wilderness leaning upon our Beloved, then is our Beloved glad, but when we go down to the wilderness leaning on some other arm; when we trust in our own wisdom or the wisdom of a friendworst of all, when we trust in any works of our own, he is angry, and will smite us with heavy blows that he may bring us to himself.
He is also very jealous of our company. It were well if a Christian could see nothing but Christ. When the wife of a Persian noble had been invited to the coronation of Darius, the question was asked of her by her husband"Did you not think the king a most beautiful man?" and her answer was"I cared not to look at the king; my eyes are for my husband only, for my heart is his." The Christian should say the same. There is nothing beneath the spacious arch of heaven comparable to Christ: there should be no one with whom we converse so much as with Jesus. To abide in him only, this is true love; but to commune with the world, to find solace in our comforts, to be loving this evil world, this is vexing to our jealous Lord. Do you not believe that nine out of ten of the troubles and pains of believers are the result of their love to some other person than Christ? Nail me to thy cross, thou bleeding Savior! Put thy thorn-crown upon my head to be a hedge to keep my thoughts within its bound! O for a fire to burn up all my wandering loves. O for a seal to stamp the name of my Beloved indelibly upon my heart! O love divine expel from me all carnal worldly loves, and fill me with thyself!
Dear friends, let this jealousy which should keep us near to Christ be also a comfort to us, for if we be married to Christ, and he be jealous of us, depend upon it this jealous husband will let none touch his spouse. Joel tells us that the Lord is jealous for his land, and Zechariah utters the word of the Lord, "I am jealous for Jerusalem, and for Zion with a great jealousy;" and then he declares that he will punish the heathen. And will he not avenge his own elect who cry unto him day and night? There is not a hard word spoken but the Lord shall avenge it! There is not a single deed done against us, but the strong hand of him who once died but now lives for us, shall take terrible vengeance upon all his adversaries. I am not afraid for the Church of God! I tremble not for the cause of God! Our jealous Husband will never let his Church be in danger, and if any smite her he will give them double for every blow. The gates of hell shall not prevail against his Church, but she shall prevail against the gates of hell. Her jealous Husband shall roll away her shame; her reproach shall be forgotten; her glory shall be fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners, for he that is jealous of himself is jealous for her fair fame. The subject is large and deep; let us prove that we understand it, by henceforth walking very carefully; and if any say "Why are you so precise?" let this be our answer"I serve a jealous God."