Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy as fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord. – Song of Solomon 8:6
Wrath is cruel, and anger is overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy? – Proverbs 27:4
…For you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God… – Exodus 34:14
Jealousy is present in a person when a sought after, treasured person or thing is somehow out of one’s reach. Something else has taken the treasure’s attentions and affections, or simply is not yours. Your desire is unfulfilled.
One of the best feelings in the world is the one you get when you know someone is jealous for you. You are the prized one! Few things are more flattering. It happens all the time, known or unbeknownst to the object of affection.
The Bible speaks a lot about jealousy in two arenas (that I know of):
One is the unrighteous jealousy of man, as in James 3:16: “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.” The jealousy of man, most of the time, has to do with wanting something for yourself. For your good, your pleasure, your benefit – without much regard to the consequences or even the respect of the object.
Then, there is the righteous jealousy of God for people. “It is He who made us, and we are His” (Psalm 100:3), so He has a right to us. Much like an author has rights to a published novel, a filmmaker to a movie, a painter to a painting.
But He is not jealous for our robotic obedience or our service to Him. He’s jealous for our genuine love for Him. That’s why He refers to Himself (and has others refer to Him as well) as a husband. Ask any husband, and I guarantee he doesn’t just want his wife’s mere cooperation. He wants her to care about him. A lot.
This is beautifully portrayed in one of my personal favorite passages in Scripture – Hosea 2. There’s a lot to be said about this story, but the basic premise is that God tells a prophet named Hosea to marry a prostitute named Gomer to exemplify His unconditional, steadfast love for unfaithful Israel, His people who were more interested in the foreign gods of the day, of lifeless idols. Hosea cannot give up on his marriage to Gomer, even though she cheats on him pretty much all the time. He intends to stay with her, love her, care for her, even when the affection is not returned. He will go to great lengths to keep her as his own:
For she said, “I will go after my lovers, who give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.” Therefore I will hedge up her way with thorns, and I will build a wall against her, so that she cannot find her paths. She shall pursue her lovers, but not overtake them, and she shall seek them but shall not find them. (v. 5-7)
...She…adorned herself with ring and jewelry, and went after her lovers and forgot me, declares the Lord. (v. 13)
Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope… (v. 14-15)
And I will betroth you to Me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord. (v. 19-20)
Isn’t that last statement epic? And I will argue it is what we all want, ultimately. Gomer’s lovers couldn’t satisfy her, and neither can ours. “Allure” means to attract, to fascinate, to charm. I prefer “woo”. God intends to woo us, woo us with things that will last. Woo us with Himself.
He has wooed me. He is a wild lover.