We know that God is loving, powerful, merciful, just, wise, righteous and gracious but every now and again in the Bible we get a sense of how passionate God is and’ zeal’ or ‘zealous’ is often the word used. It is important to note that both the Aramaic and Greek words for zeal also mean jealousy. We sometimes need reminding how zealous God is and in return how zealous he expects us to be. Let us look at some of the examples of God’s zeal or jealousy in the Bible.
God is zealous that he be acknowledged as the one true God. Exodus 20:3: “You shall have no other gods before me”.
God is zealous that his people worship only him. Exodus 20:4-5a: “4 ‘You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God,”.
God is zealous about the Saviour that he is sending. Isaiah 9:6-7: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and for ever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this”.
God is zealous in his hatred of sin. Isaiah 42:13: “The Lord will march out like a champion, like a warrior he will stir up his zeal; with a shout he will raise the battle cry and will triumph over his enemies”.
God is zealous for his people. Isaiah 26:11: “Lord, your hand is lifted high, but they do not see it. Let them see your zeal for your people and be put to shame; let the fire reserved for your enemies consume them”.
God is filled with zeal and his people must be zealous in their obedience to him. Here are some examples of those who were zealous for God.
We should be zealous for God’s house. Psalm 69:9: “for zeal for your house consumes me, and the insults of those who insult you fall on me”. When Jesus Cleared the Temple courts the disciples remembered this verse: John 2:17: “His disciples remembered that it is written: ‘Zeal for your house will consume me’.” Now God’s house is the church – the people not the building!
We should be zealous in keeping our eyes on the Lord. Proverbs 23:17: “Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the Lord.”
We should be zealous in God’s service. Romans 12:11: “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord.” Also 2 Corinthians 9:2: “For I know your eagerness to help, and I have been boasting about it to the Macedonians, telling them that since last year you in Achaia were ready to give; and your enthusiasm has stirred most of them to action.”
We must ensure that we are zealous for the right things. Proverbs 19:2: “It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way.” This message is repeated by Paul in Romans 10:1-4: “Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. 2 For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. 3 Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4 Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.”
However zealous we may be in our service we should be always striving to attain the zeal of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Jesus in his zeal and compassion reached out to the sick, the needy, the oppressed and especially the lost. But above all, was Jesus’ zeal to be obedient to his Father’s will. His total obedience led inevitably to his unjust trial and to his horrendous death on the cross. But that was not the end, it was the beginning because his zeal to be obedient led to victory. Victory over temptation, victory over sin and Satan, victory over all powers, victory over the world and victory over death. Jesus’ zeal in obeying his Father has given us so much that we surely cannot fail to be zealous in our service for him.
The internet suggests ‘apathy’ and ‘indifference’ as antonyms to zeal but Revelation has another word ‘lukewarm’. Revelation 3:15-16: “15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” There are times when we can go ‘off the boil’ but let us never be lukewarm, even in these difficult Covid-19 times; rather keeping our eyes on the Lord Jesus Christ we may show his zeal and obedience in our lives.
May God bless you, Paul Beesley