God’s Word so often staggers me. Many times, this happens when I’m in a nook or cranny of the Bible; at other times, they are verses before the verses that I’ve prepared myself to be amazed.
3,200 years of relevance
We find perhaps the single most important verse in the Bible in Deuteronomy 6:4: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” This is a clarion call from God to the world that He is the one and only God. This verse established monotheism forever, and Jesus quoted this verse as the greatest commandment. (Mark 12:29) But in the previous chapter, chapter five, we find a passage of Scripture that is as fresh and pertinent today as when God gave it to Moses.
14 You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you— 15 for the Lord your God in your midst is a jealous God…Deuteronomy 5:14–15
God spoke these words approximately 1,200 years before the birth of Jesus, which means that Moses said these words from God around 3,200 years ago. Yet, they are still as true and vital right now as they were all those years ago. All around us are people that have committed their lives to other gods – false gods – and they are neither shy nor embarrassed about who they serve or what they believe. As a result, many Christians have a syncretism (sin-crǎ-tism) of beliefs.
What syncretism means
I wrote a post about this a while back: Syncretism
Syncretism is a union or attempted fusion of different religions, cultures, or philosophies — like Halloween, which has both Christian and pagan roots, or the combination of Aristotelian philosophy with the belief system of the early punk rock practitioners. –Vocabulary.com
Now, with the definition of syncretism nailed down, let’s consider what the one true God said: “you shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you.” God’s warning is directed against religious syncretism. He knew this was going to be a problem for people, so He confronted the problem head on – “for the Lord your God in your midst is a jealous God.”
Jealousy is a neutral term; it is neither bad nor good. However, in our culture, we understand only bad jealousy. If a husband becomes angry every time his wife talks with another man, that’s bad jealousy. And that’s the kind of jealousy we mentally jump to when we think about this emotion. However, there also is good jealousy.
Good and bad jealousy
Good jealousy tells us what is important to us. Let me repeat that. Good jealousy tells us what is important to us. Therefore, God’s jealousy tells us what is important to Him. In my younger days, I was jealous for my kids. I wanted to give them opportunities. I wanted to keep them from harm. I wanted to be Dad. Those were all good things, and they were the right things to allow the emotion of jealousy to affect my actions. This kind of jealousy is about as close as we can come to understanding what God means when He says He is a jealous God.
God told Jeremiah: “For I know the plans I have for you,“ declares the LORD, ”plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11) This verse shows us God’s jealousy. God has good plans, plans to prosper and not harm, and gives Jeremiah hope and a future. God is motivated to do these things because He loves Jeremiah and has established plans that include Jeremiah. Somehow, in this immense history of humanity, each of us is important to God. Wow!
Don’t date a Canaanite
Now, if Jeremiah knew God’s intent but began dating a Canaanite girl and started hanging out with her all the time and incorporating some of her beliefs into his beliefs, God’s jealousy would have “wax hot” against Jeremiah. This response would be proper and would be good jealousy. It’s like when a spouse begins cheating; the other spouse has a right to be jealous and angry.
God doesn’t need a “right” to be jealous. He is God. But I hope you get my point. If you’ve given your life to the Father through our Lord Jesus Christ by the leading of the Holy Spirit, and then begin to incorporate beliefs from “the gods of the peoples who are around you” then God will be angry at you – not “with you” but at you. Any syncretism of Christianity is repulsive to God; it’s kind of like having a cheating spouse.
Photo by Kaizen Nguyễn on Unsplash
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