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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Our Jealous God

On Sunday we had a powerful message on Encountering God in Worship. One of the points that he dared to bring up was that God is God-centred. (Or, if you prefer the American spelling: God-centered). We discussed this in the following class, 2nd Look and it got me to thinking. We think of God as the ultimate of everything - we can't peg Him down. We can't fathom His greatness, His wonder, His majesty, His depth, His being. We are hushed when we encounter Him. And so often we attempt to encounter Him but forego the awe and wonder, and then, I believe, we are not really encountering God, but playing ritual.

When I first realized that God's highest aim was His own glory I was a bit puzzled. (This was many years ago - not sure if my brain has grown enough to really get this...but I try!) We think of arrogance, pride, jealousy, self-worship, self-love and self-focus as negative. This is appropriate, when we speak of human arrogance, pride, jealousy etc. If I am arrogant, it means I think of myself as above others - better than they are. It means I look down my nose on others. If I am proud it is because I think I deserve honour, or that I feel entitled to esteem. If I am jealous it is because I think something is owed to me that hasn't been given. All of these would be sinful and wrong. Scripture teaches, "Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought," and "In humility, consider others better than yourself," and "Do not covet."

But when we come to how God views Himself, His purposes and what drives Him to act, we are confronted with a God-centred God! And because we are human in our thinking, we get a little uncomfortable, perhaps. Even our theology can reflect this. We explain everything in terms of "God loves us and His purpose is to save us." We often leave out the part about saving us for His own glory. It's much more fun to think God revolves around...ME!

There are two things that have helped me understand this part of who God is, though I feel I have only scratched the surface. The first is that when I read the Gospels and the life of Jesus, I clearly see humility demonstrated in Him. Philippians 2 even goes so far as to explain and define just how humble Jesus was. The fact that He is the 2nd person of the Godhead did not keep Him from demonstrating abject humility. Even in all that He did, it was led by, and in honour of, and in submission to, His Father.

John 8:28-29: So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.”

In this sense, Jesus, by exalting His Father above Himself was demonstrating humility. At the same time, the Father exalts the Son. See Philippians 2:9: Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name.

The other aspect that has helped me understand God's jealous nature is that of marriage. I know there are liberal views of open relationships and freedom being prized above all, but that is all hogwash. Let's suppose Sam came to me and said, "I prize your freedom above everything. Even the health of our family. Even the psychological stability of our children. You are not bound to me in any way other than that I can call you 'wife.' I won't be upset if you chase after other things, other people, other interests. My love for you means you can do whatever you want." If that were to happen, not only would I be very upset, I would feel terribly unloved, uncherished, unwanted and unneeded. The very healthiness of jealousy in marriage secures my heart and induces my love for my husband. The fact that he wants my loyalty and gives me his makes me feel loved and secure. This is one holy aspect of marriage. Sam wants my love - exclusively. He wants me to love him and no other on earth the way I love him. He will guard my love for him, encourage it, nurture it and pursue it. If he didn't, I would question not only his love for me, but for our family. Do you think God loves us any less than a husband loves his wife? No, much much more! His love for His Bride - US - is unfathomable. If that love does not have a zealous, fierce jealousy attached to it, I don't believe it would then be love. Love - God's love - seeks the best for the one being loved, no matter the sacrifice or cost involved. It is perhaps still a 'me-centred' viewpoint to look at it this way, (sorry), but I see God's jealous nature - possessive of our love - as the ultimate attitude of love for me. If I can't connect a theological point to my own heart I get lost, so sorry for all the purist theologians out there who might take my perspective as corrupting...

This is just my point anyways, that understanding, pondering and growing in our knowledge of God must be brought to bear upon how I live life. Knowing God is jealous for my love, how quickly will I devote my heart to idols that detract from His glory? Enjoying His possessive love for me, how quickly will I deliberately forsake Him Who has given even His own Son to redeem me?

Of course we still miss the mark and deny Him His due. But we can always move in the direction of loving Him more, and enjoying Him more, and walking closer with Him day by day.

I'll end with two hymns that put these thoughts into poetic form:

Lord Jesus, Thou who only art
The endless source of purest joy,
O come and fill this longing heart;
may nought but Thee my thoughts employ.
Teach me on Thee to fix my eye,
For none but Thee can satisfy.

The joys of earth can never fill
The heart that’s tasted of Thy love;
No portion would I seek until
I reign with Thee, my Lord, above,
When I shall gaze upon Thy face,
And know more fully all Thy grace.

When from Thy radiant throne on high
Thou didst my fall and ruin see,
Thou cam’st on earth for me to die,
That I might share that throne with Thee.
Loved with an everlasting love,
My hopes, my joys are all above.

O what is all that earth can give?
I’m called to share in God’s own joy;
Dead to the world, in Thee I live,
In Thee I’ve bliss without alloy:
Well may I earthly joys resign;
All things are mine, and I am Thine!

Till Thou shalt come to take me home,
Be this my one ambition, Lord,
Self, sin, the world, to overcome,
Fast clinging to Thy faithful Word;
More of Thyself each day to know,
And more into Thine image grow.

____________________________________

More love to Thee, O Christ, more love to Thee!
Hear Thou the prayer I make on bended knee.
This is my earnest plea: More love, O Christ, to Thee;
More love to Thee, more love to Thee!

Once earthly joy I craved, sought peace and rest;
Now Thee alone I seek, give what is best.
This all my prayer shall be: More love, O Christ to Thee;
More love to Thee, more love to Thee!

Let sorrow do its work, come grief or pain;
Sweet are Thy messengers, sweet their refrain,
When they can sing with me: More love, O Christ, to Thee;
More love to Thee, more love to Thee!

Then shall my latest breath whisper Thy praise;
This be the parting cry my heart shall raise;
This still its prayer shall be: More love, O Christ to Thee;
More love to Thee, more love to Thee!

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