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The Gracious Jealousy of God

James 4:5-6
Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: 'God opposes the proud but shows favour to the humble.' (NIVUK)

Is jealousy good or bad? To be jealous over something or someone that does not belong to you, is bad. But it is right for a husband and wife to be jealous over each other, because they belong together. It would be quite wrong for anyone to come between them and distract their love for each other. It is that rightful jealousy which protects relationships. In the same way, God is described in the ten commandments as a 'jealous God' (Exodus 20:5). Deuteronomy 4:24 describes Him as a 'consuming fire' - burning with jealous desire in love for His own people. When God's people prostituted themselves by worshipping idols, God's jealousy provoked His anger because His people belonged to Him (1 Kings 14:22-24).

The translation of verse 5 is difficult, as it is not clear whether the 'spirit' is the Holy Spirit who longs for undiluted relationship with the believer, or if Father God jealously protects His relationship with the Spirit, or if the 'spirit' is our human spirit which is determined to lust after the things of the world. It is the last interpretation which is assumed by most translators. This is supported by the context of James chapter 4 which unpacks the destructive effects of covetousness - our inner spirits fighting to get what God has not given or allowed (James 4:1-3). However, it is not only people who are hurt as they run after false gods, but the true God is deeply hurt as He is spurned in favour of gods that have no reality or substance at all: He is jealous for the welfare of His people. He knows that nothing good can come from straying away from Him and does not want His people to be excluded from all the benefits of His love. Worse than that, they commit spiritual adultery.

Bible history and our own experience show how easily believers can get trapped by their own sinful nature, which is encouraged by friendship with the world, and giving in to the devil's temptations. In James 1:12-16 the author urges believers not to be deceived by their own hearts (Jeremiah 17:9). So, we really do need help. God promises help to the humble as much as He obstructs the way of the proud person. God's grace is amazing; we do not deserve it and we can never earn it or repay it (Ephesians 2:8-9). It is like all the good things that come to a much-loved wife. On the other hand, pride struts independently and despises grace, like an adulterer.

Pride is very dangerous anywhere but can have devastating effect in the workplace. It resists God's loving grace, sneers at integrity, creates idols and spins a web from which it cannot escape. The humble are rarely seen in pole position, but by God's good grace they will complete all that God has set for them. 'Receiving grace' is 'letting God work in us' so that we will love Him and not the world, and then we can work with God and not against Him. So, today is a good day to call out to God in humble repentance and receive the grace He is longing to give you.

Gracious God. Thank You for jealously loving me, to keep me close to You and protect me from the adultery of idolatry. I repent of my proud self-assertion that has struggled against Your grace. Help me humbly to welcome Your loving authority over my life, that I may benefit from the grace You are longing to pour into me. May my renewed relationship with You also encourage my colleagues and family to seek Your grace also. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams