What the Bible says about
(From Forerunner Commentary)
God describes idolatry as harlotry, playing around with someone else's spouse. It is a case of divided loyalties. God becomes angry, jealous, when this happens spiritually. In fact, in Deuteronomy 4:24, His anger becomes so hot that He describes Himself as being a consuming fire. Fire symbolizes God's radiant glory as an aspect of His holiness.
Zeal and jealousy are opposite sides of the same coin; both of them are driven by passion. One is positive, the other negative. One is for, one is against. Zeal is passionately for something or somebody, while jealousy is passionately against something or somebody. Similarly, fire is hot, and it is both positive and negative. It symbolizes both refining and purifying, on the one hand, and death and destruction on the other.
The pattern is in the way God depicts His feelings toward us. As a consuming fire, He will either purify or destroy with His passion. He is either for something with a great deal of ardor, or He is against something with a great deal of fury. He is for those who are with Him, and He is loyal to the nth degree to them. But He is against sin and disloyalty with just as much heat as He is for those who love Him and diligently seek Him. His attitude is not cool in any way, shape, or form, but hot. He wants us to respond in like manner.
In what way are we seeking God? Diligently? Earnestly? Sincerely? With warmth, ardor, and affection? Is our seeking the ardent pursuit of one in love—one who wants to be around this personality and really desires to know Him because we are, after all, going to marry Him and spend all eternity with Him? Or is it a kind of a take-it-or-leave-it, distant, academic coolness because we do not want to make a fool of ourselves or offend others with our zeal? Think about it.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Prayer and Seeking God
God threatens to send fire, symbolizing divine rejection and purification (Malachi 4:1), upon Israel because of her false religion. The Bible, though ultimately written for His spiritual children, focuses on ancient Israel because she is comprised of God's chosen people. We can see our own lives in their examples. Amos proves through the Israelites' disobedience and corruption that they had no relationship with God. They had not allowed their privileged position under the covenant to transform them into godly people. Thus, God must send a purifying destruction upon them.
Bethel, Gilgal, and Beersheba were places of pilgrimage, places people went to observe the feasts. But God says, "I hate, I despise your feast days" (Amos 5:21)! Verses 22-23 show that the Israelites loved all the rituals and entertainments of the feasts, but they did not leave the feasts better people (verse 24). They returned to their homes unchanged, unrepentant, after what was supposed to be a rededication of their lives to God!
Our attitudes in attending the feasts today tell God just as much as the Israelites' did during Amos' ministry. Do we go to the Feast of Tabernacles to seek God and learn to fear Him, as He says in Deuteronomy 14:23? Our reasons for attending God's feasts are very important. Do we go to get love and enjoy ourselves? The feasts should be enjoyable, but those who go there to give love and serve others profit the most from them. Those who go to get love usually become offended and leave the feast, telling anyone who will listen how "cold" others were to them.
From the biblical events that occurred in these places, Bethel pictures reorientation and hope; Gilgal, possession of the promises; and Beersheba, fellowship with God. We can have these things in Christ if we abide under the terms of our covenant with Him. In the example of Israel, we can see that hearing and knowing the way of God intellectually is not enough. The lives of the people of Israel did not match what they knew.
The lesson we can learn from the events in Bethel are particularly illustrative of God's transforming influence. At Bethel, Jacob had his dream of a ladder reaching to heaven and angels walking up and down on it (Genesis 28:12). When he woke up from his dream, Jacob reckoned that God was surely in that place and named it "Bethel" or "house of God." The ascending and descending angels, messengers of God, depict God, not man, initiating communication. In other words, the ladder brought God to Bethel. When God arrives on the scene and descends to communicate with a man, He makes a difference in his life.
Certainly, Jacob's life quickly began to change, especially his attitude. He had been fleeing for his life, but when he got to Bethel, his future changed dramatically because God made contact with him. God reconfirmed to Jacob His promises to Abraham and Isaac. A transformation began then that did not end as long as he lived.
On the run from Esau, a man to be feared, Jacob felt at any moment his brother would appear around the next rock. He arrived at Bethel hopeless, but he left a man with a future—God said that He would be with him. So Jacob arose and made a covenant with God that if He would bless him, then he would give a tenth, a tithe, to God (Genesis 28:18-22).
When Jacob returned to Bethel after serving Laban for some twenty years, God appeared to him again, changing his name to Israel (Genesis 35:1-15). In the biblical record, a name change, normally occurring during a period of crisis in a person's conversion, signifies a change in his heart. Undoubtedly, a significant change happened here and another at Peniel where Jacob wrestled with Christ (Genesis 32:24-30). Peniel was a stepping stone to what occurred at his return to Bethel and between them, we see Jacob's spiritual conversion.
To Israel and Amos, then, Bethel represented reorientation and hope. There the old life and the old man became new. This idea is later reflected in New Testament teaching about our spiritual transformation into the image of God (II Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 4:12-15, 20-24; I John 3:2).
Contact with God causes transformation, and Bethel represents this hopeful reorientation. Israelites may have journeyed to Bethel, but Amos shows that no transformation occurred. There was no change in holiness or morality. They enjoyed the fellowship and good times of the feasts, but they returned to their homes, and it was "business as usual." Unlike Jacob, they had not repented.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part Two)
Given insight into what God would soon do, Amos was distressed over whether Israel could survive. God relented both times, probably as a result of Amos' prayer. But because of His earlier pronouncements and the people's lack of repentance, there is a sense that God would not postpone Israel's punishment much longer.
The first vision of Amos 7 may be a natural calamity of locusts rising out of the earth and destroying the crops and the grasslands "after the king's mowings," a practice akin to our income tax. Without the late crop, the first cutting for the king would be sparse, and without produce for their personal needs, the people would starve. God decided that Israel would be protected from natural calamity in the main, but a few people may suffer very badly and may even die.
The second vision, a divine fire, could literally be fire on the earth. "For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God" (Deuteronomy 4:24; see 29:20). Fire, in biblical symbolism, is a purging and purifying punishment against sin (Malachi 3:2-3; Hebrews 12:29). To save and turn the people back to morality and obedience, God decrees a purifying fire to come upon Israel, probably in the form of a divinely inspired war. Again, God relents, giving the nation another chance to repent.
This exchange between Amos and God illustrates a wonderful method He uses to teach us what we need. God sometimes leads us into situations that force us to decide what we really need. We ask Him for it, and then He gives it to us. We think He answered our prayer—and He did—but He also led us to pray the prayer (see Romans 8:26)! He guides these situations so that we come to think like Him! When He wants to produce character in us, He will work in whatever way is necessary to build it.
We can learn much from this technique. In our earnest prayers, we cry out to Him, believing we truly need what we have requested. We should also pray to understand how God is working, molding, shaping, and leading us to grow and overcome. When we finally see things from His perspective and pray that prayer, He will respond.
That is what He wanted from Israel: He desired the Israelites to understand that they should return to Him. However, Amos 7:9; 8:3, 10; and 9:1 indicate their destruction would be total because the people did not respond.
The example of ancient Israel's shortsightedness has present-day implications for spiritual Israel—God wants His people to look through the coming crisis and see that He brings it to pass, controls it, and sets its limits. He will use it to bring about His purpose in individual lives or in the life of the nation. In the near future, conditions will become so difficult that, if possible, even the elect will be deceived—"but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened" (Matthew 24:24, 22).
John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part Two)
2 Corinthians 11:2
Being the one who wrote about the fruit of the Spirit and the works of the flesh, Paul understood the difference between carnal and godly jealousy.
What was Paul's motive for teaching and guiding the church? What was the object of his jealousy? Was he hoarding this little group for himself or keeping enough people in his group to support his lifestyle and agenda? The various definitions of the Greek word zeloo (often translated as "affect," "covet," "desire," "envy," "jealous," or "zealous") provided by Vine's Dictionary of New Testament Words give us some insights: "to seek or desire eagerly," "to desire to have," "to take a warm interest in," "to seek zealously." From this perspective, we see that Paul's motives were virtuous. He was eagerly desirous to do everything in his God-given power to present the church to Christ as a chaste virgin! He was closely watching over these people with godly jealousy.
Notice, Paul was not jealous of these people but for them, and maybe that is part of our misunderstanding of godly jealousy. God has no reason to be jealous of us or anything else, but He certainly has a burning desire for us!
Has something ever caught our interest so much and fired a yearning for it that we could not rest until that desire was satisfied? These two ideas, jealousy and consuming fire, have something in common, as Deuteronomy 4:24 suggests: Our jealous God is a consuming fire!
This is one of God's attributes of which we might at first be afraid, as the author of Hebrews points out (Hebrews 12:29). When we think of fire, chances are we first think of being burned or consumed. Yet, fire can also be used as a purifier, and it can sure feel good on a cold winter morning. Many people can sit and watch a fire in the hearth for hours, listening to the soothing crackle and pop of the wood and enjoying its warmth.
A fire is a beautiful sight. It contains many different shades of red, orange, and yellow flowing together, and if it gets hot enough, one can see deep shades of blue in it as well. The coals or the burning embers seem as if they are pulsating with heat and energy all the while they are slowly being consumed and their energy dissipating.
Yet, recall the burning bush where God commissioned Moses to lead His people out of slavery (Exodus 3:2). It was totally enveloped in fire, yet it was not destroyed. As long as God was in it, the energy never diminished! The sight was so brilliant in depicting God's glory that Moses dropped to his knees and bowed to the ground. This event demonstrates that godly jealousy comes first, and it issues in fire!
What, then, is the motive and object of God's jealousy? In seeking to reproduce Himself, God is preparing a bride for His Son. The practice of parents' choosing their children's spouses is not common in our Western world, but many of us wish our children were so likeminded with us that they would totally trust us with their happiness for the rest of their lives.
Jesus trusts His Father because He knows that He is a jealous God, and His jealousy is directed toward Him and the perfecting of His bride, the church. The Father desires that we be given a spirit body and be filled with His mind and power. He is eager to give us His only companion in wedlock, bestowing on us His Family name and making us heirs of His mighty Kingdom!
On the other hand, Satan begins very early in our lives to plant seeds of carnal jealousy, never missing a chance to tempt us to react according to his evil spirit. The sin of jealousy begins in our minds, and if it is not eliminated, it will inhibit God's Spirit from dominating our thinking. The two cannot dwell together.
Ronny H. Graham
The Jealousy of God
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