Is God Jealous? [Westminster Shorter Catechism Q52-53]

Love, Obedience and the Nature of God

Second Commandment (Pt. 2)

“The Lord Your  God is a jealous God…” This is a statement that troubles many. What does it mean? Is God petty and selfish as we think of jealous people? Of course not! There is a positive aspect to jealousy that we often overlook. The same emotion that causes some to act crudely and selfishly can also be the thing that inspires a parent put themselves in danger or even to sacrifice his or her own life to protect their child.


This is given as a warning for God’s covenant people to remain faithful to Him. It is attached to the Second Commandment which forbids the use of images in worship.

Exodus 20:4-6  “You shall not make for yourself a carved image–any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth;  5  you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me,  6  but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

When we attempt to either worship the images of other so-called gods, or when we attempt to identify an image that we have made (which is impossible, because God has no form and Christ though in the form of a man has not given us a true image of Himself) Any image that we call God is a misrepresentation of Him.

Exodus 32:1-5  Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, “Come, make us gods that shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.”  2  And Aaron said to them, “Break off the golden earrings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.”  3  So all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron.  4  And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molded calf. Then they said, “This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!”  5  So when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow is a feast to the LORD.”

All images that are said to be of God (the Father or the Son) are not accurate images. Some say that images are needed to instruct the ignorant and children. But if the image teaches but does not teach truth, it is worse than useless. It is destructive and sinful.

Habakkuk 2:18  “What profit is the image, that its maker should carve it, The molded image, a teacher of lies, That the maker of its mold should trust in it, To make mute idols?

This is what makes God jealous. He is jealous for His people. He is jealous for His Name. He has entered into a covenant with His people, similar to a marriage covenant. To take an image and call it a god is to take another as husband.  It is spiritual adultery. God is so abhorred by this practice that He denounces the offspring of those who “hate” Him by participating in this practice.

Exodus 20:5  For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me,

God will treat the children of covenant breakers as the children of adultery to the third and fourth generation. (See Hosea 1) Yet, He promises MERCY to thousands generations for the faithful. This is reason enough for me to avoid any so-called images of God in all of my life. God hates them and calls those who use them unfaithful. He withholds His covenant mercy from the children of such people. He considers them covenant breakers and haters of God.

Deuteronomy 4:14-19  And the LORD commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and judgments, that you might observe them in the land which you cross over to possess.  15  “Take careful heed to yourselves, for you saw no form when the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire,  16  lest you act corruptly and make for yourselves a carved image in the form of any figure: the likeness of male or female,  17  the likeness of any animal that is on the earth or the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air,  18  the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground or the likeness of any fish that is in the water beneath the earth.  19  And take heed, lest you lift your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun, the moon, and the stars, all the host of heaven, you feel driven to worship them and serve them, which the LORD your God has given to all the peoples under the whole heaven as a heritage.

This is a humbling commandment. Especially in the traditions that allow for such images. Not just Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox, but Modern Evangelicals who plaster their walls with “pictures of Jesus.” Check out the previous post on the commandment itself The Second Commandment.  Then listen to the audio from the lesson below.


In Christ!


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