Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.
Exodus 34:14 | NIV | Other Versions | Context
In Exodus 34, the second stone tablets were prepared and the Lord told Moses what to write on them. There are notable differences between the tablets this time and the ones that Moses broke in his fit of anger [Exo 32:19]. The first set was given by God, and inscribed by the finger of God [Exo 31:18]. The tablets were the work of God; the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets [Exo 32:16]. Not so for the second stone tablets. The stone tablets were prepared by Moses instead of being given by God [Exo 34:4], and the words were written by Moses instead of God [Exo 34:28]. This is a direct reference to the second commandment [Exodus 20:5], with an extra tidbit on the name of the Lord. In this study, we will examine the consequences of God’s jealous nature.
whose name is Jealous – we know of God’s many names – and each of them has a very direct relationship with his nature – his name reflects his nature. God’s names have power, hold promise, and tells us a lot about who God is. We were told right from the very beginning that he is a jealous God. He does not worship anybody, and will not give his glory to another god. All glory is his, all honour is his, and no other being or object is superior or equal to him, and thus we only need to worship him. When we worship another god, we break the covenant between us and the Lord, just like how marriage vows are broken in an adultery. In that process, we betray God, we let him down – and God cares. God is not indifferent to our idolatry. God is not okay with it. God will not be passive about it – he will be jealous about it. And if you ask me, I’d think that a jealous God is a scary God.
Idolatry is Spiritual Adultery
In the secular world context, adultery is still generally something that is frowned upon in our society today. For most people, monogamy is practised and adultery is to some extent, social suicide. Adultery is clearly something that has existed from the ancient days – perhaps even more liberally, when monogamy is not practised in many cultures, and even though the act of adultery is largely frowned upon today, there are still many who do it. And while most people do frown on it as shameful behaviour on the surface, it could be something that society may one day accept – just like how pre-marital sex is now regarded as the norm and the expected. We know what adultery is in terms of our society and our world. But what of adultery in the spiritual context?
We do not realise it, but we are frequent adulterers in the spiritual context. Most Christians are. Do not worship any other god – we may not worship another religion’s gods; we may not bow in reverence to idols, but there are many other formless idols out there in the world, and we shouldn’t pretend that they aren’t. A pastor once explained, try thinking of the things that you cannot live without. These are your idols. Well, I call them formless idols, but some of these may have a form – could be your lucky pen that you must bring with you everytime you sign a contract. Could be your son. Could be your work. Could be your credentials and your qualifications. Could be your sight. Could be your aspirations. Basically, just about anything at all – whether good or bad – anything that overtakes the place of God in your heart. When something becomes more important than God to you, that something becomes your idol, with or without a form.
Is God truly the first place in your heart? If not, then you’ve been committing spiritual adultery. Sounds harsh? Well, it is harsh. Adultery is harsh. God told us right from the beginning that he is jealous. He told us right from the beginning not to worship other idols, but we still do. We are putting other things in front of him. And God is jealous.
Not everybody will interpret ‘any other god’ to include what I call formless idols – intangible things that we are often obsessing over like fame, status, achievements, glory, power. But I’d like to think that in the modern world today, in this world where the internet dominates, these formless idols are distracting us from God, and at the risk of sounding like I’m making excuses for ourselves, we are unable to truly worship God because of our formless idols. This won’t do. God cannot be pleased with our half-hearted worship. God cannot be pleased with us when our worship is laced with hypocrisy.
God is jealous. But He also forgives completely when we return to him in repentance. It is often difficult for humans to forgive adultery – to forgive that breach of marital trust. But God is beyond that. As long as we turn to him in repentance, he forgives.