Intolerant Love--Jealousy Part. 4

No Other Gods!

Gen. James Green

E xodus 20:3 states: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Verse 5 says, “Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God…” This is what is called the core of the covenant community. It is understood as the unconditional exclusiveness of the recognition and worship of the God of Israel. It stands rightly as the most important point at the beginning of the series of divine commandments. The first command begins with the emphatic negative particle lo, “not.” Some Bible scholars see the marriage metaphor, which is central to God’s understanding of His relationship with His covenant people, behind the use of al-panaya, “before My face;” “Before Me” is the most used translation. They believe that “before Me” seems to be used of taking a second wife while the first is yet alive, which they say, describes a breach of exclusive personal relationship (R.A. Cole, Exodus: An Introduction and Commentary, 1971, p. 153).

Others see an idol other than Yahweh. Whatever Hebrew imagery is used and/or accepted, God is not to share His glory with “another” (Isa. 42:8). This commandment is an eternal commandment, which reaches all the way to the end of time. Yet, New Testament believers see no reason to obey the Old Testament, after all, they are FREE to do as they will. But, is this Scriptural? Exodus 34:14 says, “For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God,” and Deut. 6:4 reiterates, “Ye shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the people which are round about you.” Observe that this exclusiveness is characteristic about Yahweh’s jealousy—both times connected with the warning against foreign gods. Israel fell into idolatry time and time again, and the New Testament believers practically live in the mode of idol worship; idols can be various things. Therefore, to mention GOD’S HATRED FOR IDOLATRY, SPRINGING FROM HIS JEALOUSY, IS FOREIGN TO THE AVERAGE CHURCHITE. But it can’t be denied—because violence and vehemence make up so much of the Old Testament, hence, the basis for this Jealousy is undiluted loyalty, specified by the first commandment: Idolatry=spiritual adultery. Period. God’s love coincides with His jealousy. But since unfaithfulness is all too common between “Christians” (in marriage), it goes to reason that they are almost impervious to faithfulness. Committing adultery is so common these days, who even notices?

The modern Church reflects ancient racial Israel—unfaithful and sexually promiscuous, i.e., playing the harlot with other gods! The marriage covenant and sexual imagery used in Ex. 34:15 (“...make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go a whoring after their gods, and do sacrifice unto their gods…”), is a central emphasis within the jealousy motif. Did you know that out of the 228 Old Testament passages where the LORD is CLEARLY JEALOUS for the faithfulness of His Covenant people, 24 are explicitly sex/marriage related? Is the Word trying to tell us something? Why do we think this does not matter today, or, at least, is not central?

Hosea (3:3) is a marriage motif and “jealous” exclusivity grows out of it: “…thou shalt not play the harlot, and thou shalt not be for another man: so will I also be for thee.” Texts like this are what idiots like (atheist) Richard Dawkins point to, calling God “maniacally jealous” “draconian,” and says that “He cannot hear a rival.” Yet he (Dawkins) is JEALOUS over his own odious belief that THERE IS NO GOD!

Ex. 20:3-5: we can’t say that these anti-idolatry texts are merely ethical requirements to make Israel good people. They are profoundly theological/relational, not merely “a job description for God’s employees,” as author John Piper writes. THEY ARE THE WEDDING VOWS (Piper, The Lord Whose Name is Jealous, 1998, p. 5)!