Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Touching Base - Part 312

What Is God Like?” Series, Pt 5

“Breakfast with a Jealous God.”
Joshua 24:14-24
31 Jul 16

This sermon series is about knowing God.  Each week we’re examining a different attribute of God, not just to expand our knowledge of theology, but to really know God.  The Westminster Catechism says that the “chief end of man” (not just of Christians, but of human beings) is to “glorify God and enjoy him forever”.  I think this can happen in a fuller way if we know him deeply.

Read 2 Timothy 1:12:  “For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto him against that day.”  Like St. Paul, we want to know this God.

Question:  Without necessarily referring to the attributes of God in this sermon series, what characteristics to you most, day-to-day, associate with your God?

Did you think of God as jealous?  Or, as it says in Exodus 34:14, God, “whose name is Jealous” (capital “J”)?  Jealousy seems, at least at first, like a strange-and-in-no-way-comforting attribute of God.

Even if you’re actively trying to know God, there are at least 3 barriers to getting there.

(1) What we, as finite 21st-century human creatures, want Him to be like.

We probably wouldn’t pick the attribute of jealousy on our own if we were designing a god (which we often try to do).  We design or imagine a god that is 2-dimensional, soft, easy, and unchallenging—really nothing like the God of the Old and New Testaments.

(2) The Bible’s descriptions of God are 2000+ years-old.

Even if we’re going to scripture for our ideas about God, we’re reading the text through 2 or more millennia of linguistic, cultural, and political changes.  We don’t really understand what the authors mean when they write that God is “jealous”.

Question:  What is the first thing that pops into your head when you think of a “jealous God”?

A “jealous husband” or a “jealous girlfriend” is usually anything but desirable to us, but jealousy as an attribute of God, by definition, has to be a good thing.  And jealousy as understood in intimate relationships at many times in history was a good thing.  It is when someone believes he has a claim to certain attentions from someone else, but has lost or is in danger of losing those special attentions. 

It is a specific and focused form of love actually.

If there is truly a relationship of love between two people, wouldn’t each actually want the other to be somewhat jealous in this sense?  Who wants affections spattered over everyone without unique treatment for the special lover?  It is actually a form of respect to be jealous toward someone you love.  It means the relationship and the love are serious and worth having.

Read Joshua 24:14-24.  When the Israelites have reached the Promised Land, Joshua challenges them by asking if they will serve God.  “Will you forsake Him?” “No, but we will serve the Lord,” they answer.

(3) God is ultimately inscrutable (beyond us, mysterious).

While the Holy Spirit and the Biblical authors can describe God in inspired language, it is still finite syntax, and we must acknowledge that parts of Him are not totally penetrable to us.

Question:  What part of God’s nature do you most wish to understand more?

Read John 21:1-19:  The story of Breakfast with (a Jealous) God.

Despite God’s mysteriousness, he is shown in this story to be very tangible indeed.  He gives practical fishing advice, cooks breakfast for a crowd, makes Peter squirm.

But he’s still jealous:  “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” he asks Peter after breakfast in v15.  Jesus demands special attentions, affections focused wholly on him—“do you love me more than anything?”  3 times.  “Do you love me?”  “Do you love me?”

Question:  In your life, what are “these”?  (“Do you love me more than these?”)

Peter’s answer is, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Every attribute of God (and every sermon) should have a response.  In Joshua it is “No!” to other objects of desire, and here in John’s Gospel it is “Yes!” to God—the Jealous God.

I challenge you to view the jealousy of God, not as a hazard, but as something you can take advantage of.  He is so jealous for your affections that you can walk next to the inscrutable God of the universe and commune with him.  And I challenge you to practice the “No!” and the “Yes!”

Eric Prost

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