Devotional Thoughts from Exodus 34:14

Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. Exodus 34:14 

"I am a jealous God."

Really? This verse has always baffled me. How can God, who is perfect, display an attribute that seems, well, pretty imperfect? A variety of good answers exist to this question; however, I’d like to highlight one aspect of the answer related to the context of the religious world of the Ancient Near East.

This culture was a polytheistic, pluralistic, and synchronistic society. The gods they worshipped, at least from their perspective, did not mind being worshipped alongside other gods. Various gods had various purposes, and it was customary for them to worship the god they needed at a given time.

In contrast, God, in Exodus 34:14, is demanding singular devotion from his people, and declaring that he is the one true God. He is above all gods and is their “one stop shop.” He is their greatest need and he will not be placed alongside false gods. God's declaration is an indictment against their religious systems and also reveals His desire to have them experience the one true God in all of His glory.

Furthermore, God’s pronouncement that He will not share his affections with false gods stands the test of time, bridging the gap between the Israelites and present-day believers. For the people of Israel and the gathered church alike, God's words in Exodus are both a needed correction and a gracious plea to enter in to a relationship that is vastly unlike any other.