The Trade, Initial thoughts by Julieanne Riddle
Deuteronomy 4:24 For the LORD your God is a devouring fire, a jealous God.
You’re welcome! In all my vacation bible school days, there was never a puppet or video teaching kids about God being an all consuming fire raining down from heaven to destroy the disobedient. Probably for good reason. And because I have an active imagination, I’ve tried to picture the songs and hand motions and the poor mom who would get suckered into dressing up as Moses with white hair and glowing face. I digress.
I’ve got this deep desire to kickoff this blog on an upbeat, positive note that would be sure to encourage others. How am I doin’?
Who is God? Well, according to what Moses told the ancient Israelites before they crossed to the Promised Land, God is a devouring fire. They needed to get that straight before they inhabited a land flowing with milk and honey. God loves You. With a love like no other. In fact, He’s described as a strong and mighty fire in many places (Ex 24:17, Deut 9:3, Heb 12:29). Fire that consumes. Not warms. Not cooks marshmallows or allows people to play guitars around when they’re camping. Devouring. Nothing left behind. Consuming. Jealous. And don’t we all know jealous. Felt its sting, maybe did some of the stinging ourselves. That’s our God. Jealous of His rightful place in our lives.
Before you keep going. Before you scroll down or eye roll, may I make one suggestion? The “why” behind the jealousy? The “why” behind such powerful imagery with such potentially negative connotation? The “why” behind the absolute insistence that anyone who would call themselves a person of God to not divide your heart?
It’s Love. Irrational. Undeserved, battle-ready love.
God’s jealous nature is a sign of His great love for you. They go hand in hand. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not the fleshy, dysfunctional jealous love many people have been hurt by. More a willing to give everything, send my son for you, not expect you to have it all together , yet want you to be kept away from harm’s way, kind of love.
Before they step one sandal into the promised land, God knows what His people will be up against–idols within and idols without. Idols from pagan nations who bow down to fish and stars. And Idols that tend to crop up when we prosper and build our lives around the blessing instead of the One Who gave it to us. God knew what was ahead and gave them clear instructions. Idols? Tear them all down! Be obedient to God so they don’t exercise any power in your life. You don’t fight for what isn’t important to you, right?
God wants the same for us, this side of the cross. God’s love for us is a jealous love, accepting no other in the place where He rightfully belongs. He wants our whole hearts, and He will not share space with something from the world–You will always end up disappointed when you attempt to trade the Creator for the created, the eternal for the temporary, the feast for the bread crumbs, paradise for dust. Oh God, help me not to trade paradise for temptation-flavored dust, money-flavored dust, fame-flavored dust. Smoke and mirrors that make me crave a mud pie when I have a heavenly banquet awaiting!
God brought Israel out of bondage with a mighty hand and outstretched arm, destroying their enemies with an all consuming fire. He led them into the Promised Land, even though they ended up taking the scenic route for forty years. He did it for them, and He continues to do it for us–jealously, because He wants the absolute best life for us. And that means bringing us to a place where the only thing we bow down to is God.
Thank God for His perfect jealousy. That He loves us too much to allow us to fill our lives with harmful or meaningless traps. Because a God who isn’t jealous doesn’t much care about you. A God Who is safe and controllable lacks the power to save us from ourselves. A God Who is incapable of being the one, consuming fire is, frankly, not God, is He?
Want to be close to God? Ask Him to reveal the external idols of culture that exercise control over your life. Want to grow in faith? Ask Him to help you tear down the idols inside that are robbing you of fullness of joy–the labels, mindsets, judgments that end up flavoring our thoughts and controlling our lives. Ask His Spirit to help you unclench your hands from them. Consume them with a holy fire that cleanses. Remember who you are. Don’t bow down to created things. Worship God alone.