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Take care, lest you forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which he made with you, and make a carved image, the form of anything that the LORD your God has forbidden you. For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.
קַנָּא - qanna (kan-naw’)
[Occurs in: Exodus 20:5, Exodus 34:14, Deuteronomy 4:24, Deuteronomy 5:9, and Deuteronomy 6:15]
Qanna is translated as meaning jealous or zealous, which reveals a unique attribute of God as Jehovah Qanna - Jealous God.
Qanna is an adjective derived from qinah, which is a Hebrew feminine noun used for meaning ardor (a strong feeling of energy or eagerness), zeal, or jealousy. Interestingly enough, it is affiliated with the color of one’s face as a result of deep emotion, as well as the jealousy of lovers and of rival peoples.
What Qanna Does and Doesn’t Mean
Merriam-Webster’s definition of “jealous” is, “Intolerant of rivalry or unfaithfulness,” whereas, when “definition of jealous” is typed into the Google search bar the first definition is, “Feeling or showing envy of someone or their accomplishments and advantages.” These are two starkly different definitions when looked at closely.
Merriam-Webster’s definition assumes an already existing relationship. A rivalry institutes competition between two parties, and one party apparently doesn’t like the competition. Unfaithfulness assumes a commitment, a promise, a covenant to be broken.
Google’s definition assumes no relationship but instead assumes selfishness and envy towards what isn’t one’s own. It craves something that is anticipated as fulfilling a need or want.
When understanding our God as Jehovah Qanna, it’s detrimental that we do not confuse these two definitions of jealousy.
Merriam-Webster’s definition follows the reaction of God in places like Exodus 34:14 where God is renewing His covenant with Israel, who just worshipped a heap of gold they fashioned into a calf in place of Him, Jehovah Qanna. He addresses them in regards to their recent behavior and the idolatrous culture around them, “You shall tear down their altars and break their pillars and cut down their Ashram [objects resembling another God] for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.”
God is intolerant of idolatry and will not share worship with something lesser than Himself. For Him to allow worship like this wouldn't be liberty for the believer but, instead, slavery. God desires for all to come to repentance and find complete and utter joy where completeness and salvation is exclusively found: Himself.
Jealousy has a connotation within our culture that is most often negative, and indeed, when jealousy is felt by us, it’s mostly rendered from selfish sin.
Jealousy is most affiliated with an over-possessive dating relationship or an envious colleague wanting attention or an accomplishment that they’re not receiving. When God is taught as being jealous, eyebrows raise and thoughts of contradiction come about:
“What about in Galatians 5:20, where it’s shot down as a sin on the same list as things like idolatry and witchcraft?”
Even one of America’s most influential icons, Oprah Winfrey, was turned off to the idea of the Judeo-Christian God after hearing He’s jealous for His people. She believed jealousy and grandeur should not exist within the same divine, perfect being.
Negligently, we can fall into expecting our God will contradict what His own Word pins as unholy. Christian, we can’t be so quick to lean on our own understanding. As we dig into Scripture, we’ll find that God’s version of jealousy looks like an entirely different species than our own little, slimy gastropod version.
JESUS: A JEALOUS SAVIOR
The exclusivity of biblical Christianity is a result of the jealousy of God. Remember, if we are using Merriam-Webster’s definition, He tolerates no competition of worship and calls us to be faithful to His Word.
Jesus makes His exclusivity clear to those who aspired to follow Him, as seen in the Gospel accounts of the New Testament:
“When Jesus heard this, he said to him, ‘One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’ But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.”
“To another he said, ‘Follow me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Leave the dead to bury their own dead.’"
On these occasions and more, Jesus is not only stating that people leave behind false gods of the day, but calls them to give Him precedence before wealth, reputation, relationships, and obligation. This doesn’t mean that He never wants us to care about these things to a degree, but He calls us to filter these through worship of Him, first, in order that we may not be enslaved to their demands.
God’s jealousy is meant to provoke us back to Him. It’s a righteous, protective jealousy, much like a husband’s jealousy toward a wife around a rivaling man aspiring to steal away the affections of His bride.
As the bride of Christ, we are called to live in worship to God alone - not ourselves, not other gods, not other relationships - but wholly to Him, the only one deserving of all our worship.
For the days to come, contemplate the following:
1. Where the majority of your thoughts are directed
2. Where your strongest emotions are felt
3. What most of your time is invested in
4. How often you’re deliberately seeking God through prayer and the Bible
Hopefully you will find the idols that are present in your life and the idols arising to capture your attention. God is jealous for your worship and for your life, so much so that He has redeemed you with a price. In turn, glorify Him with all of your passions (soul), actions (strength), and thoughts (mind).
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