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God’s Word for You

Proverbs 27:2-9 The three jealousies

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, April 18, 2020

2 Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth;
  a stranger, and not your own lips.

Only a braggart thinks it’s a good thing to praise himself. Only a bully spends his time rehashing the same argument long after he’s won. If I praise anyone at all, let it be God, or if anything, let me praise a man for a godly purpose.

The verb in this verse, hallel, is the action in the word hallelujah (Praise the LORD). Here it means to praise a person, not God. But the Hebrew piel stem is a verb form that I think of as “bringing cookies.” When the piel shows up in a passage, it brings a little something extra. In this case, that something extra is that such praise might be spoken only once, or it might be said a number of times, but whichever is the case, the words hang in the air. Well-spoken praise resonates again and again in the mind and in the memory. People remember praise, just as people remember gossip. If you praise someone, let your words be honest and genuine. Most especially, remember to praise the people you love for the things that they do well or the things that make them special.

3 A stone is heavy and sand is weighty,
  but the wrath of a fool is heavier than both.
4 Wrath is cruel and anger is a flood,
  but who can stand up before jealousy?

Anyone who has done the honest physical labor of picking stones from a field knows how heavy and unyielding stones can be. Water, wind or time can wear them down, or the violent action of the earth, but to a man with his bare hands they are unforgiving and indestructible objects. Why is sand any different? Because collecting sand in a bag make a weapon as effective as a lead pipe. Many such bags can stem the flooding of a river, or a raging tsunami wave. The reason that a fool’s wrath is heavier that both of these is that a fool doesn’t have logic, reason, or a shred of wisdom on his side. A mindless stone is easier to deal with; at least you know where you stand with a stone.

This leads into the very next proverb about wrath, cruelty and jealousy. They sound like the polar opposites of faith, hope and love. Jealousy is such a powerful emotion that God acknowledged it as something to be addressed in the Law of Moses (Numbers 5:12-31). God’s Word acknowledges three kinds of jealousy, and it’s important to understand the difference between them when we come across the word (“jealous” and “jealousy” occur more than fifty times throughout the Bible, from Moses to Paul).

    1, The first kind of jealousy is God’s holy jealousy against other gods. “They angered him with their high places; they aroused his jealousy with their idols” (Psalm 78:58). This is the jealousy God addresses in the commandments when he says, “You shall not bow down to them (other gods) or worship them, for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sins of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me” (Deuteronomy 5:9; Exodus 20:5). The Lord’s jealousy also shows itself in God’s wrath against the enemies of his people (Joel 2:18; Nahum 1:2; Zechariah 8:2). Paul understands that a pastor’s passion for his own flock is just such a “godly jealousy” (2 Corinthians 11:2).

    2, The second kind of jealousy is the jealousy of a husband over his wife, whether he suspects her of infidelity or another man of coveting her in violation of the tenth commandment (Provers 6:34). A wife might have the same jealousy over her husband (Genesis 30:1), but sometimes customs in the culture of the Old Testament period enabled men to obtain multiple wives in violation of the will of God but under the permission of the local government. The jealousy of a husband and wife for one another manifests itself in a godly way in their passion for one another (Song of Solomon 8:6),

    3, The third jealousy is altogether sinful. This is the jealousy of one person for another without any just cause. This is the jealousy of Joseph’s brothers (Acts 7:9); of the Jews over Jesus (Acts 17:5); of the Sadducees over the apostles (Acts 5:17); or a man’s jealousy over the success or position of another man (1 Corinthians 3:3; Romans 13:13; 2 Corinthians 12:20; Galatians 5:20). This jealousy is listed alongside such sins as sexual immorality, witchcraft, selfish ambition, and envy. Paul warns that those “who live like this,” that is, in an open and unrepentant sin, “will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:21).

Solomon warns us against jealousy, but does he warn us against being on the receiving end? Who needs to be warned not to be beaten with a cudgel? Solomon’s warning must be about the jealousy that rises up and eats away at our own insides. This kind of jealousy—one’s own jealousy—that is the heavy stone and the weighty bag of sand. This is what Paul tells us to crucify in ourselves: “the sinful nature with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24). So while we never want to stir up God’s righteous jealousy by veering away from worshiping him, and we never want to stir up our spouse’s jealousy by giving ourselves to one to whom we are not married, or even lusting after one to whom we are not married, it is the third jealousy that we should also concern ourselves with. When I become envious of someone else’s success, I must take care. Let me apply this from the perspective of a preacher. I share my pulpit with two other pastors, and we share a fellowship with something like 1,300 other pastors in our synod and perhaps the same number in other church bodies around the world with whom we are in fellowship. When one of my brothers in ministry preaches an excellent sermon, should I be jealous of his success? Shouldn’t we both praise God that the Holy Spirit is able to work through either of us, to carry his word to his people? Or should I be jealous of any of my brothers in ministry who receive some slight recognition for their service? Not at all. And so it should be with anyone. If my neighbor has become wealthy, I know that such wealth is a burden and a cross as well as a blessing. If my neighbor marries a beautiful wife, I should never be jealous of them, but I should join the friends in the seventh chapter of the Song of Songs rejoicing for their love and companionship, and nothing more.

Do not rouse the jealousy of your spouse, and beware any jealousy you glimpse in your own thoughts. But be grateful for the jealous love of God that protects you and sets his walls all around you. He has made you his own, and through faith in Christ, all his love and watchful care are given to you without reserve, without hesitation, and without end, flowing past all limits, to the green rolling fields and infinite forest groves of all eternity.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

 

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