The ABC’s of knowing God better: the letter “Z”
He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak. –Isaiah 59:17 ESV
His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” –John 2:17 ESV
Zeal. What, exactly, is it?
One online dictionary defines it as “great energy or enthusiasm in pursuit of a cause or objective.” Synonyms include passion, fervor, and gusto.
You don’t hear the word zeal used too much today. I wonder if the intensity of the word and its meaning cause people to back off. I mean, another synonym is committedness, root word commit. When you commit yourself to something or someone, you determine to see it through to the end, come what may.
Take marriage, for instance. When you pledge to become one until “death do us part,” you make a commitment to your spouse that you’ll work together to stay together come what may—sickness and health, poverty and prosperity, good times and bad times—you vow to love and cherish your mate for better or worse for the rest of your lives.
Promises made are only as good as promises kept. Life happens, people change, and love wanes, and we don’t fight for it. Like tending a garden, in order to survive the droughts, the storms, the scorching temperatures, the freezing ones, the bugs, the blights, the bunnies and other critters, you must be diligent at consistently nurturing and cultivating it.
That’s where zeal comes in.
I use marriage here as an example, but other pursuits in life also thrive on zeal. Such as rearing children, getting an education, learning a new skill, pursuing a career, developing God-given talents, helping others.
What does this have to do with God?
The Bible describes Him as a zealous God. Some translations use the word jealous, but that word has too many negative connotations.
God is zealous for His children—for you, for me. He is committed to us with a love that is unconditional, meaning it doesn’t depend on what we say or do or how we feel. We can run as far away from Him as we want (well, we can try), but we will never outrun His presence, His provision, His protection, and His love.
We are the cause, the objective He pursues with passion, fervor, and gusto. Why?
Simply this: He loves us.
He loves us so much that He gave us a free will to decide for ourselves whether we want to return that love or reject it. He loves us so much that He hates the sin that separates us from Him. He loves us so much that He sent His own Son to take the punishment for that sin so that we can be with Him forever in the place He’s prepared for us.
Imagine a father standing over the crib of his sleeping child. That’s God standing over us. In the words of the prophet Zephaniah, “The Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17 NKJV).
No matter what. Come what may.
He is zealous for you.
My mind just can’t wrap around that kind of love, O God. But I am so thankful for it. Indeed, I can’t exist without it. As Your child, may I inherit a portion of Your zeal, so that I may reflect You to the world around me. Amen.
Read and reflect on Zephaniah 3:17.
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