Zealous God: A God with Gusto

The ABC’s of knowing God better: the letter “Z”

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

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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Forging a New Normal

Arthritis pain in the lower back, or lumbar region.

It wasn’t what I wanted to hear.

After months of nearly constant lower back pain that increasingly worsened, trips to two doctors (my PCP and my orthopaedic doctor), X-rays, and a CT scan, I made an appointment with the spine surgeon who’d operated on my neck eight years ago. That surgery went well, and I was able to resume my normal life after recovery. I’d hoped the same would be true this time.

“I want to walk and hike again without pain,” I told the nurse who compiled my information. As well as sleep without the constant ache that invaded my slumber and woke me up through the night.

“I can’t promise you that,” she said.

Surgery wasn’t an option. Operating on the lower back, as opposed to operating on the neck, is a totally different ballgame.

There is no cure for my diagnosis: degenerative arthritis, also called osteoarthritis. Add to the mix scoliosis, a slight curving of the spine in same area as the arthritis. This, I was told, is probably why I have pain, stiffness, and a feeling of instability when I wake up or when I work at the kitchen counter. The back brace I bought helps some.

Instead of surgery, what the doctor prescribed was physical therapy, cortisone shots, and various medications. No quick fix.

No fix at all, as far as I was concerned. I’d rather pursue natural remedies when it comes to health issues. I wanted to avoid the injections. Research into the prescribed medicines revealed two of the three would interact with my blood pressure medicine.

What it boils down is a lifestyle change. Just what I want as I approach the seventh decade of life.

Of course I had my grumbling, complaining, pouting sessions. I’ve been grumbling and complaining for months. My poor little flock (I’m the lay pastor for a small church in Punxsutawney)—they graciously listened to me gripe every week. And DH—the word longsuffering was coined for this man.

What now?

Time to put on my big girl britches and deal with it. Learn to live with it. Without kvetching.

Forge a new normal. Alter my horizons, change my goals, adjust the pace at which I tackle my day. Shorten that to-do list and incorporate physical therapy, exercise, walking, stretches, rest, and meal planning. Educate myself through research.

In addition to pursuing my dream of writing. Sitting for long periods of time is a no-no, but unfortunately that’s par for the writer’s course. So I bought a Fitbit, which reminds me to get up and walk every hour.

It never ceases to amaze me how God meets us in our deepest valleys.

During my quiet time, I’ve been reading Draw the Circle: The 40-Day Prayer Challenge by Mark Batterson. Not following the day-by-day readings, but choosing the selections randomly.

As I wrestled with the diagnosis and the resulting life changes this past week, God led me to Day 4: “Don’t Pray Away.” Batterson related the story of a couple whose three-year-old son fell from a second-story window and was permanently paralyzed.

Here’s what John Tiller, the father, wrote: “It was time to accept his current condition and choose  to live life with disability.… Instead of getting discouraged or getting angry, I choose to look for what God can do.”

Photo by Chad Madden on Unsplash

“Sometimes,” wrote Batterson, “the purpose of prayer is to get out of circumstances, but more often than not, the purpose of prayer is to get us through them.”

There was nothing random about choosing this selection on that particular day, a day when I needed those words the most.

What a God!

Lord, please give me “the grace to sustain me, the strength to stand firm, and the willpower to keep on keeping on.”* It is only through Your grace and strength I can do this. Amen.

*From “Don’t Pray Away,” The 40-Day Prayer Challenge by Mark Batterson, p. 34.

Read and reflect on 2 Corinthians 12:7–10.

© 2019 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.