Zealous God: A God with Gusto

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

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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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My Father’s Lap

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In the shadow of thy wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. – Psalm 57:1 (RSV)

When I was growing up, there was only one place where I could escape my mother’s wrath—my father’s lap. I was an impulsive child, and my mother wasn’t blessed with patience, so when our wills clashed, sparks flew.

Mom was the firestorm; Dad the quiet stream. I loved them both, but it was to Dad I turned when I needed a listening ear or when I just needed cuddled. Curled up in his lap, resting my head on his shoulder, feeling his arms around me, was the safest place in the world.

Fast forward forty years. I am now a mother, still a bit impulsive, fiery when I get going. My husband is like my father—a soothing balm to my blistering heat. One of my children has impulsively done something that could cast a dark shadow over the future. I am so furious, I shake. I feel heat radiating from my face.

“How could you do this?” I shout. “When we get home, you will tell your father what you’ve done.”

But the scene doesn’t turn out as I expect. There, curled up in my husband’s lap, is our errant, remorseful child.

Fast forward eight more years. I am now a grandmother. As my family has multiplied, so have my love and concern. I pray for my children and grandchildren every day, but still I worry. I am at the age where I realize how fragile life really is and how dangerous a place the world is. I have much more to lose now.

As I sit in the family room, my head rests on the wing of the love seat where I’m curled up. Eyes closed, I imagine myself sitting in my heavenly Father’s lap, resting my head on His shoulder, feeling His arms around me.

I speak no words, but peace, like a placid stream, gently seeps into my soul. I am in the safest place in the world.

Abba, Father, thank You for Your unconditional love. Amen.

Read and reflect on Psalm 57

From God, Me & a Cup of Tea for the Seasons: 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God, Copyright © 2018 by Michele Huey