For the Lord is a Jealous God, Part 1

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Mitchellville, MD, July 13, 2003


For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this. ISA 9:6,7)

This beautiful passage from the book of Isaiah speaks to the children of Israel and tells a people troubled by sin and national disaster that there is reason for them to hope, that the Lord is coming, and He will bring with Him a just government that will bring peace for all mankind. There is hope that there will be justice and judgment so that the evil will be punished and the good will have their reward. Isaiah tells us that the zeal of the Lord will do all these things.

In the literal sense, this passage tells us that the Lord is zealous to do these things for His people, that it is something that He wants more than anything and is willing to fight for; for zeal, as used in the Word, is one of the most powerful human emotions. The Doctrines of the New Church tell us that zeal, regarded in itself, is as "the fire of love blazing."  (CL 358)

When someone, be it the Lord, or one of us, is being zealous or acting from zeal, it is the same as our love acting forcefully. However, if we look at it from the outside only, that is exactly how anger looks as well, for anger is also a love acting forcefully, although in the case of anger it is an evil love.

When we act from zeal to protect something we love, we do not appear loving, but rather we appear as an enraged enemy and foe ready to kill or die for the sake of what is precious to us. The image of a mother taking tremendous risks without thought for her own safety to protect her children powerfully illustrates this idea. Zeal is therefore called the protector and defender of love. However we should note that the fire of zeal burns in the lower parts of the mind, and so we cannot consider zeal to be the highest degree of love, but rather the effect of that love burning in the lower parts of the mind.

The heat in our zealousness comes from the spiritual heat which comes from the spiritual sun of heaven, which in itself is nothing but pure love. Thus, when our loves come very close to the surface, as when they are challenged by some opposing love (either in our own will or introduced by another person), our loves are drawn out and we actually feel their heat.  (See CL 358)

In the Old Testament we read many stories where the Lord acted towards the children of Israel with great zeal because they found it difficult to obey the commandments, and their promise to obey established the covenant between them and Jehovah which was the basis for the worship of the whole angelic heaven. They had to be kept in order so that the balance of the spiritual world could be maintained. Therefore, the Lord's love for them burned brightly from time to time, with the result that the prophets of the Old Testament recorded their understanding of what was happening according to how it appeared to them at the time, rather than according to the truth. This is why it is often said of Jehovah in the Word that He is angry, or wrathful, that He avenges, punishes, and casts into hell. These are simply the ways the Lord's zeal for the salvation of the human race appeared to the writers of the Old Testament. This is why He is also sometimes called jealous, when yet there is not the least bit of anger, wrath, or revenge in His nature, as He is in Himself nothing but mercy, grace, and forgiveness.  (See CL 366)

In human beings, zeal shows itself most often in the anger of parents towards their children, where the parent chooses to put on a show of anger in order to teach the child a particularly important lesson, perhaps even to make them fear something that is potentially very dangerous. It certainly appears as anger to the child, but it arises from the very deep love the parent feels toward the child and the parent's fear lest the child be harmed or fall into evil. Zeal is love protecting that which it loves with all the strength it possesses.

It is useful for us to realize that love is not just a passive, warm thing, but that it is capable of great deeds to protect what is of value. When we are speaking of the zeal to protect what is holy and delightful in marriage in particular, zeal is called jealousy.

Jealousy is one of those words that is heavily loaded with connotations so that today most people regard jealousy as something unhealthy that should be avoided, but the doctrines tell us that jealousy can be "just" when it is love protecting what is good in marriage, that is, when it is a spiritual love expressing itself. The jealousy that is to be shunned is that which comes from purely natural origins. The doctrines of the New Church have given us the means to determine the difference between just and unjust jealousy when we find them in ourselves, and when we know the nature of our feelings and their source, we are better prepared to deal correctly with them.

The Writings tell us that just jealousy is with married partners who love each other mutually. In such a marriage, jealousy is the just and prudent zeal that each has lest their heavenly state be harmed or violated. On the other hand, unjust jealousy exists with those who are suspicious by nature and have a mind that is not entirely sane, but instead sees threats where there are none.

But we find today that any kind of jealousy has a bad name. We are encouraged to get rid of such feeling in the interests of mental health. But reflect for a moment about what is really being suggested: that we not defend that love which is most precious to us! Who would want to put such ideas into our heads but devils from the hell of adulterers, those who want to destroy true marriage so that they can enjoy the delights of their evil by knocking down its just and proper defenses and so making more people susceptible to ideas destructive of marriage?

Temptation is the conflict between two loves. We are all familiar with the battles that can rage within our own minds as we try to decide between our own loves. Love is the esse, or very being of our life, and when an evil love is driven away, it is like a part of ourselves dying. This is why there is pain and grief in the battles of temptation, because something of ourselves dies when the good conquers the evil. The fire of jealousy is like that, except that it involves the battle between the loves of two different people. When you attack a person's love, you attack his very life, and the result is a state of burning anger.

As mentioned above, the source of the heat of zeal, of the flame that flashes in the eyes of those who are inflamed with jealousy comes by correspondence from the sun of the spiritual world which is nothing but pure love.  (See CL 359)  This love bursts into flame when attacked because from its creation, the human is a form of love and wisdom which is organized and arranged so that all a person's loves and knowledges of wisdom together make a unanimous whole, a unity. If a person's love is then attacked, every part of him, both will and understanding, feel the attack. And when love is attacked or threatened, it defends itself with the things of truth in the understanding, and the understanding then defends itself with things rational and imaginative.  (See CL 361)

Since zeal and jealousy are both forms of love defending themselves, it follows that each person's zeal or jealousy will vary according to the quality of his loves, that a person whose loves are for what is good and true will fight with justice and judgment to protect what is innocent, while those who have loves that are for what is evil and false will rather fight to defend their own loves of self and the world.  (See CL 362)

While we are still living in the world of nature, all of us have both good and evil loves which can be inflamed and roused to fight to defend themselves. How then are we to know whether or not our feelings of anger are the proper and just feelings of good defending itself, or whether they are the improper desires of our evils to resist being shunned and removed? How are we to tell, when we have said or done something to cause an angry response in another, if they are responding in justice and judgment from a good love and that we should immediately retreat, or whether we have touched something that needs to be attacked and removed?

We know that the Lord alone knows our internal states perfectly, that we cannot really know our own states, let alone the internal states of another — but that does not take away from us the responsibility of trying to make that judgment. It is just that we must make these judgments with the knowledge that we may very well be wrong, and we must be always willing to change our minds when new evidence presents itself.

How are we to judge the internal states of others? By saying to ourselves that "if his internals are as his externals appear to be" then he is of such and such a character. Yes, we judge the internal states of others by how we observe them to act.

In judging our own states, we have the advantage of knowing what we are really thinking about, but still we have to be careful. When we are involved in work, or with other people, we have learned to exercise discipline on our thoughts so that our evils will not slip out with an incautious word or gesture. We are guarded in our thoughts in the presence of others. Therefore, if we wish to know what we are really interested in, we must reflect on the kinds of thoughts that we have when we are alone and relaxed. What is the nature of our fantasy life? Where do our loves lead us when the defenses are relaxed? These thoughts are lights that guide the way to an understanding of our own internal states.

Whatever the condition of our internal states, jealousy and zeal, whether inspired by a good or evil love, have the same outward appearance. We read in Conjugial Love: That in its outer manifestation zeal appears like anger and wrath, can be seen and heard in all cases when men speak and act from zeal. When a priest, for instance, preaches from zeal, the sound of his voice is loud, vehement, sharp, and harsh, he grows hot in the face and perspires, towers up, beats the pulpit, and calls forth fire from hell against evildoers. Many others act in a similar way (CL 365).

While this example may be amusing, it doesn't help us much in our effort to discover the difference between zeal and anger. Fortunately, there are principles given that can and do help.

The leading principle that helps us to distinguish between proper zeal and anger is that the zeal of a good love never attacks, but only defends, while anger will attack another without warning. The second principle is that the zeal of a good love dies down instantly and becomes mild once the attack against it is stopped; while the anger that comes from an evil love seethes on and does not stop when the attack does. This is because good in itself is mild, and yielding, and desires peace, which it will seek to achieve whenever possible. It is quite the opposite with the evil, for evil is fierce, and hard, and feeds itself on the delights of passionate anger. Even when reconciliation is forced upon the evil, the passions still remain, burning like embers beneath the ashes, waiting to break out at any time when the opportunity presents itself. If these smoldering fires of anger do not break forth in this world, they will show themselves after death (See CL 365)   It is principles like these that help us decide which side is right in times of war, for these principles apply to nations as well as to individuals.

So far we have only touched the surface of this doctrine, as we have only established the basic principles regarding jealousy and zeal as they compare to anger and wrath in relation to the Lord, and to our relationships with others in general. Because the doctrine of jealousy has its main application in marriage, a subject which has as yet been hardly touched, the sermon next week will continue on this theme and deal with the teachings of the New Church on jealousy and zeal as they particularly apply in marriage. AMEN.


First Lesson: EXO 20:1-11

And God spoke all these words, saying: {2} "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. {3} "You shall have no other gods before Me. {4} "You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; {5} you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, {6} but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. {7} "You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain. {8} "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. {9} Six days you shall labor and do all your work, {10} but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. {11} For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it. Amen.

Second Lesson: ISA 9:1-7

Nevertheless the gloom will not be upon her who is distressed, As when at first He lightly esteemed The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, And afterward more heavily oppressed her, By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, In Galilee of the Gentiles. {2} The people who walked in darkness Have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, Upon them a light has shined. {3} You have multiplied the nation And increased its joy; They rejoice before You According to the joy of harvest, As men rejoice when they divide the spoil. {4} For You have broken the yoke of his burden And the staff of his shoulder, The rod of his oppressor, As in the day of Midian. {5} For every warrior's sandal from the noisy battle, And garments rolled in blood, Will be used for burning and fuel of fire. {6} For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. {7} Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this. Amen.

Third Lesson: Conjugial Love 366

Since zeal in outward respects appears the same in both a good man and an evil one, and because the outmost sense of the Word consists of correspondent images and appearances, it is quite often said of Jehovah there that He becomes angry, is wrathful, takes vengeance, punishes, casts into hell, and many other things, which are the ways zeal appears in its outward manifestations. It is for the same reason, too, that He is called jealous. And this, even though there is not a particle of anger, wrath and vengeance in Him. For He is the essence of mercy, grace and clemency, thus the essence of goodness, in whom nothing like what has been described is possible. (But for more on this subject, see in the book, Heaven and Hell, nos. 545-550, and in The Apocalypse Revealed, nos. 494, 498, 525, 714, 806.) Amen.


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