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Sermon #36 — Zechariah Series
Title: Our Jealous Savior
the Law of Jealousies
Text: Zechariah 8:2
Subject: Christ’s Jealousy for His People
Date: Sunday Evening — August 20, 2006
Readings: Bob Duff and James Jordan
Tape # Zechariah #36
The title of my message is — Our Jealous Savior and the Law of Jealousies. My text is Zechariah 8:2. In Zechariah 1:14, the prophet of God said, “The angel that communed with me said unto me, Cry thou, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy.” Because of his great jealousy for his people, God destroys the enemies of his people and — “Therefore thus saith the LORD; I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies: my house shall be built in it, saith the LORD of hosts, and a line shall be stretched forth upon Jerusalem. Cry yet, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; My cities through prosperity shall yet be spread abroad; and the LORD shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem” (Zechariah 1:16-17).
In our text, the Lord Jesus again asserts that his jealousy for his chosen makes their salvation certain.
(Zechariah 8:2) “Thus saith the LORD of hosts; I was jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I was jealous for her with great fury.”
I want to talk to you about our great Savior’s great jealousy for his Church, the Bride he has espoused to himself in everlasting love and tender mercy.
(Song of Songs 8:6) “Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame.”
The word translated “jealous” is the same as the word “zealous.” Jealousy is zealousness. Where there is no jealousy, no burning zeal, there is no love. I do not love a person, if I do not zealously do my utmost for him. So it is with our God and Savior, who “is a consuming fire.” He says, “Who would set the briers and the thorns,” as enemies of his people, “against me in battle? I would go through them, I would burn them together” (Isaiah 27:4). He declares that he is jealous for his church, “with great fury” against those who would pull her away from him. Yet, he declares to the object of his love, for whom he is jealous, “Fury is not in me” (Isaiah 27:4).
Solomon wrote, “Jealousy is the rage of a man” (Proverbs 6:34), the rage of a man against any and all who would steal the heart of the wife he loves (2 Corinthians 11:2-3).
(2 Corinthians 11:2-3) “For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. (3) But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.”
As at first our Savior loved us simply because he loved us (Deuteronomy 7:7-8), he will bestow upon his chosen all good things simply because he loves us with an everlasting love. “The zeal” (that is, the tender love and free grace, the burning jealousy) “of the Lord of hosts shall do this” (Isaiah 9:7). For his word’s sake (that is to say “for Christ’s sake”), and according to his own heart, the Lord God has done and will do great things for the salvation of his people (2 Samuel 7:21).
Jealousy causes a man to be watchful and quick sighted. Even the slightest glance of one who desires his wife’s heart enrages the loving, jealous husband. So it is with our loving Savior, who is jealous for our hearts. The slightest indignity done to his beloved spouse, his Hephzibah, seeking to take her heart from him, will be met with his utmost fury. If Edom jeers at his prophet, “Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night,” if Ammon but claps his hands at God’s Israel, if he stomps his feet, or if he merely rejoices in his heart, when Christ’s Bride is hurt, he will suffer for his daring insolence (Ezekiel 25:6-7; Joel 2:18).
(Ezekiel 25:6-7) “For thus saith the Lord GOD; Because thou hast clapped thine hands, and stamped with the feet, and rejoiced in heart with all thy despite against the land of Israel; (7) Behold, therefore I will stretch out mine hand upon thee, and will deliver thee for a spoil to the heathen; and I will cut thee off from the people, and I will cause thee to perish out of the countries: I will destroy thee; and thou shalt know that I am the LORD.”
(Joel 2:18) “Then will the LORD be jealous for his land, and pity his people.”
Jealousy is merciless, violent, and cruel as the grave, burning as fire in a man’s heart (Song of Solomon 8:6). In fact, the word translated “jealous” in Zechariah 8:2 is elsewhere translated “fiery thunderbolts” (Psalm 78:48) and “burning fever” (Deuteronomy 32:24). Jealousy puts a man into a feverish fit of outrage and makes him burn for revenge. While those things are all evil in fallen man, they are gloriously just and righteous in our blessed Husband, the Lord Jesus. He will spit in the face of any Miriam who dares but to mutter against his Moses (Numbers 12:14). What, then, will he not do to those who would steal the heart of his Bride?
And jealousy is implacable. It cannot be reconciled (Proverbs 6:34-35).
(Proverbs 6:34-35) “For jealousy is the rage of a man: therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance. (35) He will not regard any ransom; neither will he rest content, though thou givest many gifts.”
Balak was willing to give anything to have his will with Israel. Haman was willing pay ten thousand talents of silver to have the Jews destroyed. Ahasuerus was willing to comply with Haman. Esther said, “We are sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be slain and to perish” (Esther 3:9; 7:4). But God was jealous for Israel and had Haman hanged upon his own gallows.
(Esther 3:9) “If it please the king, let it be written that they may be destroyed: and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver to the hands of those that have the charge of the business, to bring it into the king’s treasuries.”
(Esther 7:4) “For we are sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be slain, and to perish. But if we had been sold for bondmen and bondwomen, I had held my tongue, although the enemy could not countervail the king’s damage.”
“For thus saith the LORD of hosts; After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye” (Zechariah 2:8). Our mighty Phineas will gird his sword upon his thigh and execute the great fury of his wrath upon any who dare oppose his beloved. He will smite his enemies in the hinder parts and put them to a perpetual shame and reproach forever (Psalm 78:66).
The Law of Jealousies
So jealous is God our Savior for us that he established a law in Israel, called “the law of jealousies,” to show us how he who “hateth putting away” keeps his beloved from leaving him (Numbers 5:11-31).
(Numbers 5:11-31) “And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, (12) Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man’s wife go aside, and commit a trespass against him, (13) And a man lie with her carnally, and it be hid from the eyes of her husband, and be kept close, and she be defiled, and there be no witness against her, neither she be taken with the manner; (14) And the spirit of jealousy come upon him, and he be jealous of his wife, and she be defiled: or if the spirit of jealousy come upon him, and he be jealous of his wife, and she be not defiled: (15) Then shall the man bring his wife unto the priest, and he shall bring her offering for her, the tenth part of an ephah of barley meal; he shall pour no oil upon it, nor put frankincense thereon; for it is an offering of jealousy, an offering of memorial, bringing iniquity to remembrance. (16) And the priest shall bring her near, and set her before the LORD: (17) And the priest shall take holy water in an earthen vessel; and of the dust that is in the floor of the tabernacle the priest shall take, and put it into the water: (18) And the priest shall set the woman before the LORD, and uncover the woman’s head, and put the offering of memorial in her hands, which is the jealousy offering: and the priest shall have in his hand the bitter water that causeth the curse: (19) And the priest shall charge her by an oath, and say unto the woman, If no man have lain with thee, and if thou hast not gone aside to uncleanness with another instead of thy husband, be thou free from this bitter water that causeth the curse: (20) But if thou hast gone aside to another instead of thy husband, and if thou be defiled, and some man have lain with thee beside thine husband: (21) Then the priest shall charge the woman with an oath of cursing, and the priest shall say unto the woman, The LORD make thee a curse and an oath among thy people, when the LORD doth make thy thigh to rot, and thy belly to swell; (22) And this water that causeth the curse shall go into thy bowels, to make thy belly to swell, and thy thigh to rot: And the woman shall say, Amen, amen. (23) And the priest shall write these curses in a book, and he shall blot them out with the bitter water: (24) And he shall cause the woman to drink the bitter water that causeth the curse: and the water that causeth the curse shall enter into her, and become bitter. (25) Then the priest shall take the jealousy offering out of the woman’s hand, and shall wave the offering before the LORD, and offer it upon the altar: (26) And the priest shall take an handful of the offering, even the memorial thereof, and burn it upon the altar, and afterward shall cause the woman to drink the water. (27) And when he hath made her to drink the water, then it shall come to pass, that, if she be defiled, and have done trespass against her husband, that the water that causeth the curse shall enter into her, and become bitter, and her belly shall swell, and her thigh shall rot: and the woman shall be a curse among her people. (28) And if the woman be not defiled, but be clean; then she shall be free, and shall conceive seed. (29) This is the law of jealousies, when a wife goeth aside to another instead of her husband, and is defiled; (30) Or when the spirit of jealousy cometh upon him, and he be jealous over his wife, and shall set the woman before the LORD, and the priest shall execute upon her all this law. (31) Then shall the man be guiltless from iniquity, and this woman shall bear her iniquity.”
In this passage of Scripture the Lord God established “the law of jealousies” (v. 29). If the wife was seen speaking with or spending what appeared to the husband to be an inordinate amount of time with another man, she could be brought to a priest and given a test. The test was designed to prove her innocence or establish her guilt.
We should not fail to observe that the test was only available to the husband. No such test existed if the wife suspected her husband of adultery. The burden of proof or innocence was upon the woman. We are nowhere told that adultery was more prevalent among wives than it was among husbands in Israel; but that may very well have been the case.
Hebrew women looked upon barrenness as a terrible curse and reproach, a shameful thing, as indicated in verse 28. There we are told that if the wife was proved innocent she would then conceive. It was suggested by some of the ancient Jewish writers that adultery was more prevalent among wives, because they thought that the multiplicity of lovers would increase the probability of conception. And, if they were able to conceive and bear children, people would look upon them as being blessed of God. That notion would tend to stir a little jealousy in a man, especially if his other wives were barren.
If a woman’s husband became suspicious of her fidelity, if he was jealous for her, God ordained this strange law for his use. It was not necessary that she be caught in the act of adultery or that she be guilty of it. All that was necessary was for her husband to be jealous. If in his mind there was but the suspicion of infidelity, this test, this law, was to be applied (vv. 12-14).
This test did not involve being put on trial in a court of law. That would only take place if the woman were caught in the act of adultery and the result in that case was capital punishment for both the woman and the man with whom she had committed adultery (Levitcus 20:10).
If a man was suspicious of his wife, she was to be brought to the priest with an offering (v.15). The offering was to be supplied by the husband, but it was her offering. This offering was unique. The offering was to be the tenth part of an ephah of barley; which was the same as an omer, about 3 1/2 quarts of dry measure or about 1/10 of a bushel. The offering was carried in an earthen vessel. And the woman had to hold this weight while she was being tested. You can imagine how heavy the offering was as she held it out in her hands. It was designed to make her weary and, perhaps, bring about a confession of guilt.
Everything about the offering was significant. It was not an offering that was designated to expiate, remove, or transfer sin. The amount of barley meal was the same as the daily ration of manna for one person, the same measure used in the meal or meat offering.
Š But, unlike the meal offering, this offering had no fine flour, or oil, or frankincense; all of which pointed to the righteousness of Christ, the work of the Spirit, and the sweet smelling savor of the grace of God.
Š Fine flour was the food of the priests. Barley was the food of the beast.
Š The earthen vessel was a vessel of dishonor, a common vessel, used only for a time and then discarded.
Š Every element of the offering was designed to cause the woman to remember her sin and iniquity (v.15).
Š This was a jealousy offering and it showed the effects of suspicion, the woman was suspected of a common, beastly and dishonorable act — adultery.
Š And, as I said before, the offering was provided by her husband; but it was her offering.
The priest would then take holy water (water from the laver of brass) and mix it in the earthen vessel with dirt from the floor of the tabernacle and pronounce the curse upon the woman (vv. 19-22). The ramifications of the curse were contingent upon her being proved guilty. The curse was declared to the woman; and she was required to agree to it, verifying her understanding of the charges laid against her. After hearing the curse, she would reply “Amen, amen” (v.22). By doing so she was saying that she understood the charges against, agreed to the curse and was ready to be tested. She was saying that when she drank the bitter water, if it became bitter in her stomach and caused her stomach to swell and she became ill and began to corrupt, that she was guilty as charged and would be shunned the rest of her days.
Then the priest would write the charges, the indictment of suspicion, on a piece of parchment and take the water mixed with the dirt and blot out the indictment. The blotting of the ink from the indictment was mixed with the water and dirt. The brew that was in the earthen vessel was water, dirt from the floor of the tabernacle, and ink blotted from the parchment upon which her indictment was written. This strange concoction was designed only to reveal whether she was guilty or not guilty of adultery. It searched her from within and made manifest her guilt or innocence. — Either way, the outcome would be miraculous, an obvious work of God.
Š If she was innocent, she could not be injured but by a miracle performed by the Lord.
Š If she was guilty, she could not be punished but a miracle performed by the Lord.
A Gospel Type
Because the mixture had nothing toxic or poisonous in it, and could only discern what was inside the woman, the test was a miraculous thing and should be viewed as such. Paul said, in 1 Corinthians 10, that these things happened in Israel to be typical, typical of Gospel matters. In this Gospel Age God judges the secrets of all hearts by Jesus Christ, the Great High Priest of our profession, by the Gospel. As is all the law, the Book of Numbers is about the Church, Christ’s Bride, in our relationship with Christ our Husband. What’s this all about?
The Wife Suspected
First, only the wife could be suspected of adultery. No law was given concerning the possibility of the husband’s infidelity. Had God intended for us to look upon this law as relating to the natural affairs of the heart neither the wife nor the husband would have need of testing. Both were, as we all are, adulterers by nature (Matthew 15:19; Mark 7:21).
The law is, in its entirety, spiritual. It is all about Christ, his person and his accomplished work for his people. The husband was not suspected because this, of course, points to the fact that Christ is without sin. He is our ever faithful Husband, whose name is Faithful and True. Any problem that results in a damaged relationship between Christ and his Church must be laid at our door, never his. No hint of suspicion can ever be put to the immutable Christ.
Š He, who never lies, who cannot lie, loves his bride unconditionally.
Š He will never leave her nor forsake her.
Š He is with her always.
Š He is the same yesterday, and today, and forever.
Š He loves her with an everlasting love and lives to intercede for her.
If a possibility of suspicion, if any hint of unfaithfulness exists, it can only be with the Bride, not with Christ.
Second, Christ is jealous for his glory and jealous for his Bride, and will countenance no rival to her affection for him. The emotion of jealousy has to do with entitlement. On a human level, people get jealous because they believe that they are singularly entitled to the affection of the one they love. Even the slightest understanding of our own corruption, depravity, and unworthiness should dispel such notions of entitlement. Human jealousy is groundless. No human being is worthy of, much less entitled, to be jealous. Christ, on the other hand, has both claim and right to the unconditional affection and allegiance of those he loves. He says, “Give me thine heart;” and he is entitled to it because he is worthy. He has a right to be jealous because he is entitled.
Cause for Suspicion
Third, we must acknowledge that we often, (Dare I not say, “constantly”?) give our Savior, our completely devoted Husband, cause for jealousy. Do we not? The believer’s love for Christ is genuine. We say with Peter, “Lord, thou knowest all things: thou knowest that I love thee.” — “We love him, because he first loved us.”
“Do not I love Thee, Oh my Lord?
Behold my heart and see;
And turn each odious idol out
That dares to rival Thee!
Do not I love Thee from my heart?
Then let me nothing love.
Dead be my heart to every joy
Which Thou dost not approve.
Is not Thy name melodious still
To mine attentive ear?
Doth not each pulse with pleasure beat
My Savior’s voice to hear?
Hast Thou a lamb in all Thy flock
I would disdain to feed?
Hast Thou a foe before whose face
I fear Thy cause to plead?
Thou know’st I love Thee, dearest Lord,
But Oh! I long to soar
Far from the sphere of mortal joys,
That I may love Thee more!”
— Phillip Doddridge
Yes, we love our Redeemer, who loved us and gave himself for us. Yet, our base, corrupt, evil hearts are ever straying from him! How often we go awhoring after others!
“Prone to wander, Lord I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love!
Here’s my heart. — O take and seal it!
Seal it for Thy courts above!”
The cares of the world often get in the way of the unrivalled love we owe our Beloved.
Š Our minds may wander from Christ and become focused on petty differences between the brethren.
Š We sometimes isolate ourselves (individually and as a body) from fellowship with others of like precious faith over perceived issues.
Š We often become proud and self-sufficient, and leave our first love, like the church at Laodicea.
Š God’s Church sometimes allows the presence of false teachings, like the church at Pergamos.
Š Sometimes she allows the doctrine of Balaam to enter in, as well as that of the Nicolaitans.
Š She struggles with schisms, like the church at Corinth.
Yes, the Church of God, Christ’s chosen, redeemed, dearly beloved Bride often gives reason to be suspected of an alienation of affection. To be suspicious of her would be both feasible and reasonable. The possibility of her being untrue is always at the surface.
Therefore, fourth, we must be proved. We must be tested. We must be tried. We must be searched from within. We must drink the water mixed with dust and the ink of the accusation. How will the inner thoughts of my heart and yours be discovered?
The three elements of the potion in Numbers 5 were dust from the floor of the tabernacle, holy water, and the blotting of ink from the indictment written against the wife. Those elements are significant.
Š The dust represents death.
Š The water represents the Word of God, the Gospel.
Š The indictment represents the law.
Š The dust and the indictment are in the water.
Š And the very law of the indictment is the means by which the indictment is blotted out (Romans 3:24-28; Isaiah 45:20).
The Gospel of Christ sets forth the death of Christ as the Substitute for sinners condemned by the law. The Gospel is the food and drink of the Church. It is the feast of fat things, wine upon the lees and well refined. It is the singular drink for both the one who is true and the one who is unfaithful. It is the drink that reveals both.
It is the Gospel that searches the inward man, where God requires truth. To the one who is guilty of unfaithfulness and drinks, the Gospel searches him out, finds and discloses his unfaithfulness. This is exactly what is portrayed in the Song of Solomon (5:2-7).
(Song of Songs 5:2-7) “I sleep, but my heart waketh: it is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled: for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night. (3) I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them? (4) My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were moved for him. (5) I rose up to open to my beloved; and my hands dropped with myrrh, and my fingers with sweet smelling myrrh, upon the handles of the lock. (6) I opened to my beloved; but my beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone: my soul failed when he spake: I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer. (7) The watchmen that went about the city found me, they smote me, they wounded me; the keepers of the walls took away my veil from me.”
The drink of death searches out the faithful too, and gives him freedom to bring forth fruit unto God. The fact is that there is in us, that is in our hearts, both faithfulness and adultery. We must be tried by the Word. We must have a constant diet of the Gospel. The preaching of the Gospel is the only thing that will search us out. (Hebrews 4:12-13; Ephesians 5:8-13; John 3:19-21; Psalm 139:23 –24).
(Hebrews 4:12-13) “For the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (13) Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.”
(Ephesians 5:8-13) “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (9) (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) (10) Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. (11) And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. (12) For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. (13) But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.”
(John 3:19-21) “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. (20) For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. (21) But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.”
(Psalms 139:23-24) “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: (24) And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
The offering that was brought was barley, the food of beasts. This is a picture of the believer approaching God with nothing of value. It speaks to the fact that the believer stands before God trusting him to reveal the truth about him. — “Though he slay me, yet will I trust him.” — “Thou knowest all things. Thou knowest that I love thee.”
The barley also pictures the Gospel in that it is the food of beasts. The Gospel is for sinners. Christ came not to call the righteous but to bring sinners to repentance. — “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.”
When the Church is tried by the Gospel she is always found innocent. When she feasts on the Gospel and is searched in her inmost self, she is found without sin because the Gospel declares that her sin is gone, she is sanctified, she is made the very righteousness of God. Fully aware of her personal guilt, rottenness swelling within, she clings to Christ, all the more, knowing that he is her All. The indictment that was against us has been blotted out by the precious blood of Christ (Romans. 8:1, 33-34).
Death and the law are both elements of the preaching of the Gospel and both are swallowed up by it. The Gospel is a heavenly cordial that inebriates the soul and causes the Bride to rejoice that though she may be suspect in herself, because of her Bridegroom, she is not guilty. She welcomes the test. She gladly drinks the potion heartily and often, for it will prove her always innocent. Though within her flesh she knows that there dwells no good thing, she knows, by Gospel declaration that she is true to her Beloved and he will never put her away. Because he declares “I am jealous for her,” nothing shall separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Jeremiah 32:38-40; Hosea 2:19-20).
(Jeremiah 32:38-40) “And they shall be my people, and I will be their God: (39) And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them: (40) And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.”
(Hosea 2:19-20) “And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies. (20) I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the LORD.”