THOUGHTS FROM ISAIAH

THE ZEAL OF THE LORD

Having described Jesus Christ [Isaiah 9:6] and what he would do [Isaiah 9:2-7], Isaiah then states: ‘The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this’ [9:7].

This ‘zeal’ of God accomplishes the incarnation of his eternal Son. This zeal of God accomplishes the victory of the Son and establishes the eternal and universal kingdom of the Son, a kingdom upholding and characterized by ‘justice and righteousness’.

In other words, everything that Jesus, the Son of God, did, was accomplished by ‘the zeal of the Lord’.

This raises the question ‘What is this zeal of God?’

In our minds we have the idea that ‘zeal’ is something like ‘strong enthusiasm’ or ‘real commitment’ or ‘extreme dedication’. And it certainly includes that. The Hebrew word, qinah, means ‘jealousy’ and ‘envy’ – words that are offensive to us. We know that ‘jealousy’ and ‘envy’ are identified in the Bible as sins. How can they belong to God? How can they be the very thing that accomplishes and establishes his eternal saving purpose and his eternal kingdom? How can God be ‘jealous’? How can God be ‘envious’?

Isaiah speaks of the ‘zeal’ of God elsewhere:

‘He put on righteousness as his breastplate,
and the helmet of salvation on his head;
he put on the garments of vengeance
and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak’ [59:17].

‘Where are your zeal and your might?
Your tenderness and compassion are withheld from us’ [63:15].

Whatever this ‘zeal’ of the Lord is, it is associated with righteousness, salvation, vengeance, tenderness and compassion. It has to do with God himself coming as the Redeemer [59:16-20]. It has to do with God himself being our Father [63:16].

And here we are close to the meaning and the central fact about this zeal: that God alone is God, and God alone is the Saviour, the Redeemer. There is no other. God knows that, even if we humans don’t.

‘”To whom will you compare me?
Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One’ [40:25].

‘I, even I, am the LORD,
and apart from me there is no Saviour’ [43:11].

‘You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me?
No, there is no other Rock; I know not one’ [44:8].

‘I am the LORD, and there is no other;
apart from me there is no God’ [45:5].

Because God is the only God and the only Saviour, the whole universe is his, including us, and including particularly, the people called by his name [whether Old Testament believers or New Testament believers]. God knows that our well-being is utterly dependent on him alone. God knows that all other ‘gods’ to whom we might give some recognition or credibility, are powerless, useless, deceptive inventions, with no real existence. In this context God describes himself as ‘a jealous God’:

‘You shall not bow down and worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God’ [Exodus 20:5].
‘Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God’ [Exodus 34:14].

‘The LORD is a jealous and avenging God;
the LORD takes vengeance and is filled with wrath’ [Nahum 1:2].

This zeal, or jealousy, of God arises in his deep and unchangeable knowledge that he is the only God, and in his deep and unchangeable love for us. As such it is expressed in his acts of redemption, in particular in his sending his only Son to redeem us from our allegiance to any other god. And as such it is also expressed in his acts of judgement, in which he minimizes, curtails, and will ultimately remove all that threatens and undermines both his glory and our good.

We see this zeal of the Lord in the incarnation, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. We will see it again in its ultimate and final expression at the return of the Lord Jesus Christ as King of kings and Lords of lords, treading ‘the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty’ [Revelation 19:15,16]. Then the glory and the praise and the worship of the whole universe will be focused on the One to whom alone it is due, and we humans who are called by his name will live in his presence in the relationship with him for which we were created, and for which, by his zeal, he redeemed us.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2014