“For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up; and the reproach of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me.” Psalm 69:9
And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.” John 2:17
While these verses are linked by the fact that one is a quotation of the other, there is a bit of variation between the two definitions probably due to the fact that one is Hebrew and the other Greek.
In Psalm 69 the word means ardour, zeal or jealousy, especially that of a jealous husband. In John, the definition means more an excitement of mind, fervour of spirit in embracing, pursuing or defending anything. It also indicates a fierceness of indignation, or an envious and contentious rivalry.
Jesus’ zeal for the house of God was demonstrated as he made a scourge of small cords and drove out those that sold sacrifices and the moneychangers from the temple. Upon seeing his zealous actions, the disciples remembered the verse from Psalm 69.
It is this same sort of zeal that drives men to serve the Lord and to stand for righteous causes. David rejoiced in the streets as the Ark of the Covenant was returned. John the Baptist preached and stood against sin. Steven was stoned. Paul cast aside all earthly reward counting it all but dung for the reward of knowing Christ. The Book of Hebrews records those who with fervent zeal embraced and pursued a higher call. All these were “eaten up” with fervent passion and contended for the faith.
As we face a New Year, maybe it is time to examine our own level of zeal. Just how defensive or jealous are we for the things of God? Are our churches filled with things that Jesus would chase out? Do we rejoice when we see God’s greatness? Do we boldly stand against sin? Do we endure rejection and persecution with our eyes upon the Lord? Do we count Christ a worthy reward? Are we “eaten up” with fervent passion about the things of God? Are we fiercely contending for the faith?
“For I know the forwardness of your mind, for which I boast of you to them of Macedonia, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal hath provoked very many.” II Corinthians 9:2
The thing about zeal is that it is contagious!
When I started Bible College the Shah of Iran had just fallen. This sent missionary Ken Liles back to America. God opened the doors for him to be my mission teacher. His zeal for the ministry was fresh and fervent. He wasn’t afraid to challenge my thinking and he excited my mind with increased faith and a deeper devotion. His zeal provoked in me a fervour to pray for the peoples of the Middle East that continues to this day.
Over the years there have been so many blessed ones God has used to provoke me to greater zeal in other areas as well. Some have been Sunday school teachers who challenged me to hold my Bible is high regard. Some have been men and women who encouraged me to not lose hope in parenting. Some have been pastors who have opened God’s Word with great wisdom and directness. And others have been friends who have walked alongside with words of instruction and kindness. All of these exhibited a level of zealousness and compassion that prompted me to have greater strength, determination or devotion. I am so thankful for each one who influenced me by their zeal and compassion.
As we look at our own lives we must wonder - upon whom have I had an influence? Have I passed my zeal on to others? Am I living a contagious Christian life?
“….that he that a great zeal for you…” Colossians 4:13
Epaphras was one of those faithful men who served alongside the Apostle Paul. The Bible records that he was a fervent laborer that kept people in prayer and who genuinely cared. The use of the word zeal means that his concern was not casual. He passionately wanted to see those around him growing in the Lord and inside God’s will.
Christian zeal for others can be displayed by various means and is usually done in relation to our spiritual gifts. Givers give. Exhorters exhort. Mercy givers give mercy, etc. All are valid means of exhibiting our zeal and care toward others. The thing is that if we are not exhibiting care toward others, then we are obviously without zeal toward them. Without zeal we can be assured that we will affect very few to any positive results.
Giving and caring characterized the Christians of the New Testament. They sold possessions in order to feed the others in the church. They opened their homes for daily meetings and meals. Even the words used to describe their activities reveal that their social economy was different than that of those around them.
When defining brotherly kindness Berg writes, “What is most interesting is that in the secular Greek world…the word was reserved only for blood relatives. The early church extended its use to those outside the natural family because they considered anyone in the body of Christ a “brother” or “sister” in Christ….the unbelievers despised the Christian use of this term outside the natural family lines….the New Testament is the only place where the word has been found outside the context of the home. A first-century reader would therefore come across it here with a sense of shock.”
Would zealous compassion be a word used to describe your relationships? Would brotherly kindness be a term in your vocabulary? Does your compassion extend beyond your family boundaries? Do you have a zeal for others or is our life self focused?
“Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.” Isaiah 9:7
We live in a time between the establishment of Israel and the total restoration of Israel. This verse is a promise of completion. There will be an eternal government of peace, judgment, and justice that reflects the character of God. It will be ordered with prudence and equality.
And how will this happen? God will make it happen. He will undertake to bring to pass. He has all power in his hand and all creation at his beckoning. God’s zeal – his ardour, passion, and determined will for good – means that He will not do less than everything to accomplish His plan for the ages.
This zeal is what we see in Christ’s spiritual victory over Satan at his first coming and is the same zeal that accompanies the judgments on the Antichrist, Satan, and every enemy at the second coming.
God will perform it. Here is a place for us to rest, a place of solid assurance and confidence. A place where we have nothing more to do than believe. God didn’t just write the Bible down for us to read. He wrote it to affirm to us His plan. To help us to look beyond today to the realization of His truth – His plan – His will.
He is zealous. We might not see how all of the cogs fit. We might think that time is ticking by and no progress is being made. But nothing could be further from the truth. God is always working to bring about the fulfillment of His Word and will. He is not stagnant, nor has He forgotten. This you can believe.
One day every knee shall bow and every tongue confess...until that day, we also need to be zealously living for this future. Are we?
“For he put on righteousness as a breastplate, and an helmet of salvation upon his head; and he put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloke.” Isaiah 59:17
I don’t know if I can adequately describe the image I see in my mind about this verse. Let me start by backing up in Isaiah 59 to show you what is happening. Words like, iniquity, evil, destruction, crooked, groping, lying, falsehood and truth that has failed bring us to the phrase in verse 15, “…and the LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no judgment.”
Then, in verse 16 it states that, “there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor…” God saw that man’s state was one of hopelessness. So, “….therefore his arm brought salvation unto him; and his righteousness, it sustained him.” God chose to do something about it!
As a mighty warrior and a victorious king he donned his robes – a breastplate of righteousness, a helmet of salvation, battle gear and cloaked it all in zeal.
I see him standing at the gateway to heaven with the crown upon His head, His garments blowing in the wind and ready to step out into battle. As he makes his initial step he takes the train of his royal robe and casts one side over his shoulder. He is clothed in zeal, ready for battle and not to be deterred. This is our God – a God jealous of his children, ready to defend. He is the man. He is the intercessor.
“So shall they fear the name of the LORD from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him.” Isaiah 59:19