Tag Archives: Ephesians 4:26

Rise Up, My Love (273): Of Flames and Fountains

Song of Solomon 8:6 “Jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame.” Fifteen years ago, when I wrote this commentary, I spent nearly a year on this verse alone, I guess because there was so much road repair that had to be done spiritually in my life in order to move on. I am reminded of the verses in Isaiah 62:10 and 40:3: “Prepare ye the way of the people; cast up, cast up the highway; gather out the stones; lift up a standard for the people,” and, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”   I had been moving along, trying to build a straight road for my Lord, when all of a sudden a found a huge boulder blocking the path! The stumbling stone was misplaced affection. I was expecting others to remain perfectly loyal to me through thick and thin, and I was allowing failure to unravel me. This is wrong.

We must keep our eyes on Christ at all times and our relationship with him paramount. It is true that friends and spouses are to remain faithful, but it is inevitable that all people will be faced with the temptation to be unfaithful, and people respond very differently to this type of challenge. Our job as a spouse is to address evil with compassionate firmness without sinning ourselves.   The amazing thing is the power of sin to breed sin. Proverbs 6:24 reminds us that “jealousy is the rage of a man: therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance.” If our eyes get off the Lord and on to our spouse, the partner’s failure is a tremendous catalyst for us to yield to some sin…be it unfaithfulness, or unholy anger, pride, hatred, revenge, or a host of other evils. “Be ye angry and sin not” (Ephesians 4:26). For years I was troubled by a spirit of jealousy (Numbers 5:14).   Sometimes my jealousy was justified, and sometimes it was not, but it caused me constant pain, and my husband—for whatever reasons—was unwilling or unable to reassure me when I would doubt him. Truly, jealousy is cruel as the grave. The heat of it sparked in me a fire of wrath and hatred that I’ve never experienced in any other situation. It may seem a trite saying to repeat, “If you play with fire, you’re sure to get burned,” but jealousy is a wild fire which burns like Sheol…like the fires of hell…like the continuous burning, smoldering fires of gehenna, the garbage dump outside Jerusalem. “The coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame.” Surrender your jealousy to God and make Him the center of your affections. If your love for everyone else is like “hatred” by comparison, then you’ll always be able to love God and others freely. But, if you allow any other person to become the focus of your greatest concern and attention, you will end up with a misplaced affection that robs you of peace and joy, and you will end up feeling volcanic anger toward the person you thought you “loved” when they fail you. God alone is the source of true love and the fountainhead of unsullied joy.(P.S.—I’m happy to be able to share with you that today Alan and I are doing very well in our marriage. He is a loyal and reassuring husband, and I’m very glad to be married to him!)

Rise Up, My Love (271): Poison Apples

Song of Solomon 8:6 “Jealousy is cruel as the grave…” This verse stopped me for months when I was originally studying the Song of Songs (now fifteen years ago). My husband and I had just come and gone on our thirtieth wedding anniversary celebration, and even though we’d  enjoyed a really happy vacation together, from the deepest part of me I felt the heat of this verse. There is nothing, nothing, in our relationship that has come close to causing as much pain and anger as jealousy.  (Again, we’re now just about to celebrate our 45th anniversary, and we have a much better relationship, but I could still experience jealousy in a flash if provoked!)

What does it mean to be jealous? Jealousy is “fearful or wary of being supplanted; apprehensive of losing affection or position…vigilant in guarding something…intolerant of disloyalty or infidelity.”* Are you jealous of your spouse? All of those above definitions fit me painfully well. I didn’t know I had a jealous bone in my body until the night my husband-to-be first kissed me, but from that night to this, I have been amazingly jealous of his affection. I had (erroneously) thought that I would never kiss anyone but my husband, and I hoped he would also save himself completely for me.

My beloved husband-to-be totally disagreed with such a policy and kissed me without permission one night as we were saying goodbye for yet another semester of college where we would be separated for months. He had drifted away from the Lord at the time, and we had a very tenuous, unstable relationship. As soon as he left, I sat down and cried. I wasn’t at all sure this was the guy I wanted to marry! I knew Amos 3:3, “Can two walk together except they be agreed?” I’d even composed a song about it. I knew I could never marry anyone unless he was a Christian who not only “believed” but had truly surrendered his life to Christ. I also cried because I felt violated. How dare he rob me of my “purity?” (Note: Kissing is not fornication; the fact that I didn’t want to kiss anybody but my husband was my choice, but it  was going beyond what the Bible teaches.)

Looking back, I realize that I was being “over righteous,” which is what Solomon warns against in Ecclesiastes 7:16, but I didn’t understand the sin of my own pride, which led to great heartache, just as predicted: “Be not righteous over much; neither make thyself over wise: why shouldest thou destroy thyself?” I cried because I felt like he didn’t respect my boundaries and needs, and I felt like he didn’t really love me. And, I cried because something deep inside me said, “This is the guy you’re going to marry.” I don’t know where that came from, but I do know that on the heels of that sense came the thought, “and he doesn’t care one bit about maintaining purity…his or yours.”

Looking back, I know the last part was a Satanic deception, but I fell for it. I cried, but I became angry and then extremely jealous of his affection. When he casually wrote a few weeks later saying he and his roommate had taken in another roommate who was female, I thought the worst and decided to get revenge. I fell into Satan’s trap and thought, “I’m going to marry this guy, and he’s totally trashing himself.” (Which, by the way, was not true, but you know how Satan loves to deceive us!) I failed to heed Ephesians 4:26, “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” I failed to heed Romans 12:19, which teaches clearly, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.” Why? Because only God can mete out vengeance and still retain his righteousness… because only God is perfectly just and holy.

For humans, vengeance is a beautiful, poison apple that—if eaten—will plunge the victim into a sleep of death. In fact, for twenty-five years I felt like Snow White or Sleeping Beauty, living a death, awaiting true love’s first kiss to undo the damage. Did Prince Charming ever come to my rescue? Yes, but I learned that the real Prince Charming is Christ. He is the one whose kiss breathes life into our withered souls. He is the jealous God who desires and demands our total allegiance, and he is the only one we can ultimately trust to be unswervingly faithful to us. If we truly fulfill the first command, and love him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, it takes the poison out of experiencing the pain of human frailty and imperfect fidelity.

For the Lord thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God” (Deuteronomy 4:24).

*The American Heritage Dictionary, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1992), 964.