Listening to a sermon yesterday on James 4 and got stuck on James 4:5:
Or do you suppose that it is for nothing that the scripture says, “God yearns jealously for the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? (NRSV)
I was partly stuck because I was thinking of “spirit” as “Spirit” as the Holy Spirit, like as if God is jealous of Himself that he put in us? But then I realized it’s “spirit” with a small “s”. But the alternative translations in my TNIV Study Bible notes say, “that the spirit he caused to dwell in us envies intensely” and “that the Spirit he cause to dwell in us longs jealously”. Each of these create a different meaning. The first alternative suggests the sin of our own envy, and possibly in context refers to verse 4 of our love for the world. The second alternative would refer to the Holy Spirit that dwells in us longs jealously for our devotion.
And then I wonder, “where is it written?” My Zondervan Study Bible note says, “The passage James had in mind is not known.” That’s intriguing to me, because I don’t recall hearing of that in any Biblical Scripture. My study Bible does note that it could be referring to Exodus 20:5, part of the 10 Commandments that mentions that God is a jealous God.
And then of course, my thoughts go to John Mark McMillan’s song, “How He Loves” which has been hugely popular in worship lately and is one of my favs and was a favorite of my youth group and about any youth group:
It’s just interesting that in this song, that the first couple lines really grip people so strong. We usually cast “jealousy” in a negative light, but it is used paradoxically here and in the Scriptures describing God’s longing for us. I think it grips us because we have all experienced jealously and know that it can be all-consuming of our hearts and minds. And the idea that God has a similar all-consuming passion for us is unfathomable. But we believe this because of what God has revealed to us in His Word, actions and Spirit. His Spirit reveals to our spirits that this is true and even though we have a hard time believing and accepting this. But we know it to be true and it astounds us. It causes us to weep.
The next lines of this song are also powerful, “Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree; Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy.” We also resonate with these lines because we all try and resist or disbelieve this love but it is a wild and powerful love and mercy that will not be denied. And we sense this divine mystery of God.
A wretch like me?!? Really?
I once was lost, but now this love has found me…
was blind, but now I see… albeit through a glass dimly…
Big thank you to John Mark McMillan for echoing the cry of our hearts so well.