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"Shall We Provoke the Lord to Jealousy?"

We know what it is to "provoke" other people. To provoke is to anger, enrage, exasperate, or vex. We spend enough time with siblings, fellow students, roommates, spouses, and co-workers to learn there are certain "buttons" that can be pushed that might as well be labeled PROVOKE ME.

  • Touch that toy that doesn't belong to you
  • Bring up that past girlfriend
  • Leave your dirty laundry on the shared bathroom floor
  • Embarrass your spouse in front of a new group with that same old story
  • Fail to meet the agreed-upon deadline at work for the third time this month

We don't necessarily like to be provoked, but we seem to find it all too easy to poke the buttons of others.

Did you know that the Lord of heaven and earth can be provoked? In 1 Corinthians 10:22 the apostle Paul asks,

Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

As we wrestle with those questions, it's helpful to remember what James revealed in James 4:5.

Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, "He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us?"

And so it is a clearly relevant and pressing question: "Shall I provoke the Lord to jealousy?" How might I be guilty of doing exactly that today?

  • By turning the territory of my God-given heart over to the devil
  • By demonstrating that I'm more interested in friendship with the world than with God
  • By pridefully acting as if God does not exist or is unworthy of honor and thanksgiving
  • By slandering and harming those who have been created in God's image
  • By enjoying God's good gifts while ignoring his calls to repentance and transformation
  • By putting other people or things before God and embracing idolatry
  • By wasting the time and opportunities God continues to provide

Are we stronger than the Lord? Of course not. Has the Scripture said to no purpose, "He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us?" By no means. Why then would I ever believe that it is a good idea to provoke him to jealousy?