“Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?” (1 Corinthians 10:22). These questions are very important and we should never ignore them. There are a number of places in the Old Testament scriptures which refer to God as being a jealous God. (Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 4:24, 5:9, 6:15; Joshua 24:19). God’s name is even referred to as Jealous. “For thou shall worship no other god: for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God:” (Exodus 34:14). Though jealousy is classified as sinful and a work of the flesh in Galatians 5:20, Paul speaks of godly jealousy in 2 Corinthians 11:2. This is certainly honorable and identified with the jealousy associated with God. Ungodly action by those who profess to be children of God can provoke the Lord to jealousy. Observe the circumstances which prompted these questions being asked: “But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils.” (1 Corinthians 10:20-21). Hence, God was provoked to jealousy on the part of believers who were compromising their Divine relationship by partaking of the table of demons. Furthermore, we provoke the Lord to jealousy by:
Worshipping other gods. The children of Israel were warned about this occurring. “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me:” (Exodus 20:4-5). Though this was spoken as one of the Ten Commandments, of which the children of Israel were to obey, there are statements in the New Testament warning us today of worshipping other gods. “Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry”. (1 Corinthians 10:14). Idolatry may exist in different forms! When God’s children place other things in preference to serving the Lord, aren’t they guilty of making such a god unto them? By doing so, aren’t we provoking the Lord to jealousy as the Corinthians were doing in partaking of the table of devils? John concludes 1 John by saying: “Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.” (1 John 5:21). “Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy god, and him only shalt thou serve.” (Matthew 4:10).
Failing to give God the glory. Why does man exist? Why are we here? Isaiah seems to respond with the answer. “Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.” (Isaiah 43:7). Man has been created, formed and made for God’s glory. When we fail in giving God His rightful glory, we have failed in our purpose of existence. In Acts 12, Herod learned the fate of one not giving God His glory. “And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne and made an oration unto them. And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man. And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost.” (Acts 12:21-23). Why did God at one time give up the Gentiles? “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not at God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” (Romans 1:21). “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31). When we respect and practice this, we are giving God glory and will not be guilty of provoking the Lord to jealousy. On the other hand, to fail to give God glory, provokes His jealousy.
Practicing unauthorized acts. We should have no problem in recognizing that acts of disobedience were unauthorized acts which would provoke God to jealousy and anger. The sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, offered incense unto the Lord, but strange fire was used which God commanded them not. (Leviticus 10:1-3). They were destroyed by fire for their provoking God to jealousy. Saul’s disobedience in sparing King Agag and the best of the flocks and herds constituted another example of provoking God to jealousy. (1 Samuel 15). He wants respect for His commands, and jealousy validates His word in seeing that what he authorizes is obeyed. Are we stronger than God? Do we think we can do what might seem right in our own eyes and still believe we can be accepted in God’s sight? It is a serious thing to provoke God. Are we stronger than He?
After being left in prison for two years, Joseph is finally brought out to stand before Pharaoh. After being cleaned up to their custom, he stands before the king who says to him, “I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it” (41:15). According to Leupold, there is a contrast made here from his wise men’s methods of dream interpretation which would have consisted of ceremonial arm waving, dancing and the like. Joseph, instead, just heard a dream and knew what it meant—no gimmicks needed.
And so Joseph stood there before the most powerful man in the world with the perfect opportunity for personal gain, and says, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer” (16). Joseph turns down the chance for personal gain to make a confession of God to someone who already had plenty of gods.
That little confession made a difference. After Joseph’s interpretation and advice, Pharaoh says, “Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God?” Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this…” (38-39). Certainly, Pharaoh’s confession is tainted by his polytheism. Notice that he attributes this to deity in general (elohim) not Yahweh specifically. However, he has enough spiritual discernment to see a supernatural hand at work (which is more than can be said for many today!), and he doesn’t have to be reminded of Joseph’s confession. There is no point at which Pharaoh commends Joseph and Joseph has to say to him again, “No, Pharaoh, it was God, not me.”
I seriously doubt that Pharaoh ever changed from his idolatrous ways, but the fact remains that Joseph’s confession made a difference in the way he thought about things. There would have been nothing wrong with Joseph saying, initially, “Yes, Pharaoh, I’ve interpreted dreams before.” There is nothing in the Bible that indicates that Joseph would have been smitten had he not immediately said, “No, Pharaoh, it’s God, not me.” But Joseph understood where the credit was due and gave it. He took what was a rather small and seemingly insignificant moment, confessed God, and made a difference in someone’s life because of it.
How many opportunities like that do we have each day to make a difference in someone’s life? Just a small confession here or there—it may not even seem like much at the time—can change the way that people think about you and the way they think about God.