4 Wrath is cruel and anger a torrent,
But who is able to stand before jealousy?
Jealousy is a force to be reckoned with. It surpasses anger and wrath for vehemence.
First let’s cover the anger and wrath… Wrath is cruel. It lashes out and it hurts and damages, it is vindictive and mean. It is the opposite of gentleness and kindness. And anger is overwhelming, our text calls it a torrent, the text in the Hebrew is literally, a flood. This is why you get out of the way of an angry person, because you don’t want to be overcome by their fury.
So far, we have two statements of fact, but the point is the rhetorical question… who is able to stand before jealousy? Provoked jealousy, or envy, OR zeal (the word means all three depending on context) is worse than the fierceness of wrath or the overflow of anger.
Jealousy is the sort of thing that Solomon warns of in Proverbs 6…
32 Whoever commits adultery with a woman lacks understanding; He who does so destroys his own soul. 33 Wounds and dishonor he will get, And his reproach will not be wiped away. 34 For jealousy is a husband’s fury; Therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance. 35 He will accept no recompense, Nor will he be appeased though you give many gifts.
In this scenario, there is no avoiding the consequences, and there are no limits to them either. This is because Jealousy is connected to honor and honor cannot be bought.
This is also connected to the fact that jealousy is a necessary component of love. We see this in the Shulamite’s declaration to her lover at the end of Song of Solomon… 8:6-7 –
6 Set me as a seal upon your heart, As a seal upon your arm; For love is as strong as death, Jealousy as cruel as the grave; Its flames are flames of fire, A most vehement flame. 7 Many waters cannot quench love, Nor can the floods drown it. If a man would give for love All the wealth of his house, It would be utterly despised.
In this, we are made in God’s image, for our God is a jealous God, jealous of His people. Because He loves us, He holds us accountable and demands our purity and faithfulness to Him.
Envy is very similar to Jealousy. Envy is covetous jealousy. Envy is twisted desire. But it also is very strong. The cold calculations and settled intentions of envy far surpass the damage caused by wrath and anger, for, like jealousy, it cannot be satisfied, but unlike jealousy, because of its wickedness, envy works in the dark, hidden from sight, and it is a root causing all sorts of ill will, evil speaking, and destruction to community, lives, and property.
Finally, zeal is also more powerful than simple anger or wrath. Zealots are fanatics. When men are filled with zeal, they may justify all kinds of riotous and revolutionary tactics. In the name of a cause, they will latch onto whatever means they have at their disposal. For the sake of a fad, they may sacrifice all kinds of common sense and wisdom. But here is where we must become very discerning…
If fanaticism is focused on anything less than God and His Christ, it is idolatry, and it will end in some form of destruction. But in Christ, in the zeal of the service of the Lord, godly men have moved mountains, taken cities, and furthered the boundaries of the kingdom of heaven. Indeed before the church, filled with the zeal for heaven, who can stand? But the path toward that righteous zeal is only ours in the humility of faith of repentance.
It is only when we give up our inordinate loves and lusts, that God makes room for holy ones. He cleanses us, and makes us fit for His service by His means and in His time…