Many times throughout the Old Testament, the Levites are mentioned as a passionate tribe. At times, they were cursed for their anger, beginning way back with Jacob’s “blessing” spoken over Levi in Genesis 49. But at other times, they were commended for their zeal for the LORD. We even learn in Exodus 32 that the LORD chose this tribe to be His servants because of their zeal. They were commissioned to minister in His house and serve His people in worship.
In Mesu’s book In the Shadow of Jezebel, I was intrigued to see that Jehoiada had inherited this same conflict. Obadiah, a prophet and a good friend pointed out this inner battle to him and painted it in terms of the very sin Jehoiada most appalled: idolatry. Obadiah said, “Your anger has become your idol and you are worshiping it.”
In pride, Jehoiada considered himself righteous because of his zeal for the LORD and his zealous works rather than because of God’s grace. His zeal for the Lord became his measuring stick for other people’s actions rather than humbly looking to God as the standard of righteousness and mercy.
In the New Testament, we’re warned to “Be angry, and sin not.” When our zeal for the Lord turns into anger, we need to consider what has become our measuring stick. Are we measuring the actions of others against our own zeal or are we viewing them in Christ who is our righteousness through the grace of God? (Romans 3:24)
When we begin to use our own righteous choices as the measure to understand others’ actions, we give room for zeal to become anger. This anger then begins to control us, explain us, describe us and even direct our actions. Using our own measuring stick of “good works” ignites our pride, giving sin an open door to reign in anger against others.
The Apostle Paul understood this problem. His zeal for the Lord had made him a student of the Law, a Pharisee, a temple officer, a powerful person – but all this righteousness became his measuring stick. He found others not measuring up to his standards. Even Jesus, God’s perfect Son, could not be explained properly using Paul’s stick of righteous pride. His zeal turned to anger and he became renowned for murder against God’s people.
“Kicking against the pricks!” the Lord called it, questioning Paul because he kicked against the very truth his zeal desired. The Lord showed him that his zeal for righteousness had turned into blind anger, resulting in persecuting those who pointed to the truth of the Messiah’s coming. In his anger, he couldn’t believe Christ fulfilled the very Law his zeal required.
We must carefully consider what we use as our measuring stick. Are we humbly placing our zeal for the Lord in the Righteousness of Christ by submitting to the Word of God? Are we allowing His Holy Spirit to guide us each moment into the Truth, the Way, and the Life? Only in Jesus can we measure righteousness and direct our zealous hearts away from idol worship.
Debi from Climbing to the High Calling