by J. Randal Matheny
Selective hearing, especially on the part of children or husbands, is a common phenomenon. One hears what one wants to hear and ignores the rest. “Take out the trash,” is one of those phrases that gets tuned out. “Do your homework,” has to be repeated. But say, “There’s ice cream in the freezer,” and reception is crystal clear. Or proclaim that one’s best friend called and the hearer makes a beeline for the telephone.
Zeal also suffers from selectivity. Zeal is an intensity of feeling toward a person or principle. It may be a virtue or take a turn for the bad, as in envy.
Jehu exemplified selective zeal. After he was anointed king over Israel and heard the prophecy that he would destroy the family of Ahab, he systematically pursued and killed all the former king’s descendants. As he carried out his gruesome task, Jehonadab found him and joined him. Jehu told him, “Come with me and see how zealous I am for the Lord’s cause” (2 Kings 10:16 NET).
The new ruler exterminated the rest of Ahab’s family in Samaria and eradicated Baal worship from Israel by killing all the false god’s prophets. In his 28-year reign Jehu did well, but his zeal wasn’t as white hot as he professed. “Jehu did not repudiate the sins which Jeroboam son of Nebat had encouraged Israel to commit: the golden calves remained in Bethel and Dan” (2 Kings 10:29).
Thus, the inspired writer recorded that “Jehu did not carefully and wholeheartedly obey the law of the Lord God of Israel. He did not repudiate the sins which Jeroboam had encouraged Israel to commit” (v. 31).
The killing of Ahab’s family and the extermination of Baal worship helped Jehu to consolidate control over the kingdom of Israel. While God’s will agreed with Jehu’s desires, he was zealous. He was quick to act. He was thorough. He was decisive.
But when the law of God didn’t further his own purposes, Jehu relaxed. He didn’t think it a priority. Leave that for someone else to take care of. Jehu’s zeal cooled off.
Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy 6 to tell the religious expert the greatest commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind (Matthew 22:37). The first commandment urges us to a zealous, intense love that gives all, obeys fully, makes every effort to please the Lord.
Our zeal cannot be selective and still please God. No giving up all ungodly relationships except that one that gives us special pleasure. No repentance from sins except that one which has its tentacles wrapped tightly around the heart. No obedience except when it becomes inconvenient. No godliness until the pressure becomes intense.
Zeal means rooting out all idolatry in the heart, putting an end to all sinful relationships, doing what is right in face of all opposition, insisting on truth when all opinions go against you.
Be warned: zeal that doesn’t pick and choose is dangerous. When Jesus cleansed the temple, the disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will devour me” (John 2:17).
Zeal will cause you to do unpopular things, to take shocking action. And it will lead to a cross (v. 18-22).
But like the non-selective zeal of Christ, ours will erupt in resurrection on the other side. In glory for the zealous. In exaltation to the right hand of the Father for the completely obedient.
So let us not spare the horses as we race our chariots not only to Jezreel and Samaria, but to Bethel and Dan as well.
Zeal can’t be choosy. True zeal, the white-hot kind, covers it all.