Is it possible to be ignorantly zealous?

by Bethany

Relevant Text: Is. 5:12-13
Full Text: Is. 4:2-5:30

Advocacy | In the world of legal ethics, there is no zeal apart from knowledge. Lawyers are required to represent their clients “zealously” [1] and, therefore, they must have complete knowledge of the facts. If clients withhold relevant information – even bad or damaging facts – their lawyers cannot represent them zealously. Recall A Few Good Men. Downey told his lawyers that he was ordered to give a Code Red by Kendrick, but he failed to tell them that he himself never actually heard Kendrick give the order. When that information came out during cross-examination, his lawyers had to regroup because they knew that his having received the order second-hand was unfavorable to the case. They also knew, however, that they had to address it if they had any hope of winning.

Worship | Similarly, when it comes to worshipping God, there is no zeal apart from knowledge. Yes, zeal for God is essential [2], but our passion for Him is weak and vulnerable when it is not based on knowledge. As Isaiah prophesied, the Israelites worshipped with zeal, but they were exiled because their zeal lacked knowledge: They have lyre and harp, tambourine and flute and wine at their feasts, but they do not regard the deeds of the Lord, or see the work of his hands. Therefore my people go into exile for lack of knowledge[3]. Our zeal must be based on that same knowledge – the deeds of the Lord and the work of His hands. Today, we find that knowledge in the Word. The Bible is a wellspring for spiritual thirst. Not only is it a living power for the soul, it is also a double-edged sword for cross-examination. Even Jesus himself frequently settled important issues – divorce and remarriage, the Sabbath, worship and praise, the resurrection, eternal life – by referencing the Scriptures [4]. The Bible itself, however, is powerless as mere paper. We must open its pages and read it in order for its meaning and power to be unleashed with zeal in our lives.

Prayer | Lord, Raise our affections in accordance with truth. Cultivate our spiritual appetites daily by laying us in the way of allurement that is found in your Word. Let us long for the education of our minds and never let us think that studying your Word is bland. Instead, quicken our hearts throughout our lifetimes to long to unlock the riches of truth found in the Bible. Amen. [5]

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Footnotes

[2] In his seminal work, Religious Affections, Jonathan Edwards argued, “As there is no true religion where there is nothing else but affection, so there is no true religion where there is no religious affection.” He continued, ““The great part of true religion consists in the affections. For love is not only one of the affections, but it is the first and chief of the affections, and the fountain of all the affections. From love arises hatred of those things which are contrary to what we love, or which oppose and thwart us in those things that we delight in: and from the various exercises of love and hatred according to the circumstances of the objects of these affections, as present or absent, certain or uncertain, probable or improbable, arise all these other affections of desire, hope, fear, joy, grief, gratitude, anger, etc. From a vigorous, affectionate, and fervent love to God, will necessarily arise other religious affections; hence will arise an intense hatred and abhorrence of sin, fear of sin, and a dread of God’s displeasure, gratitude to God for his goodness, complacence and joy in God, when God is graciously and sensibly present, and grief when he is absent, and a joyful hope when a future enjoyment of God is expected, and fervent zeal for the glory of God. And in like manner, from a fervent love to men, will arise all other virtuous affections towards men.” His evidence? The Bible – fear (throughout the Bible), hope (see 1 Cor. 13:13; Ps. 146:5; Jer. 17:7; Ps. 31:24; 33:18; 147:11, Rom. 8:24; 1 Thess. 5:8; Heb. 6:19; 1 Pet. 1:3), love (throughout the Bible), hatred (Prov. 8:13; Ps. 97:10; Ps. 2; 3; 119:104, 127; 139:21), desire (Matt. 5:6; Rev. 21:6); joy (Ps. 37:4; 97:12; 33:1; 5:12; Phil. 3:1; 4:4; 1 Thess. 5:16; Ps. 149:2; Gal. 5:21; Ps. 119:14), joy (Ps. 37:4; 97:12; 33:1; Matt. 5:12; Phil. 3:1; 4:4; 1 Thess. 5:16; Gal. 5:21; Ps. 119:14), sorrow (Matt. 5:4; Ps. 34:18; Is. 61:1-2; Ps. 51:17; Is. 57:15; 66:2), gratitude (various Psalms and throughout the Bible), compassion (Is. 57:1; Ps. 37:21, 26; Prov. 14:21; Col. 3:12; Matt. 5:7; Matt. 23:23; Mic. 6:8; Hos. 6:6; Matt. 9:13; 12:7), zeal (Tit. 2:14; Rev. 3:15, 16, 19).

[3] Is. 5:12-13 ESV

[4] For example, he settled the Sabbath issue by saying, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry …” (Matt. 12:3 ESV, referencing 1 Sam. 21:1-6). When he was talking about divorce and remarriage, he said, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female” (Matt. 19:4 ESV, quoting Gen. 2:18). About worship and praise, Jesus responded, “Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’” (Matt. 21:16 ESV, quoting Ps. 8:2). When he was questioned about the resurrection, he said, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?” (Matt. 21:42 ESV, quoting Ps. 118:22-23). When a lawyer asked him about eternal life, he answered, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” (Lk. 10:26, pointing him to Deut. 6:5 and Lev. 19:18).

[5] Much of this prayer is based on language in Religious Affections by Edwards. See supra 1.

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