We know what it is to “provoke” other people. To provoke is to anger, enrage, exasperate, or vex. We spend enough time with siblings, fellow students, roommates, spouses, and co-workers to learn there are certain “buttons” that can be pushed that might as well be labeled PROVOKE ME.
- Touch that toy that doesn’t belong to you
- Bring up that past girlfriend
- Leave your dirty laundry on the shared bathroom floor
- Embarrass your spouse in front of a new group with that same old story
- Fail to meet the agreed-upon work deadline for the third time this month
We may not relish being provoked, but many of us find it all too easy (and enjoyable?) to poke the buttons of others.
Did you know that the Lord of heaven and earth can be provoked? In 1 Corinthians 10:22 the apostle Paul asks,
Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?
As we wrestle with those questions, it’s helpful to remember what James revealed in James 4:5.
Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us?”
Think about that today. I have a spirit, made to dwell in me by a good Creator, and he yearns jealously over that spirit that will one day return to him (Eccl 12:7). In the meantime, I have been warned: “Is it wise to provoke the Lord to jealousy?” Where are the pitfalls? How might I be tempted to do exactly that today?
- By turning the territory of my God-given heart over to the devil
- By demonstrating a greater interest in friendship with the world than with God
- By pridefully acting as if God doesn’t exist or is unworthy of my honor and thanksgiving
- By slandering and harming those who’ve been created in his image
- By enjoying God’s good gifts while ignoring his calls to repentance and renewal
- By idolatrously putting other people or things before God
- By wasting the time and opportunities he continues to provide me
Are we stronger than him? Of course not. Has the Scripture said to no purpose, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us?” By no means. Why then would I ever believe it’s a good idea to provoke him?
No. There’s a better way to live. A better resolution. A better motto to repeat to myself throughout the day. In fact, it comes in the same chapter, just a few verses later…
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Cor 10:31)
I am his. He is mine. That would be a really good thing for me to remember today.