Zeal: eagerness and ardent interest in pursuit of something: fervor.
Ardent: characterized by warmth of feeling typically expressed in eager zealous support or activity : fiery, hot :shining, glowing.
Fervor: intensity of feeling or expression; from Latin fervor, from fervere - see fervent.
Fervent: very hot: glowing :exhibiting or marked by great intensity of feelings: zealous
Zealous: marked by fervent partisanship for a person, a cause, or an ideal :filled with or characterized by zeal.
In trying to write about zeal, to really understand it and then communicate it to you, I came across this sermon that was so fantastic I decided the best thing to do was let you read it for yourselves. Below are some excerpts and you can read or watch the full sermon here:
"And the journey of the Christian is essentially the journey of discovering increasingly the reliability, the trustworthiness, of the Father’s promises—so much so that we’re able, then, to encounter that which runs in the crosshairs, as it were, to what would seem best. And if you doubt that, you need only to read the Bible. You can go back and start from the beginning and read it all the way through, and you discover that the unfolding plan of God is an expression of his zeal.” Alastair Begg, sermon, The Zeal of the Lord.
“What, then, is the zeal? Well, we need to understand that zeal and jealousy in God are two sides of the same concept. I wrote down in my notes very quickly two words: “zealous” and “jealous.” God is both zealous and jealous. Indeed, we might say that God is zealous because he is jealous. And the reason he is jealous is because he is love, and both his zeal and his jealousy emerge from a heart that is compassionate and devoted. This kind of love is a love that will brook no rivals, and it’s the love that is provoked by disloyalty.
We will immediately go wrong if we start to think of jealousy in the terms of our human pettiness, the kind of envy that resents what another has and wants it just because we don’t have it. Nothing could be further from that which is revealed here. The jealousy of God, the zeal of God, is that which displays a desire to protect and to provide—to protect and provide for those who are the objects of his love.
If we want to argue from the lesser to the greater, or try and descend to get a picture of what we’re referencing, we might think in terms of the unwillingness of a wife to share her husband’s affection with another. It couldn’t possibly be a mark of fidelity and monogamy to be prepared to share the affections of your spouse with someone else. Any wife or husband worth their salt wants to guard zealously and jealously the affection of the one who has become the object of their love. There’s no surprise in that. It is a corrupt and unstable mind, it is an immoral posture, that deviates from that in any dimension at all.
If we don’t go there, perhaps we can go to the protective love of a father for his daughter, who protects with a zeal and a right jealousy the honor of his daughter in every place and amongst all people: “This is my daughter; you may not say that of her. This is my daughter; you may not treat her that way. I am absolutely, passionately committed to her, to her protection, to her provision, and to her honor.” Every father worthy of the word father understands that. And when we go from the lesser to the greater, and then we look to God, who is the epitome of fatherhood—who is, if you like, the great Bridegroom, preparing his people as a bride for himself—then you realize the extent of his zeal and his love.
And he is zealous for his own honor and for his own glory—and he is allowed to be because he’s God! The reason that many of us have trouble with the idea that God protects his own honor and glory and provides for it is because we want to be God. And there is only one God. And that is why the chief end of man, as the Shorter Catechism tells us—the chief end of man is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.
Now, it is in this realm that zeal is, if you like, then, a component of true love and certainly a component of God’s covenant love. Because God loves unreservedly those who are the objects of his affection, he is zealous in his provision and protection of them, he is jealous in the way in which he guards them. Because ultimately, through them he gets glory to his name, and he is concerned ultimately for his own glory.” Alastair Begg, sermon, The Zeal of the Lord.