"The zeal of Thine house hath eaten me up.” (John 2:17)
"Zeal is a principle; enthusiasm is a feeling. The one is a spark of a sanguine temperament and overheated imagination. The other, a sacred flame kindled at God’s altar, and burning in God’s shrine," so stated Robert Vaughan (1795-1868).
Such was the holy, heavenly zeal of our Great Exemplar; his were no transient outbursts of ardor, which time cooled and difficulties impeded. His life was one indignant protest against sin — one ceaseless current of undying love for souls, which all the malignity of foes, and unkindness of friends, could not for one moment divert from its course. Even when he rises from the dead, and we imagine his work at an end, his zeal only mediates fresh deeds of love. "Still his heart and his care," says John Goodwin (1594-1665), "are upon doing more. Having now dispatched that great work on earth, he sends his disciples word that he is hastening to heaven as fast as he can, to do another" (see John 20:17).
Reader, do you know anything of this zeal, which many waters could not quench? See that, like your Lord’s, it be steady, sober, consistent, undeviating. How many are, like the children of Ephraim, "carrying bows" (Psa. 78:9) — all zealous when zeal demands no sacrifice, but "turning their backs in the day of battle!" Others running well for a time, but gradually hindered, through the benumbing influences of worldliness, selfishness, and sin. Two disciples, apparently equally devoted and zealous, send through Paul, in one of his epistles, a joint Christian salutation: "Luke and Demas greet you” (Col. 4:14). A few years afterward, he writes from his Roman dungeon: "Demas hath forsaken me ... only Luke is with me.” (2 Tim. 4:10-11).
While zeal is commendable, remember the apostle’s qualification, “It is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing” (Gal. 4:18). There is in these days much base coin current, called “zeal,” which bears not the image and superscription of Jesus. There is zeal for church membership and denomination, zeal for creeds and dogmas, zeal for fantasies and nonessentials. From such turn aside.
Your Lord stamped with his example and approval no such counterfeits. His zeal was ever brought to bear on two objects, and two objects alone — the glory of God and the good of man. Be it so with you. Enter, first of all (as He did the earthly temple), the sanctuary of your own heart, with “the scourge of small cords” (John 2:15). Drive out every unhallowed intruder there. Do not allow yourself to be deceived. Others may call such jealous soul searching "sanctimoniousness" and "fanaticism". But remember, to be almost saved, is to be altogether lost! To be zealous about everything but “the one thing needful” (Lk. 10:42) is an insult to God and your everlasting interests!
Have a zeal for others. Dying myriads are around you. As a member of the Christian “priesthood” (1 Pet. 2:9), it becomes you to rush in with your censer and incense between the living and the dead, “that the plague may be stayed” (2 Sam. 24:21).
Be it yours to say, “Blessed Jesus! I am yours! Yours only! Yours wholly! Yours forever! I am willing to follow you, and (if need be) to suffer for you. I am ready at your bidding to leave the homestead in the valley, and to face the cutting blasts of the mountain. Take me; use me for your glory. Lord, what will you have me to do?"
Arm yourselves likewise with the same mind!