An Everlasting Love.

“At that time, declares the Lord, I will be the God of all the clans of Israel, and they shall be my people.”

Thus says the Lord:
“The people who survived the sword
    found grace in the wilderness;
when Israel sought for rest,
   the Lord appeared to him from far away.
I have loved you with an everlasting love;
    therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.
Again I will build you, and you shall be built,
    O virgin Israel!
Again you shall adorn yourself with tambourines
    and shall go forth in the dance of the merrymakers.
Again you shall plant vineyards
    on the mountains of Samaria;
the planters shall plant
    and shall enjoy the fruit.
For there shall be a day when watchmen will call
    in the hill country of Ephraim:
‘Arise, and let us go up to Zion,
    to the Lord our God.’”

For thus says the Lord:
“Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob,
    and raise shouts for the chief of the nations;
proclaim, give praise, and say,
    ‘O Lord, save your people,
    the remnant of Israel.’
Behold, I will bring them from the north country
    and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth,
among them the blind and the lame,
    the pregnant woman and she who is in labor, together;
    a great company, they shall return here.
With weeping they shall come,
    and with pleas for mercy I will lead them back,
I will make them walk by brooks of water,
    in a straight path in which they shall not stumble,
for I am a father to Israel,
    and Ephraim is my firstborn.

“Hear the word of the Lord, O nations,
    and declare it in the coastlands far away;
say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him,
    and will keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock.’
For the Lord has ransomed Jacob
    and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him.
They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion,
    and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord,
over the grain, the wine, and the oil,
    and over the young of the flock and the herd;
their life shall be like a watered garden,
    and they shall languish no more.
Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance,
    and the young men and the old shall be merry.
I will turn their mourning into joy;
    I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.
I will feast the soul of the priests with abundance,
    and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness,
declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 31:1-14 ESV

This chapter continues God’s promise of future restoration for Israel and Judah. While the northern kingdom of Israel had been in captivity for many years at the point at which Jeremiah penned these words, God had still not forgotten them. He had not turned His back on them. His inclusion of them in His promise of restoration provides us with a glimpse into God’s everlasting love and faithfulness. Those two words – love and faithfulness – are directly tied to God’s covenant-keeping nature. The fact that God keeps His word and fulfills His commitments is not based on some legally binding requirement that God is obligated to keep. It is based on His love and faithfulness. God’s love for Israel and Judah was what kept them in His favor for so long, even while they committed spiritual adultery, throwing themselves at false gods and offering their affections to lifeless idols. God’s discipline of His children was a sign of His love for them.

My child, don’t reject the Lord’s discipline,
    and don’t be upset when he corrects you.
For the Lord corrects those he loves,
    just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights. – Proverbs 3:11-12 NLT

The author of the book of Hebrews would quote from these verses when attempting to get his audience, made up mostly of Jewish Christians, to understand the suffering they were experiencing. He wanted them to know that their suffering was not a sign of God’s absence, but of His loving presence.

As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all. Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever? – Hebrews 12:7-9 NLT

Like any loving father, God was disciplining His disobedient children because He cared for them. He wanted His best for them. God reminds the people of Judah and Israel that His love has not faded. It is the same love that put up with the rebellion of their ancestors in the wilderness.

“I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love.
    With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.” – Jeremiah 31:3 NLT

Notice those two words: everlasting and unfailing. Those are so foreign to us when we think about human love. Our love ebbs and flows, waxes and wains. It seems to increase and then, just as easily, fades away in a heartbeat. We find it so easy to fall in and out of love with one another. So, it is difficult for us to understand a love that is everlasting and unfailing. Paul’s poetic description of love found in his famous “Love Chapter” of 1 Corinthians, provides us with a written illustration of God’s love for us.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NLT

Love, God’s love, never fails. It endures all the way to the end. Remember, what God is having Jeremiah write down on a scroll is His promises for the future restoration of Israel and Judah. While some of His promises will be fulfilled when the remnant returns from captivity in Judah 70 years later, it will only be a partial fulfillment. The rest is yet to come. So God has Jeremiah put down in writing the following words:

Again I will build you, and you shall be built,
    O virgin Israel!
Again you shall adorn yourself with tambourines
    and shall go forth in the dance of the merrymakers.
Again you shall plant vineyards
    on the mountains of Samaria;
the planters shall plant
    and shall enjoy the fruit. – Jeremiah 31:4-5 ESV

God is going to do something great, but it is in the future. It will be a re-creation of Israel’s original greatness. He will rebuild their cities. He will restore their joy. He will return their land to fruitfulness. In Isaiah 61, the passage Jesus read in the synagogue in Nazareth, the following verses describe God’s future restoration of Israel.

To all who mourn in Israel,
    he will give a crown of beauty for ashes,
a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
    festive praise instead of despair.
In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks
    that the Lord has planted for his own glory.

They will rebuild the ancient ruins,
    repairing cities destroyed long ago.
They will revive them,
    though they have been deserted for many generations. – Isaiah 61:3-4 NLT

Remember, when Jesus read this passage in the synagogue that day, he told the people, “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!” (Luke 4:21 NLT). Jesus, the Messiah, had come to bring these things about. And the day is coming when He will return to earth and complete His God-ordained mission. He will set up His kingdom in Jerusalem and restore Israel to its former glory. He will gather His people from all over the world and return them to the land of promise.

“For I will bring them from the north
    and from the distant corners of the earth.
I will not forget the blind and lame,
    the expectant mothers and women in labor.
    A great company will return!
Tears of joy will stream down their faces,
    and I will lead them home with great care.
They will walk beside quiet streams
    and on smooth paths where they will not stumble.
For I am Israel’s father,
    and Ephraim is my oldest child.” – Jeremiah 31:8-9 NLT

God’s everlasting love will endure to the end. He will continue to love His people and remain faithful to them until His plans for them are fully complete. And God reminds His people that the day is coming when they will see and experience the full extent of His great love for them.

The Lord, who scattered his people,
    will gather them and watch over them
    as a shepherd does his flock. – Jeremiah 31:10 NLT

“I will turn their mourning into joy.
    I will comfort them and exchange their sorrow for rejoicing.” – Jeremiah 31:13 NLT

“The priests will enjoy abundance,
    and my people will feast on my good gifts.
    I, the Lord, have spoken!” – Jeremiah 31:14 NLT

The love of God never fails. It never fades or diminishes in any way. We may experience His discipline, but as His children, we will never experience a loss of His love for us. His love for us is directly tied to His plans for us.

In his great love chapter, Paul tells us “love never ends.” And then he goes on to say, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12 NLT). In other words, we have a limited understanding of what God has in store. We can only see so far. We don’t know the final plans or exactly how and when God is going to accomplish them. But we can rest easy, knowing that His plans for us are based on His love for us. And His love never ends.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness. – Lamentations 3:22-23 NLT

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

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