Jeremiah 31:3 The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.
I try to tell my wife often that I love her. But rarely do I say it in public. I can’t think of the last time that I said it when anyone else was listening. It’s not that I am embarrassed for others to know. I agree wholeheartedly with the words Luther said about his wife Katy: “When I look at all the women of the world, I find none of whom I could boast as I boast with joyful conscience of my own. This one God himself gave to me, and I know that he and all the angels are pleased when I hold fast to her in love and faithfulness.”
Nor do I have any doubts. But like other displays of affection, there is something inside of me that tells me this belongs to private moments between us, a few exceptions granted.
If your sensibilities are anything like mine, then maybe some of our Lord’s expressions of love and affection toward us are almost enough to make you blush. These words in Jeremiah sound like the kind of thing you might hear in a pop song or between two infatuated teens, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.”
God himself is not afraid to use the passion of romantic love to illustrate the fervor of his love for us. Song of Songs, Isaiah 61, Hosea, many of Jesus’ parables, Ephesians 5, Revelation 19– these are the places where weddings and brides and grooms describe his love for you and me. His love is not a dry, intellectual, or theoretical thing. It burns with an intensity that is evident in the Flood, the Exodus, the Babylonian Captivity, and ultimately, at the Cross. His holy jealousy, his unwavering devotion, and his willingness literally to die for us all tell us that he loves us dearly, and deeply.
Of course, God is not our valentine. His love for us far transcends romantic love. Like a parable, there is a point of comparison to be gleaned from the comparison between God’s love for us and a man’s love for a woman. Then we should be careful not to take the parallels too far. It is an irony of human romantic love that it inspires the word “forever” so often, but it is the least likely kind of love to last so long. Human infatuation lasts between 18 months and two years. After that there needs to be another kind of love to keep the relationship going. We will love our husbands or wives when we get to heaven, but we will be like the angels, and that love will not be “romance.”
Our own love for God often resembles an unsteady infatuation. In Hosea 6 he complains, “What can I do with you, Ephraim? What can I do with you, Judah? Your love is like a morning mist, like the early dew that disappears” (Hosea 6:4).
But in all its facets, in all its benefits, God’s love is eternal. Our election in eternity reminds us that God’s love for us, like God himself, has no beginning. He has always loved you, long before we even existed. There has never been a “when” God didn’t love you and me.
And God’s love for us will never know an end. Not only has this love wooed our hearts to faith, but it also assures us that God’s love will survive our lovelessness, overcome it, and still love us long after time itself is no more.
Jeremiah shared these words with people who were facing starvation, death, defeat and exile–the worst that life could do to them. May God’s everlasting love be a lifeline for our own faith, no matter what life may bring.