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 people 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.”
It’s not that I am embarrassed for others to know, 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 almost 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.”
And God himself is not afraid to use the passion of romantic love to describe and illustrate the fervor of his love for us. We are all familiar with the many places in Scripture– Song of Songs, Isaiah 61, Hosea, many of Jesus’ parables, Ephesians 5, Revelation 19– in which he uses weddings and brides and grooms to describe his love for you and me. God’s love for us 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 what we think of as 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 anything approaching “forever.” People like James Dobson and Gary Chapman tell us that human infatuation lasts between 18 months and two years. After that there had better be another kind of love to keep the relationship going. People will love their husbands or wives when they get to heaven, but we will be like the angels, and that love will not be “romance.”
Even at its best, our love for God often resembles an unsteady infatuation, and 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, as Jeremiah reminds us, God loves us with an everlasting love. In all its facets, in all its benefits, God’s love is eternal. Not only did the Lord appear to us in the past and tell us he loved us. Our election in eternity reminds us that God’s love for us, like God himself, has no beginning. God has always loved you, not just as long as you have existed. There has never been a “when” God didn’t love you.
God’s love for us will never know an end. When he says, “I have drawn you with loving kindness,” the word used has a nuance meaning “mercy” or “faithful love,” a kind of love God must have for us since our fall into sin. Not only has this love wooed our hearts to faith, but it also assures us that God’s love will survive and overcome our lovelessness, and that he will still love us long after time itself has come to an end.
Jeremiah shared these words with people who were facing starvation, death, defeat and exile–the worst that life could do to them. May we find God’s everlasting love to be a lifeline for our own faith, no matter what life may bring.