Summary: The LORD has appeared of old to me, saying, Yea, I have loved you with an everlasting love: therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn you (Jeremiah 31:3).
AN EVERLASTING LOVE
The book of Jeremiah is mostly, but not exclusively, a book about God’s judgment. The painful ‘rooting out, pulling down, destroying, and throwing down’ spoken of in Jeremiah’s commission was but a purging, to make room for later ‘building and planting’ (Jeremiah 1:10). When we undergo the chastening of the LORD, it is because ‘Whom He loves, He chastens’ (Proverbs 3:12; Hebrews 12:6).
Written when the Babylonians were already at the gate of Jerusalem to execute (unbeknown to them) the LORD’s judgment against that city - and at a time when all other hope was lost - Jeremiah chapters 30 to 33 appear as Jeremiah’s ‘Little Book of Consolation’. Our present passage (Jeremiah 31:1-6) opens with the LORD reassuring all the families of Israel that He will not cease to be their God, and they His people (Jeremiah 31:1). The New Testament gives us warrant to extend this to include all who are ‘chosen in Christ from the foundation of the world’ (Ephesians 1:4).
In Jeremiah 31:2, the LORD speaks of the people who were left of the sword “finding grace in the wilderness.” This no doubt carried echoes of Israel’s exodus out of Egypt, but also addressed the remnant of those who escaped the sword in Jeremiah’s own day. Perhaps, too, we have wilderness experiences in our own lives, and find that the Lord has not deserted us even there.
After all, the LORD had embraced them (us) with “an everlasting love,” and continues to draw His people not because of their merits, but because of His grace and loving-kindness (Jeremiah 31:3). This becomes significant when applied to those who went into exile in Jeremiah's day, who had escaped the sword (Jeremiah 51:50), and who would eventually experience a new exodus by returning to the land.
Jeremiah envisages a time of rebuilding for all Israel (Jeremiah 31:4). Mentioning the mountains of Samaria (Jeremiah 31:5), he speaks of a day when the watchmen of Ephraim will encourage their people to return to Zion (Jeremiah 31:6) - representing not only Jerusalem, but also the right worship of the LORD (John 4:22). This reunion of the divided kingdom is anticipated by other prophets (e.g. Ezekiel 37:21-22).
Taking Jeremiah 31:3 as our main text, we may observe the following:
1. There is an imminence about the statement that “The LORD has appeared to me”.
Earlier the emphasis had been upon the LORD being far off as well as near (Jeremiah 23:23), but now the people needed the reassurance that ‘the LORD is near to all those who call upon Him’ (Psalm 145:18).
2. There is a certainty about the statement, “Yea, I have loved you”.
This could almost be one of Jesus’ ‘Amen, amen’ sayings: so often translated as ‘Verily, verily’; ‘Truly, truly’; and the like.
3. And what does the LORD say, to Jeremiah; through Jeremiah to Israel; and to us? “I have loved you”!
This is not a merited love. Israel was a nobody, nothing, nation when God called them out of Egypt (Deuteronomy 7:7-8). Yet the LORD ‘set His love upon them’ for no other reason than ‘because he loved them’.