"I Have Loved"
"I have loved." The very essence of love is "I must have, I cannot do without." Here the word "love" is just the common word that was used in all true human relationships. It is the word used of parents for children, of children for parents, of husband for wife and wife for husband, of friend for friend. Of the classic instance of the love between David and Jonathan, it says, "Jonathan loved him as his own soul" (1 Samuel 181). "Thy love," said David of Jonathan after his tragic end, "thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women" (2 Samuel 1:26). That is the word here. Jehovah, infinitely self-sufficient, used that word concerning Israel. As the friend's love for the friend must have the friend, and, as in every other rue relationship, true love must have the one loved, must have the companionship, the fellowship, the nearness, so is Jehovah speaking about Israel. "I have loved thee." Amazing love!
"I Have Loved Thee"
Ah, but still more inward - "I have loved Thee." Now we are at the end of wonder. At the beginning I pointed out the state of these people. Not only were they in a deplorable state morally and spiritually, deeply in sin; not only were they in the tragic plight; but they were in positive antagonism, rebellion, repudiation, killing the very prophets of the Lord who would tell them of their wrong. "I have loved thee."
Without anything positive in the way of opposition or antagonism or rebellion or stubbornness on our part, it is still the greatest mystery and wonder that He should love us. But think of this - "thee!" Think again of whom that is said, to whom it applies. "I have loved thee"; and that, moreover, coming at the point where it did and at the time it did.
"An Everlasting Love"
"I have loved thee with an everlasting love." You can never translate that word "everlasting" into English. It simply means that you have got into the spaceless, boundless realm, you have fallen out of time to where time is no more. You have gone out into that mysterious something where nothing can be taken hold of as tangible, it is all beyond you, beyond your grasp, beyond your calculation, beyond your power to cope with it and bring it into some kind of dimensions. That is the word: beyond you, beyond your time, beyond your world, beyond all your ways of thinking and working. 'I have loved thee with an everlasting, timeless, spaceless love.'
Did you notice the alternative marginal reading to the phrase? "Jehovah appeared of old unto me?" It is, "from afar appeared unto me" - outside of our world altogether. He says, "I have loved you with a love altogether outside your dimensions of time and space."
"I have loved thee with an everlasting love." And strangely, the repetition of the word "love" here adds an extra feature or factor. It is in the feminine, and it means mother-love. "I have loved thee with an everlasting mother-love." Now, mother-love is one of the most mysterious things with which in ordinary human life we have to deal. You cannot always understand mother-love. You may look at a baby and you may see much that is not lovely about the child, but the mother of that child simply adores it. That is mother-love. That is the word the Lord is using here. The world would see everything to the contrary - but the Lord says, "I have loved thee with an everlasting mother-love."
His Love for the People of the New Covenant
Well, we are touching the fringe of this thing, but you are perhaps asking a question. You are not gripped yet, because you say, "That may be quite true as to Israel, but can we rightly and properly appropriate that? Can we step into that and say it is ours; that this same One says that to us?" You have only to read on to verse 31 of this same chapter to find your answer:
"The days come, saith Jehovah, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah, not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which My covenant they break, although I was a husband unto them, saith Jehovah ... I will put My law in their inward parts, and in their heart will I write it" (Jeremiah 31:31-33).
Now do you not know that is taken up in the New Testament, in the Letter to the Hebrews, and applied to the Church in this dispensation? Its fulfillment is there said to be not in the Jewish dispensation, but in the New Testament dispensation. That applies to those to whom the gospel of the grace of God has been preached, the new covenant; and it is the new covenant, not in the blood of bulls and goats, but the blood of the Lamb of God, God's Son, who said, in the night in which He was betrayed, when He took the cup -"This is My blood of the new covenant; which is shed for many unto remission of sins" (Matthew 26:28). Are we in this? Oh yes, it is for us, the people of the new covenant in the blood of Jesus Christ. Oh, if He could say such a thing to Israel, then if it is possible to say it with fuller meaning and greater strength at all, so He says it to us.
We have so much to confirm this in the New Testament. "God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16) - that mysterious word, that age-out-lasting life. "His great love werewith He loved us" - that word was said not to Jews only but to Gentiles, and comes in the Letter to the Ephesians, the Letter for all men, Jew and Gentile alike. Or again, "Who delivered us out of the power of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love" (Colossians 1:13). I could go on piling up Scripture to show that it is the same love as that love in Jeremiah 31:3. It is the same God and it is the same love, and now it has expanded beyond Israel to embrace us.
Listen again, then. This same God, no less holy, no less majestic and glorious, no less self-sufficient, says to you, to me, "I have loved thee, I have loved thee with an everlasting love." "His great love wherewith He loved us." Are you impressed, do you believe it?
(continued with # 12 - "His Continued Lovingkindness")
[to those who are new to this blog page, I want to introduce you to T. Austin-Sparks and why I use his Christian materials so fully. Number one: He was a truly, classic Christian author. Number two: he follows the Bible very closely as is plain by his writing and quoting of scripture. Thirdly, Rev. Austin-Sparks would never allow anyone to copyright his Christian materials. His family, since his death in 1943, have followed his wishes. T. Austin-Sparks always said: "Freely received and freely given." God was gracious to this Spirit-filled man of God and, Rev. Austin-Sparks complied to Christ's wishes for his material. "Freely received (from God) and freely given (to all who wished to have a closer walk with their Lord and Saviour and desired to be obedient to God and to His Word. And now, I too, offer his materials to anyone who desires to grow and mature in their Christian faith. Praise God for His awesome work in T. Austin-Sparks!]