His Great Love # 12
God's Everlasting, Unchanging Love
We have been moving around a center and viewing it from different angles, in different relationships. The center is give to us in Ephesians 2:4 - "His great love wherewith He loved us".
God's Great Declaration
We are now coming to look at one of the most amazing statements ever made:
"The Lord appeared of old unto me, saying, 'Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee'" or, as the margin gives the alternative rendering, "therefore have I continued lovingkindness unto thee" (Jeremiah 31:3).
I repeat, that is one of the most astounding statements that has ever been made. To verify that, to realize something of that fact, you need to read all that leads up to it and that follows afterward. That is to say, you need to read the prophecies of Jeremiah throughout, and then to add to them some of the prophecies of other prophets. For the word of the prophets was very largely to point out how far, how terribly and tragically far, those being addressed had gone from God's mind, God' thoughts, God's will, God's way, and in what a terrible state of hardness of heart and rebellion - and worse than that - they were toward God. All that - and it is a terrible and dark story - gathers round this statement. "I have loved them." At the time when they were in the very worst condition that ever they had been or would be in spiritually and morally, it was then He said "I have loved thee with an everlasting love." Viewed in its setting, you must agree it is one of the most amazing statements ever made.
"His great love wherewith He loved us." We are baffled and almost rendered silent when we try to fathom and comprehend the word "grace" in reference to the love of God. How great is God's love? Were we to spend our lives trying, we could never utter its depth or content. Yet here is a statement, and we have to approach it, to try to grasp something, be it very small, of this incomprehensible love of God, the mystery of it. So I shall adopt the very simplest method of trying to get into this word, just breaking up the statement into its component words.
The One Who Makes the Declaration
We will begin then: "I". You notice here the statement is really governed by the words "Thus saith Jehovah" (verse 2). Who is it speaking? To begin with, it is the One whose name is Jehovah. By that name He made Himself known to the Hebrews through Moses. But later that name became so sacred to Israel they would not use it, and it was mentioned but once in the year, the great day of atonement, by the High Priest, as he went into the Most Holy Place by the High Priest the name was pronounced, so great, so awful, was that name to them. But what does it mean? Jehovah, the unchanging One, the eternal One, the self-existent One, existing not by anybody else's act or power or support, perfectly self-existent - that is Jehovah, that is the One who says, "I have loved thee with an everlasting love."
But look again. It is the name of the One of infinite holiness, whose eyes are too pure to behold iniquity, whose nature is too pure and holy and altogether right to have any association with sin. You see how helpless we are when we try to deal with God and explain Him and define Him. These are statements, but if you and I, apart from some great provision of God to cover our sin: fullness, were to come into the presence of that infinitely holy God, we should be shattered beyond repair. The infinitely holy God! It is He who says, "I have loved thee with an everlasting love."
It is the name of infinite majesty, glory, might, dominion, power. He is very terrible in majesty, in glory, in power; and that One says, "I have loved thee with an everlasting love."
And still we press in to this name. It is the name of infinite self-sufficiency. From time to time He has found it necessary to state that in various ways. "If I were hungry, I would not tell thee" (Psalm 50:12), He said to them of old. "Every beast...is Mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills" (Psalm 50:10). "I have made the earth,and created man upon it: I, even My hands, have stretched out the heavens" (Isaiah 45:12). "The nations are as a drop of a bucket" (Isaiah 40:15). "Do I need anything or anyone? Am I, the creator of the universe, in need? Am I suffering want? Am I not utterly and absolutely independent, self-sufficient, the only One in this universe Who is self-sufficient?" And that One, out of it all - His holiness, His majesty, His self-sufficiency - says, "I have loved thee with an everlasting love." It is a mystery. Can you explain that? Can you understand that?
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 Sam. 18:1). "Thy love," said David of Jonathan after his tragic end, "thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women" (2 Sam.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 true 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 this 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 love thee."
Without anything positive in the way of opposition or antagonism or rebellion or stubborness 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.
(continued with # 13 - "An Everlasting Love"