“The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying: ‘Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you. Again I will build you, and you shall be rebuilt, O virgin of Israel! You shall again be adorned with your tambourines, and shall go forth in the dances of those who rejoice’” (Jeremiah 31:3-4).
Much of the book of Jeremiah is unpleasant to read because it describes Israel’s rebellion against God and His chastisement upon them by His allowing the nation of Babylon to carry Israel into captivity because of their sins. However, the book of Jeremiah also speaks of God’s encouragement to His people to hope for a better future as He will bring them back from captivity: “‘Therefore do not fear, O My servant Jacob,’ says the Lord, ‘nor be dismayed, O Israel; for behold, I will save you from afar, and your seed from the land of their captivity. Jacob shall return, have rest and be quiet, and no one shall make him afraid. For I am with you,’ says the Lord, ‘to save you; though I make a full end of all nations where I have scattered you, yet I will not make a complete end of you. But I will correct you in justice, and will not let you go altogether unpunished’” (Jeremiah 30:10-11).
It pained God to have to chastise His people because of their rebellion and sin. However, His focus was not to punish them forever, but to redeem them following this period of necessary affliction. He loved them with an “everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3). Through Jeremiah he encourages them: "Hear the word of the Lord, O nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, 'He who scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him as a shepherd does his flock.' For the Lord has redeemed Jacob, and ransomed him from the hand of one stronger than he” (Jeremiah 31:10-11).
While they were experiencing captivity, Israel would bemoan herself for her foolishness in rebelling against God: “I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself: 'You have chastised me, and I was chastised, like an untrained bull; restore me, and I will return, for You are the Lord my God. Surely, after my turning, I repented; and after I was instructed, I struck myself on the thigh; I was ashamed, yes, even humiliated, because I bore the reproach of my youth'” (Jeremiah 31:18-19). Although downcast because of her own sins, God reminds Israel to have hope regarding her future: “Thus says the Lord: ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.’ Thus says the Lord: ‘Refrain your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears; for your work shall be rewarded, says the Lord, and they shall come back from the land of the enemy. There is hope in your future, says the Lord, that your children shall come back to their own border’” (Jeremiah 31:15-17).
Throughout His challenges with the rebellion of His people, God continued to love them with an “everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3). “Is Ephraim My dear son? Is he a pleasant child? For though I spoke against him, I earnestly remember him still; Therefore My heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him, says the Lord” (Jeremiah 31:20). The days were coming when God would make a new and better covenant with them (Jeremiah 31:31-34). Today, I rejoice that even though I fail God because of my own struggle with sin, God continues to love me with an “everlasting love”!
“But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more" (Jeremiah 31:33-34).