Jeremiah 31:3 reads, “The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.”
Those who believe in a Calvinistic system of doctrine in relation to salvation often employ Jeremiah 31:3 as a proof text for the doctrinal position of “unconditional election.” It is acknowledged that this verse deals specifically with the Lord’s relationship toward the children of Israel as His chosen nation. From this verse it is argued that from eternity past the Lord God chose to love the children of Israel “with an everlasting love,” and that on the ground of this predetermined love, the Lord our God drew the children of Israel unto Himself “with lovingkindness” to elect them out from all other nations as His own chosen nation. Then it is further argued that this verse reveals the principle of our Lord God’s elective process concerning individual believers, that He unconditionally chose in eternity past to love certain ones, and then graciously drew them with loving kindness unto Himself for eternal salvation. Yet is this really a correct understanding of Jeremiah 31:3, both specifically and principally, within the context of Jeremiah 30-31?
Loved with an Everlasting Love
First, it must be understood that the word “everlasting” does not inherently indicate an eternal existence both from everlasting past unto everlasting future. In fact, the word “everlasting” simply indicates that something continues from the moment of its origin (if it had a moment of origin) unto everlasting future. Indeed, when there is a desire in the Old Testament to place a significant emphasis upon something’s eternal nature in both everlasting past and everlasting future, such a phrase is employed, “From everlasting to everlasting.” (See Psalm 90:2; 93:2; 103:17; 106:48; Proverbs 8:23; Isaiah 63:16; Micah 5:2; Habakkuk 1:12)
So then, when is the origin at which the Lord God set His love upon the children of Israel as a nation? The answer may be found in Deuteronomy 7:7-8, wherein the man of God Moses proclaimed unto the second generation from Egypt – “The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: but because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” The Lord God’s love was set upon the children of Israel as a nation when He delivered them from the bondage of Egypt. From that time they were His chosen nation, and the love that He had set upon them was “an everlasting love,” never to be completely lost, ever to continue into everlasting future.
In principle, this truth certainly does have an application concerning our Lord God’s relationship toward individual believers. Yet this application concerns the truth of “eternal security,” not the belief of “unconditional election.” At the very moment of our faith in Christ for eternal salvation, God our heavenly Father sets His familial love upon us believers; and this love is “an everlasting love.” Yea, this familial love can never be completely lost, but shall continue forever into the everlasting future. Even so, Romans 8:35-39 declares, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Drawn with Loving Kindness
So then, what does it mean in Jeremiah 31:3 that the Lord God had drawn the children of Israel “with lovingkindness”? Is this a reference to our Lord’s “irresistible grace” in the process of His “unconditional election”? According to the grammatical construction of Jeremiah 31:3, the Lord God’s drawing “with lovingkindness” is founded upon His loving “with an everlasting love.” Thus we may understand that our Lord God’s work of drawing as presented in Jeremiah 31:3 follows after that time in which He originally placed His everlasting love upon the children of Israel. So then, what is this drawing work of the Lord God for the children of Israel? It is that work wherein He graciously draws them back unto the blessings of His fellowship, after He has chastened them “in measure” for their backslidings. It is that work wherein He graciously restores them unto the blessings of His fellowship. It is the loving kindness of His restoration.
In the opening portion of Jeremiah 30:11, the Lord God made promise that He would never make a full end of His chosen nation Israel, saying, “For I am with thee, saith the LORD, to save thee: though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee.” Indeed, this is the everlasting love of the Lord God for them. Yet in the closing portion of Jeremiah 30:11, the Lord God did indicate that He would chasten them for their sinfulness, saying, “But I will correct thee in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished.” Even so, in Jeremiah 30:14 the Lord God declared unto them, “All thy lovers have forgotten thee; they seek thee not; for I have wounded thee with the wound of an enemy, with the chastisement of a cruel one, for the multitude of thine iniquity; because thy sins were increased.” Yet in the opening portion of Jeremiah 30:17, the Lord God also made promise that after His work of chastening, He would then restore them unto the full health and blessing of His fellowship, saying, “For I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith the LORD.”
Concerning this time of restoration, Jeremiah 31:1 proclaims, “At the same time, saith the LORD, will I be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people.” Then in this context of gracious, loving kind restoration, the proclamation of Jeremiah 31:3 is made, “The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” Indeed, in Jeremiah 31:4 this contextual thought of promised restoration continues, – “Again I will build thee, and thou shalt be built, O virgin of Israel: thou shalt again be adorned with thy tabrets, and shalt go forth in the dances of them that make merry.” So then, in context the drawing work of Jeremiah 31:1 is not the initial drawing unto redemption, whereby God’s people were chosen as His own, but is the daily drawing unto restoration, whereby God’s backslidden people are renewed unto the blessing of His fellowship. In principle, this truth may be applied unto individual believers, in that the Lord our God and heavenly Father will ever love His own with an everlasting love, certainly chastening them “in measure” for the corruption of their sinful behavior, yet graciously drawing them “with lovingkindness” unto the blessing of His restored fellowship.
Posted in Meditations in Jeremiah, Love of the Lord, Eternal Security, Faithfulness of Our Lord, Lovingkindess of the Lord, Spiritual Revival, Fellowship with the Lord