“…I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. Again I will build you, and you shall be built, O virgin Israel! …” -Jeremiah 31:3b-4a ESVUK
The above verses have been shared often. However, many times they are shared out of context. We tend to choose which verses we like and apply it to ourselves without thinking about the bigger picture surrounding the chosen verses. Let’s have a look at the background of today’s verses and how they relate to us now.
The people of Israel were being held in captivity in Babylon. Many false prophets rose up and shared with the Israelites they were going to be freed from captivity quickly and they also made threats towards Jeremiah when he told the truth. Jeremiah had prophesied to the Israelites about their sin and their captivity. He also prophesied during the captivity and about the future when they would be able to go home. As we know the Israelites were in Babylon for seventy years. There was no quick fix for them getting out. They were in captivity because of their sin and rebellion against God.
God still loved Israel. The captivity was actually a sign of his love. He disciplined Israel just like we, parents, would for a misbehaving child.
Imagine how the Israelites must have felt. They missed their homeland. Some of them didn’t want to admit their sins. Often, they were angry at Jeremiah and did not heed his warnings from God nor did they listen to many of his prophecies. They were anxious and frustrated, especially when false prophets came along giving them false hope because what they said sounded good, but it was not a word from God.
During this time, they were made to bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s statue (see Daniel 3) and were not allowed to pray to their own God (see Daniel 6). This must have been very confusing to them, but instead of standing out like Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and Daniel, they went along with the Babylonians. They were used to worshipping other gods as they followed the cultures around them (this was one of the reasons they were in captivity). They were afraid of standing up for God in this situation as they were afraid of persecution, the pit of fire and being thrown into the lion’s den.
God wanted the Israelites to know he had not forgotten them. He promised them he would give them a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11). He promised Israel and Judah they will be restored (Jeremiah 30). Then at the start of chapter 31, God continues this message of hope to the people of Israel and their clans. He said, “I will be your God and they shall be my people” (Jeremiah 31:1).
God then declared to those who have struggled that he has loved them with an everlasting love and he continued his faithfulness to them. No matter what they had done, he still loves them. Nothing can ever stop God’s love for his people! He was faithful to them. He always looked after them. He always made sure their needs were met. God did not fail Israel, even if they felt he had.
God also promised he will build them and they will be built. He is declaring that he is wiping the slate clean. He knows they have rebelled against him. He knows they worshipped other gods and they may fail again. Human history has shown this cycle of failing God since Adam and Eve. God was telling the Israelites, he was starting fresh. He was giving them another chance. He was going to bless them, by building them as a nation again.
The time was coming for them to go home. They served their time in captivity. When they go home, they will build vineyards, fruit trees, etc. They will be rebuilt as a nation. There will be singing when they go back to their homeland. There will be repentance, mercy, and great joy.
We are fortunate enough to have not suffered in captivity as the Israelites had. However, we have sinned, at times backslidden, and fallen short of God’s glory.
The scripture shared is for all of Israel, including us. As Christians, we are grafted in as a part of spiritual Israel. But it is not for individuals. The word “you” in this passage is for “you” plural not singular. So, as we declare these truths for ourselves, let’s remember the context it was written in.
My brothers and sisters, God loves you and I (us), with an everlasting love! Nothing can separate us from his love (Romans 8:38-39). It doesn’t matter what we have done in life, he still loves us. He called us to be his children. God proved this to us by sending his son, Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for our sins and rose from the dead on the third day. Jesus made a way for us to be children of God and a part of his church.
He is always faithful to us (Lamentations 3:22-23). He looks after us. He meets our every need according to his riches in glory (Philippians 4.19). He promises that he will be with us always to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20b).
When we first became Christians, God began to build us. He began to build us as one body in Christ. The past is forgiven, and the future is secure. Be encouraged by God’s love and faithfulness. Be encouraged that we are a part of Christ and the wider church (spiritual Israel) across the world and in heaven. Be encouraged that we are being built as a people of God. His promises to Israel are promises to us. Praise the Lord!
So yes, these verses are meaningful. They are filled with hope and encouragement. They were written and said by God to the Israelites in captivity and they are for us as part of spiritual Israel today. Always remember, you are loved with an everlasting love. God bless you.