“At that time,” declares the LORD, “I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they will be my people.” This is what the LORD says: “The people who survive the sword will find favour in the wilderness; I will come to give rest to Israel.” The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.
See, I will bring them from the land of the north and gather them from the ends of the earth. Among them will be the blind and the lame, expectant mothers and women in labour; a great throng will return. They will come with weeping; they will pray as I bring them back. I will lead them beside streams of water on a level path where they will not stumble, because I am Israel’s father, and Ephraim is my firstborn son. (Jeremiah 31:1-3,8-9 NIV)
This is a reminder of one of the most important promises in the Bible. We are loved with an everlasting love; that's a love that is constant and unchanging from all of eternity past, right through our present and into all of eternity in the future. All of that love is being poured into our heart by and through the Holy Spirit. I don't know that we can fully understand what that looks like. We try and define it through our human understanding and that is able to give us a glimpse of the magnitude of the Father's love for us. It's only as we stand under the waterfall of God's love that our understanding and experience will grow.
Not only does Jeremiah prophesy that we are loved with an everlasting love but he also points our hearts towards home. There is a place of safety, security and provision which we find once his love starts to draw our hearts home. He longs to gather us, those who have walked with him for many years, and to bring our hearts home. He longs to gather those who don't yet know him, he is calling them from the ends of the earth as he wants them to come home as well.
Coming home into his love is what gives us rest. Rest is the thing we crave, it's what has been stolen by the enemy in order to turn us into a people who rely on their own effort of constantly trying hard. As our heart finds this rest it is filled with joy, not the joy of our temporal and changing circumstances but the joy of the Lord becomes our strength.
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love." (John 15:9 NIV)
"But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life." (Jude v20)
Two encouragements from different New Testament writers, both with the same desire, that we would stay in love. Not the romantic love we so often associate with those words "I'm in love" but the unconditional love of the Father expressed to us through Jesus and brought to us by the Holy Spirit.
In Ephesians 3, Paul shows us that it is really possible for us to be planted in love. Rooted and established in love or as the Passion Translation says we 'discover the resting place of his love'.
The Father's love is the source of our life. It is the thing that sustains us when things are not easy. It's our response to his love which causes us to seek him and walk in his ways. This is the path of life. The gospel is the good news of love. It was the Father's love for us that caused him to send his son to the world, to take our sin and to provide the way for us to come back home. That's the free gift we all benefit from for there is nothing that we need to repay.
The exhortation of these two verses is simple: remain in his love. It's so easy to wander off and feel distant, to try and replace our distance with works or well-intentioned activity. As the old hymn says: "There is a place of quiet rest, near to the heart of God; There is a place of comfort sweet, near to the heart of God; There is a place of full release, near to the heart of God". I join the New Testament writers and encourage you to remain in his love!
Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (Colossians 3:12-14 ESV)
I don't know about you, but these days I find myself asking more questions about what particular verses may mean. Here is one such verse: "and above all these things put on love". I ask myself what love or whose love am I being asked to put on. It could mean that we are to be clothed in love (our love) for one another. That's certainly a valid conclusion, after all throughout scripture there is a constant encouragement for us to love one another and to be kind and compassionate, bearing with one another in love.
Another interpretation of this verse is that we are to be wrapped in the Father's love for us. In doing so, his love becomes like a coat we wear that protects us, keeps us safe and is a constant source of comfort for us. Constantly we see throughout Paul's letters a little phrase, that we are 'in Christ'. In Galatians 3:27 we read that, once baptised into Christ we become clothed with Christ. Our true home is "in him".
To be clothed means to have a covering that hides everything that is underneath. When the lost son came home he was wrapped in the best robe which covered his dirt and his shame. He could, once again, begin to look good.
The word used for love in Colossians is agape which is the Father's unconditional, covenantal love towards us. Let us be clothed in 'agape', knowing our home is with the Father, that we are in Christ and that, as we are loved, we will become a loving and compassionate people. After all, we can only ever love because he first loved us.
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. (Psalm 1:1-3 ESV)
What an amazing promise. Someone who seeks after the Lord will be blessed. Choosing the path of life will cause the gates of Heaven to open and the Father's blessings to be showered upon us. Does that mean that everything will be fine all the time? Not necessarily, but it does mean that we can experience peace and joy in the midst of turmoil. How many of you have been surprised at the level of peace in your heart throughout the last few months?
The Psalmist likens people who seek the Lord to a tree planted by a stream. I think we can safely assume that it is a stream of living water as this tree is fruitful and strong. It is healthy and in turn provides fruit and life for others. When I go out for a jog, I run along the river bank in our town and see many strong trees drawing life from the river. Their roots go down into good, fertile soil and they can withstand floods, wind and everything else the weather throws at them.
Sometimes life is not easy. In fact, there are times when it can be excruciatingly hard and tough. In such seasons we will reap the reward of being rooted and grounded in love. We will discover the flow of life that sustains and encourages us, even when we struggle to see it. My encouragement today is for you to seek the Lord, to delight in walking in his ways and to meditate on his word.
A Father to YOU is a signpost to the heart of the Perfect Father. When we became Christians we were given the right to become children of God (John 1:12). Sadly, many of us fail to take up that right and instead continue to live as slaves or orphans. But our true destiny is being sons and daughters who have a permanent place in the Father's family. This blog is an encouragement to help you know who God really is and who you really are.