“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness… Is not Ephraim my dear son, the child in whom I delight? Though I often speak against him, I still remember him. Therefore my heart yearns for him; I have great compassion for him,” declares the Lord.
As a Father who cannot forget his son — no matter how sharply he must reprimand him, but whose heart is tender toward him — so God is tender toward his people. And behind the darkness and the distress is the everlasting love of God. This phrase, “I have loved you with an everlasting love,” is very beautiful. The word “everlasting” is one of those words which baffle us. Even in the original language it is difficult to define. “Everlasting” connotes more than duration, means more than merely “eternal”; it has in it an element of mystery. Let your mind run back into the past over all the years of history, and you come to a place where finally you just cannot think any further. Yet logic affirms that even beyond this point there has been existence and time. This is what “everlasting” means. Let your mind run into the future, and you come to the same kind of haziness, a place where you no longer can comprehend what the ages mean, where times and durations seem meaningless. That is the vanishing point in the future, beyond which lie experiences for God’s people, but which we are unable to grasp. That is the mystery of this word, everlasting. It is a word which means, “beyond dimension,””greater than we can think.” This is what Paul is expressing in Ephesians: “…that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have the power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge,” (Ephesians 3:18-19a RSV).
So when you get to the place where the sins of the past, and those of your mothers and fathers before you, are taking their toll upon your life, and you are tempted to cry out and say, “Why? Why should this happen to me? What have I done to deserve this?” When this happens, God is at pains to remind us that in the midst of it what we are experiencing is his everlasting, mysterious love.
That is, he is saying to us, “Look, it may pain you, but it won’t damage you. This very hurt you are going through is what will produce in you the character that both you and I want. It is this which will mellow you, refine you, soften you, open you up, make you a human being. Instead of a hard, callous, resistant, self-centered person, you’ll become open and responsive and selfless.” That is what God is saying. That is the mysterious quality of this love which draws us on. “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” In other words, “I have not let you miss out on anything which I have planned for you, as a result of the exercise of the flesh in your life.” That sounds strange to us, does it not? We want to escape the consequences. Instead, God leads us through them.
Thank you, Father for your everlasting love, which endures forever.
Are we learning to see God’s Father love in his disciplines? Are we awed by the vastness of his incomprehensibly eternal love for his children?