Have you ever tried to understand how long eternity really is? Today’s Scripture has my mind rolling that around. “The Lord appeared to him from afar, saying, ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.'” (Jer 31:3)
When I looked up the definition using an online dictionary for the use as a noun (since according to Strong’s Concordance it is a masculine noun) it said: “endless duration; eternity”. As I looked back at Strong’s they give us other words used in Scripture for the same concept: ages, all successive, always, ancient, continual, days of old, eternal, eternity, everlasting, forever, lasting, long, old, permanent, and perpetual. All I can currently grasp is it is longer than I can imagine or understand. “Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were born or You gave birth to the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.” (Ps 90:1-2)
Ray Stedman said, “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. It 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: “may [you] have 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, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Eph 3:18-19)
So when we get to the place where the sins of the past, and those of our mothers and fathers before us, are taking their toll upon our life, and we are tempted to cry out and say, “Why is this happening to me?” God is here to remind us that in the midst of it what we are experiencing is His everlasting, mysterious love. It is this very hurt we are going through that will produce in us the character God wants us to have. This experience will mellow us, refine us, soften us, open us up, make us a human being, instead of a hard, callous, resistant, self-centered person, we’ll become open and responsive and selfless.
It is His lovingkindness that draws us to Him to refine and transform us more and more into His image. “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” (2 Cor 3:18)
He doesn’t want us to miss out on anything He has planned for us, as a result of the exercise of the flesh in our life. That sounds strange to us, as we generally want to escape the consequences. Instead, our Lord leads us through them. 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? “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom 5:8)
Lord, You love us with everlasting love. When You call us, help us to answer. When You teach us to walk, help us to take steps. When You show us the sickness of our sin and offer to heal us with forgiveness, help us to admit our need and accept Your healing. When You gently draw us, help us willingly come close to You. When You feed us with spiritual food, help us to receive it and grow. When You chasten us, may we not stiffen ourselves against it, but be changed by it. When we realize how You agonize over us, help us want to please You, not cause You more pain. When we begin to grasp what You have promised us, may we live in confident expectation that You will complete what you have begun. Lord, we want to know You. You are love. You loved us and gave Yourself for us. You love us with everlasting love. May we love You more and more. In the precious name of Jesus, amen.