Jeremiah 31:1-14
Trinity III
July 2, 2017
St. Paul’s Anglican Church

“Lovingkindness”

The Jeremiah passage before us this morning includes one of the truly great verses of the Bible! It is in a word exceptional… for it reveals the Heart of our Heavenly Father Who brought you and me into this world… Who orders our steps… and Who changes not! It tells us the manner in which He always deals with us. And the more we gaze at what we see here, the more we are changed ‒ transformed ‒ by it! Verse three:

I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.

The key word here is lovingkindness, the English translation of the famous Hebrew word khe’·sed translated elsewhere as mercy, kindness, goodness. It is employed 248 times in 28 Books of the Old Testament!

A teacher once asked her class to explain the difference between the meanings of kindness and lovingkindness! A little boy shot up his hand and the teacher called upon him, “So what is the difference between kindness and lovingkindness?” she asked.

“Well, if I am hungry,” he began, “and you give me a piece of bread, that is kindness. If, however, you give me a piece of bread with jam on it, that is lovingkindness!” And he hit the nail right on the proverbial head!

I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.

Why did God give these words to Jeremiah? In order to answer correctly, we must remember that Jeremiah was a prophet to the southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin during the last forty years of their existence (627-586 B.C.)!

He watched in horror as his nation disintegrated before his own eyes. He witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple… and spent the remaining years of his life in Egypt.

After their deportation to the land of their captors in Babylon, God’s people repented and sought His forgiveness for their wickedness – just as Michelangelo portrayed them over the left shoulder of Jeremiah on the cover of this morning’s bulletins.

God’s reply through Jeremiah was instantaneous! I will be the God of all the families of Israel, He replied. And they shall be my people!

I will return them to their own land. And when they return, among them will be found the blind, the lame, mothers with their children, expectant mothers approaching delivery. A great throng will return and some will even cry when they arrive.

I will be a Father to Israel. They will find wheat and new wine and oil… flocks and herds…

They will forget their sorrow and once again find joy!

I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.

Three brief observations that commend themselves to us from the lesson this morning!

First, look and see just how important is the confession of our sins and shortcomings…. our wickedness and lawlessness to our heavenly Father! This is precisely what He was looking for among His people!

Does not Jesus teach us the very same? Pray after this manner He taught: …forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us…

Our Lord explained that as we walk through our pilgrimage, our feet invariably pick up the dirt and filth of this world – and we require frequent foot-washings – confessions, if you will – even though we have been made clean. This is a great element in the liturgical service which has come down to us from the undivided first millennium of Christ’s Church through the English Reformation! It is preserved in the order of worship we follow each Sunday morning. It is beautiful and it is so important!

Remember the importance of confession. St. Augustine reminded us that confession is “good for the soul.”

Second, why are we shocked to hear such words as lovingkindness from our Heavenly Father in the Old Testament? It is true that His justice certainly cannot be hidden, and it is everywhere in the Old Testament! So much wickedness on the part of so many contemptuous individuals and nations invite His dire judgment.

But look at His watchful care for so many who found favor in His sight! He saved Noah and his family from destruction. And His testimony concerning Job, of old:

Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?

Then there was the giving of the Law on Sinai! Again this is an expression of His love for mankind – and goodness toward the nations of the earth – so as to maintain order and keep His world from self-destruction.

There was even His lovingkindness for the Ninevites in Assyria – a people not His Own. Yet He sent to them Jonah that they might repent and receive His blessings!

Indeed, Ephesians 2:8-9 reminds us: For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
A gift from God! Not something we deserve! St. Paul asks a very good question: What do we have that we did not receive from God? Let us not deceive ourselves! We are the recipients of great mercy and kindness – even shown from Old Testament times! Let us therefore be very grateful for His lovingkindness!

Third, He tells us that because of His lovingkindness for us, he has “drawn” us to Himself. What does this mean?

In the case of the exiles, because of His love for them, He opened up a pathway back to their homeland – but more importantly back to Him! I will be your God and you shall be my people!

Jesus refers to this when he tells the Twelve: You did not choose Me. I chose you and ordained that you should bear fruit… and that your fruit should remain.

If we are Christians, let us make sure we do not pat ourselves on the back for our wisdom and for our good judgment and foresight! God deserves the credit for drawing us to Himself.

I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.

And furthermore, it is God Who draws us to worship Him regularly. It is He Who draws us to read the Bible… and to pray… and to improve wherever our sanctification is lacking!

It is the Holy One Who draws us to show the same lovingkindness He has shown to us back to Him – and even to others made in his Image.

How deeply has God reached into our lives to draw us to Him? Let us not be reluctant! Let us not resist! Let us not resist His plan! Let us not get bogged down in the sham of this world.

I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.

World without end. Amen.

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