“The time is coming’, declares the Lord, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah… I will be their God and they will be My people.'” (Jeremiah 31:31, 33)
It is hardly surprising that, being made in the image of God, we yearn for firm relationships in which we feel loved and secure. Researchers in neuroscience have discovered that little children, who are rarely touched and starved of love whilst in institutional care, can actually die from emotional neglect. We are made for relationships. After all, God, who is self-sufficient, is never alone. Although He is one God, He exists as three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Indeed, we read of God speaking and functioning as ‘us’, so close and intimate is the relationship between the various members of the Trinity (Genesis 1:26, 11:7). Just as God lives in a mutual communion of love, so we are designed to do so too.
God understands our need and has taken steps to provide the security that we crave, even when we feel terribly alone or find ourselves abandoned by those who are nearest to us. He has pledged Himself to us through a covenant. In that covenant, God guarantees that if we belong to Him, He will never leave or forsake us. Indeed, He promises that He will be united to us in a form of divine marriage: “I will be their God and they will be My people.”
It wasn’t always like this. There was a time in the history of Israel when the people’s sin and unfaithfulness broke the relationship which God had formed with them at Mount Sinai. They came under God’s curse because they disobeyed His covenant. However, shortly before their exile, God promised to do something for them that would secure His relationship with them forever. He called it the “New Covenant,” in which He would forgive their sin and renew their hearts. The New Covenant was God’s instrument to ensure that their fellowship with Him would remain personal, direct and unbroken. This is what He meant when He said, “I will be their God and they will be my people.”
It’s important to remember that there is nothing uncertain or indefinite about this promise. The promise doesn’t say, “I may be their God” or “perhaps, if they if they live up to My expectations, I will become their God.” In fact, the promise is quite categorical, “I will be their God.” Here God reminds us that our salvation and security depend not on our own efforts or faltering wills, but on His absolute and unchanging resolve to be our Friend. This means that if God has set His love upon me – not because of any good that I have done, but because of His own mercy and grace – then He will indeed save me.
In fact, what I ‘will’ in the matter is quite secondary. Think, for example, of the conversion of the apostle Paul. Did he know that God had set His love upon him at the time he set off to Damascus to persecute Christians? Was he even remotely interested in becoming a disciple of Jesus? Hardly. But somewhere on that lonely road to Damascus the Risen Christ confronted him and won his heart to Himself. In other words, this promise, “I will be their God and they will be My people”, is a reminder that we are saved by grace and that nothing can break our union and friendship with God. It is secured by the Lord’s immutable will.