They shall be my people. I will be their God.

This phrase has been running thru my head over and over. And in looking it up it’s all thanks to Jeremiah — and his repeated use of the line: “They shall be my people, and I will be their God.”

I think it took me some time to notice there is a bit of a distinction built into this verse.

That distinction has to do with “shall” and “will”.

Once I noticed it it implanted itself in my head and refused to go away.

I am drawn to this distinction. I think it says a lot about our relationship with God and God’s relationship with us.

Grammar experts and those who enjoy Legalese have a lot to say about “shall vs will“.

Shall — “use only to impose an obligation on a contractual party that is the subject of the sentence; convey that they have a duty to.”

Will — “used to express something that can be expected to happen in a general case, or something that is highly likely at the present time. The other main specific implication of will is to express willingness, desire or intention.”

Shall is a “supposed to”. Will is a “definite”.

Us flawed humans are granted the “shall” — We are supposed to. God wants us to. But at the same time we are not forced to. “Shall” provides us with free choice – to choose God as our God.

God gives Himself the “will” — He desires to be our God and have us as His people. Whether we end up choosing Him or not it doesn’t matter – our choice doesn’t change the fact that He is God. And as God He has chosen us and His choice cannot change — we are stuck being His even if we’re too flawed to properly love Him back.

It’s a contract God makes with us — we enter into it but we’re allowed the freedom to break the contract. God enters into it and He will not break the contract no matter what.

How beautiful God’s love is for us!

God has the power to force us to be His. But He wants us to want Him. He lets us choose Him. And if we don’t choose Him He’s still there waiting for us — He will always call us His. He will be there ready to be our God if/when we finally choose Him in return.

May God grant us a heart that sees the depth and truth of His love for us so that we completely and freely and lovingly choose Him in return. Let us be able to say: “I will be His. He is my God.” Amen.


They shall be my people, and I will be their God. – Jer 32:38

I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD. They shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart. – Jer 24:7

But this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days—oracle of the LORD. I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people. – Jer 31:33

You shall be my people, and I will be your God. – Jer 30:22

At that time—oracle of the LORD—
I will be the God of all the families of Israel,
and they shall be my people. – Jer 31:1

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