The phrase "you will be my people and I will be your God" is a popular one in the Bible. The phrase is a popular one with Jeremiah as he uses it six times! The expression (or rather equivalent expression) is first found in the Abrahamic Covenant of Genesis 17,
6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings will come forth from you.
7 I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you.
8 I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God (Gen. 17:5-8).
Verse eight will find fulfillment in the Messianic Kingdom on earth. Dr. Matthew Henry writes, "All the privileges of the covenant, all its joys and all its hopes, are summed up in this. A man needs desire no more than this to make him happy. What God is himself, that he will be to his people: his wisdom theirs, to guide and counsel them; his power theirs, to protect and support them; his goodness theirs, to supply and comfort them. What faithful worshippers can expect from the God they serve believers shall find in God as theirs."
The Usage of the Phrase in Jeremiah
Since out of the fourteen times the expression is used in the Bible, Jeremiah uses it six times! The first time this phrase is used in Jeremiah is in 7:23. In this passage the Lord reminds the nation Israel of what He told them after their release from bondage, but they did not listen.
23 "But this is what I commanded them, saying, ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you will be My people; and you will walk in all the way which I command you, that it may be well with you.’
24 "Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and in the stubbornness of their evil heart, and went backward and not forward.
25 "Since the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt until this day, I have sent you all My servants the prophets, daily rising early and sending them.
26 "Yet they did not listen to Me or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck; they did more evil than their fathers.
27 "You shall speak all these words to them, but they will not listen to you; and you shall call to them, but they will not answer you.
28 "You shall say to them, ‘This is the nation that did not obey the voice of the LORD their God or accept correction; truth has perished and has been cut off from their mouth.
The "Temple Sermon" contrasts with the "Book of Hope" (Jer. 30-33), where a new day would see a return to the land in peace and they would see and experience life with the true and living God. A return to the land that will be flowing with milk and honey. A metaphor for abundance in the land. After all, God’s words are said to be "sweeter than honey to the mouth" (Ps. 119:103).
Again in Jeremiah 11:4 we read,
3 and say to them, Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, Cursed is the man who does not heed the words of this covenant
4 which I commanded your forefathers in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace, saying, ‘Listen to My voice, and do according to all which I command you; so you shall be My people, and I will be your God,’
5 in order to confirm the oath which I swore to your forefathers, to give them a land flowing with milk and honey, as it is this day. Then I said, "Amen, O LORD."
In chapter twenty-four, the Lord moves to a prophetical section contained in four specific prophecies of judgment (chapters 21-25). In 24:7 Jeremiah writes,
6 For I will set My eyes on them for good, and I will bring them again to this land; and I will build them up and not overthrow them, and I will plant them and not pluck them up.
7 I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the LORD; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart.
In Jeremiah 30:18-22, the Lord says to Jeremiah,
19 ‘From them will proceed thanksgiving And the voice of those who celebrate; And I will multiply them and they will not be diminished; I will also honor them and they will not be insignificant.
20 ‘Their children also will be as formerly, And their congregation shall be established before Me; And I will punish all their oppressors.
21 ‘Their leader shall be one of them, And their ruler shall come forth from their midst; And I will bring him near and he shall approach Me; For who would dare to risk his life to approach Me?’ declares the LORD.
22 ‘You shall be My people, And I will be your God.’
In Jeremiah 31:33, this phrase is again repeated, but here it is repeated with reference to a "new covenant!"
32 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them," declares the LORD.
33 "But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days," declares the LORD, "I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
What is important in chapter thirty-one is that this is the great New-Covenant chapter. The New Covenant is an extension to the Abrahamic Covenant. The first time the phrase is uses is in the Abrahamic Covenant of Genesis chapter seventeen.
In Jeremiah 32:38, again the context of the phrase is with reference to the Lord causing the relationship between Him and the people to be defined as "My people." Thus characterizing their fear or reverence of Him.
38 They shall be My people, and I will be their God;
39 and I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me always, for their own good and for the good of their children after them.
The first time the phrase is used in the Bible is in Genesis 17:8. Here, the Lord details the great Abrahamic Covenant. A covenant that is eternal and unconditional (Gen. 17:7). This contrasts with the covenant that Jeremiah said was broken, the Mosaic covenant given to the people as they came out of Egypt. In the Abrahamic covenant, they are promised a land that would be an everlasting possession (Gen. 17:8), and that He "would be their God!" The sign of the Abrahamic covenant is circumcision, the cutting off of the male foreskin, probably a foreshadowing of the cutting off of the "foreskins" of their heart (Jer. 4:4)! In fact, in Jeremiah’s day, it is said "all the house of Israel are uncircumcised of heart" (Jer. 9:26; cf. Acts 7:51; 2 Cor. 3:15)! The idea of foreskin on the heart and its removal is likened to eyes being opened (Eph. 1:18), and hence the new covenant realization of a new heart, a picture of salvation!
The context is the Abrahamic covenant, an unconditional, eternal covenant that will find ultimate fulfillment in the millennial kingdom! Then, along with the book of Jeremiah, the prophet Ezekiel contains the phrase in 11:20; 36:28; 37:23; 27. Finally, the Old Testament testifies this truth in Zech. 8:8. All of these speak of a future fulfillment.
In the New Testament, the phrase is found in 2 Cor. 6:16, and Heb. 8:10. Both quoting from the Old Testament and both seeing fulfillment, not in the present, but in the future, when the Lord "will walk among them," a clear expression of the millennial reign of the Messiah.