We spend a lot of time thinking about God’s plans for us. What does God have in mind for me? What is God’s plan for my future? This is definitely something I can and will hang onto while I am trying to sort out just exactly what the plan is for the exact moment I am in right now as I sit and contemplate this devotion.
While this is definitely a wonderful thing to sit alone in one’s quiet places and ponder and perhaps even pray over, the plan for the next moments when I will take my next breath of life, and then the one after that, should God grace me in that moment with another breath, in a moment of Holy Spirit clarity, it came to me and I realized something, it’s easy to have the attitude: “It’s all about me.”
Am I thinking about God in the exact moments when I am trying to plan for my future? When I’m making my own plans to take my very own next breath of life? Have I even thought to plan on including God in my own plans for myself? God cares about every intricate detail in our lives (Psalm 139:1-18). Jesus said that he even numbers the hairs on our heads (Luke 12:7). And after all, when compared to God, everything is small. Am I planning on or for any Holy Spirit revelation?
What about God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit? But should we expect that the main purpose of God’s plans is to solely make us happy right here, right now? Is it the least bit realistic to believe God’s plan “for me” is really only “my plan?” Where have I even minimally planned to try to make any living space for God? Where have I made any plans to invite Jesus into my home, my heart and soul? Where are my plans to have a Holy Spirit “party of all parties” to celebrate life?
Jeremiah 29:10-11 The Message
10-11 This is God’s Word on the subject: “As soon as Babylon’s seventy years are up and not a day before, I’ll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home. I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.
The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.
God’s Word is full of wisdom and encouragement that guide Christians through life. Memorizing Scripture can serve as a powerful weapon against temptation, despair, hopelessness and worldliness. However, learning verses in isolation, without context can lead to misunderstanding and misapplying the virtues and lessons that God has already planned for all of His people to possess and learn.
One familiar verse that Christians often quote is Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” It is a critically important text to become acquainted with.
This is a message of hope and a promise of a good future that is easy to cling to and repeat. But knowing the full context of the verse is quite interesting and it reveals the enormous scope of God’s design and will for mankind. Let’s dig into what it really means when its God alone who tells all of us, he has plans for us.
What Does, Ought, It to Mean to ME That God Knows the Plans He Has for Me?
In the context of Jeremiah 29, the phrase, “I know the plans I have for you,” refers to the plans the Lord has had for the people of Israel from the beginning. This verse is a reiteration of the promises of God from the beginning of creation as well as the beyond absolute guarantee that He always keeps His covenants.
They were the descendants of Abraham, with whom God made a covenant to bless His descendants. They were the people of David, a man after God’s own heart. Even though they broke their promise to worship only the one true God, He was not going to forget His word, and would restore them to blessings. In fact, this verse is a foreshadowing of the coming Messiah, the Lord Jesus.
God promised David, a descendant who would reign forever, “You have said, ‘I have made a covenant with my chosen one; I have sworn to David my servant: ‘I will establish your offspring forever and build your throne for all generations’” (Psalm 89:3-4). There is only one throne that lasts forever, the throne of God where Jesus Christ will live and reign forever. If God allowed the descendants of David to stop being carried out to Babylon to go extinct in exile, that promise of an eternal throne for David’s descendants could not ever have been fulfilled.
In context, this verse came to serve as an inspiration and encouragement for the Jews in exile and therefore should be a great inspiration and encouragement for Christians today. God’s timing is God’s timing. God is not fickle. He keeps all of His promises! Because the Father kept His promises to use the Jewish people in His plans, the whole world now has access to salvation through Jesus Christ.
Man would forsake man without hesitation. God did not forsake His people, redeeming them for His glory and their good. When the Lord promises that we are saved, He means it. When Jesus promises to return for His church, we can have confidence in His word. As Jesus says in the New Testament, centuries later, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Matthew 24:35). We change! God does not change, no matter how individuals or the world does, and believers can rest assured that He will keep His promises.
Who Wrote Jeremiah?
The Book of the Prophet Jeremiah is one of three books of prophecy called the Major Prophets. Its name comes from its author, who wrote during the last days before the exile to Babylon. Jeremiah, also known to us as the weeping prophet, wrote most of the text during the exile of the Israelites.
At this time in the history of the Jewish people, Israel was divided into two kingdoms: Israel to the north and Judah to the south. Both kingdoms were conquered by foreign powers during this period. Jeremiah was the main prophet to Judah and unto the exiles in Babylon working at the same time as the minor prophet Zephaniah, who is likewise briefly mentioned in Jeremiah’s book.
Babylon and the Kingdom of Judah had been in conflict for a few years, resulting in the Babylonian empire conquering Jerusalem, destroying the Temple, and carrying the Israelites into slavery. The book includes more than just prophetic text; it also has biographical information, sermons, and poetic messages which Jeremiah uses to communicate God’s will unto the people.
The prophet provides some biographic information about himself early in the book. He says, “The words of Jeremiah, the son of Hilkiah, one of the priests who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, to whom the word of the Lord came in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign” (Jeremiah 1:1-2). He gives his father and his tribe, as well as the time he began receiving prophecy and prophetic messages from the Lord.
God’s Prophet Jeremiah preached all throughout Israel and received much persecution; “But I was like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter. I did not know it was against me they devised schemes, saying, ‘Let us destroy the tree with its fruit, let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his name be remembered no more’” (Jeremiah 11:19). Though God often guarded, protected him from these persecutions, Jeremiah’s prophecies were generally laughed at and ignored.
What Is Happening in Jeremiah 29?
Chapter 29 in the Book of Jeremiah is a letter with a specific message to a specific audience. The prophet wrote this passage to those Israelites in exile in Babylon. Many despaired, separated from their homes, their history, and their God. Solomon’s Temple was destroyed as well, adding to the calamity.
The Israelites received warnings from the Lord through the prophet Jeremiah that this would happen. Because they had been worshipping Baal and Moloch, false gods imported from foreign lands, breaking their covenant, the Lord allowed Babylon to invade. The Jews would be taken from their homeland for a period of seventy years. In chapter 29, the prophet wrote to encourage the people in exile, and warn them against false prophets during this time.
The letter can be broken up into sections. Verses 1-3 serve as introductions, stating who wrote the letter and when. The following verses, 4-10, contain an edict from the Lord for the Jews to continue living, to not give up, and to ignore prophets whom He had not ordained.
“Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters…multiply there and do not decrease…Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you.”Jeremiah 24:4, and verse 8a
Next is a word of promise, an assurance that God has not forsaken His people. In this passage, verses 10-14 contains the famous verse. The Lord said through his prophet, “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me and I will hear you” (Jeremiah 29:10-13).
God gave the Israelites in captivity a deadline for their time under Babylonian rule. Verse eleven contains God’s assurances that He was not finished using Israel for His divine plan, and there were blessings to come in the future. After 70 years, the people would return to the Lord in prayer, and the relationship between God and His people would be restored. God alone would restore all!
What Covenant Did Israel Break?
To understand how incredible God’s statement in verse 11 is, it is important to understand the meaning and significance of the many covenants in that culture. It is often compared to a promise, which is not an incorrect assessment, but there is significantly more to it.
Covenants were seen as binding and lifelong. Because God lives forever, His promises live forever. One of the best examples of this kind of commitment from God is the rainbow, a sign of His promise to Noah that He would never again destroy the earth with water and flood.
Most covenants required both parties to do something. In Genesis 17, God makes a covenant with Abram, from that point forward called Abraham, to make him the father of many nations, with generations of blessings and kings. Abraham and his male descendants through all generations were to be circumcised to uphold their part of the covenant.
The specific promise between Israel and the Lord that the Israelites broke, leading them into exile, was also reinforced several times through the Old Testament. If they kept God’s commandments, He would be with them. A specific message given to Solomon that illustrates this relationship is a clear articulation of this guarantee, and underscores how they violated it.
God said to Solomon:
“And as for you, if you will walk before me, as David your father walked, with integrity of heart and uprightness, doing according to all that I have commanded you, and keeping my statutes and my rules, then I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever, as I promised David your father, saying, ‘You shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’ But if you turn aside from following me, you or your children, and do not keep my commandments and my statutes that I have set before you, but go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land that I have given them, and the house that I have consecrated for my name I will cast out of my sight, and Israel will become a proverb and a byword among all peoples.”1 Kings 9:4-7
Not only did Solomon allow his various wives from many other lands to worship and set up altars to their own gods, but his descendants would engage in idol worship for years before God cut them off from the land through conquest and exile. Yet, as He states in Jeremiah 29:11, He already had plans to restore them to a right relationship with Him.
What Does Jeremiah 29:11 NOT Mean?
This verse promises restoration and redemption for a people in exile that would lead to the salvation of mankind. It is full of hope and assurance. However, it is not always used to convey that message. It can sometimes be used, when taken out of context, to mean that Christians today have guarantees of blessings and prosperity. It can also be used to give a false sense of purpose, chasing after material blessings in a worldly fashion, rather than seeking after God. This verse only guarantees the exiled Israelites that they had not been forgotten by their Lord, not that He guarantees material gain for people who believe in Him.
Does this mean that, we the Christians of this 21st century cannot look to this magnificently hope-filled inspirational verse for hope and encouragement?
Not at all!
While the verse does not guarantee comfort and success, it does promise redemption, something the modern Christian experiences daily after being forgiven of their sins, because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
God does have a plan for all His people, and Jesus even says, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore you are of more value than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:29-31).
The truth Jesus states here is the same one from Jeremiah 29:11.
God loves all humanity, wants to redeem them to Himself, and plans for a glorious eternity together.
From Psalm 107, There will be trials and troubles in this world, and the Bible never promises believers a problem-free life. There are many verses in the Old and New Testament that give assurance of His love and that He will keep His promises; Jeremiah 29:11 is such a “I want to hug God” transformational verse.
I am very big on not pulling Bible verses out of context. I want to know what does this verse mean for someone going through the worst of pain or abuse?
How could we ever share or pray this verse for a person living out life in prison? Wandering aimlessly in wildernesses? If those examples seem too extreme, try this: Does God really intend for us to apply this verse to our everyday lives?
I believe God does, and I have, by my own experiences, have discovered three ways we can live like we have a future and a hope, which is what God intends!
1. Live Fully No Matter Your Circumstances
No sooner had the Israelites been carried off into exile in Babylon than God prompted Jeremiah to send them a letter to encourage and instruct them! This is what we read in the 29th chapter of Jeremiah: a letter sent to people held captive, not living where or how they wanted. “Seek out the place of Shalom.”
Can you relate to any part of that?
Surprisingly, God didn’t first chastise them, and he also didn’t immediately rescue them. Instead, he encouraged them to put down roots and live fully despite their circumstances!
4 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. (Jeremiah 29:4-6 ESV)
We can apply this strong encouragement from God to our lives: When we are going through tough times, it is tempting to hang our heads and throw in our towel. But God says, “Don’t give up! Live, thrive! Build, plant, multiply!”
What part of that do you want to apply to your 21st century life today?
2. Pray for Peace, Pray for Shalom, and for Welfare for Those Who Are Troubling You
This next step is perhaps more difficult than we want to admit. Raise your hand if you have trouble praying for the good of all people around you, including those who are causing you problems. Hand raised here! Goodness, this hits between the eyes! Look at the reasons God’s covenant calls us to do just that:
7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. (Jeremiah 29:7 ESV)
The NIV translates “welfare” here as “peace and prosperity.” Does it sound unspiritual to say this? When the people around us live in peace and prosperity, so will we, and wouldn’t we want that?
You know, in this passage–in this letter from Jeremiah to the exiles–God was reminding the Israelites they were his people, and he was still taking care of them. Part of that care was for them to be safe and to prosper in this new land.
How are we to live in peace if people in our lives are in turmoil?
Will you commit with me today to pray for the hardest people in your life to pray for? Will you commit to being a part of God’s greatest best plan for them?
3. Trust God’s Long-Term Plan! NOT Yours
Finally, God’s covenant calls us to surrender our best plans for our greatest future. Surrender, trust God’s plan for the long-term despite what things look like today. For the people of Israel, the wait for freedom would last 70 years. They would see kings rise and fall; they would live through persecution and trial. They would have more than their fair share of highest energy concerns.
Remember Daniel’s faith being severely tested in the Lion’s Den and too the account of Daniel’s friends thrown into The Fiery Furnace? Those events and countless other trials challenged the Israelites during their time in Babylon.
Yet God encouraged them to remain faithful, faith-filled, hope-filled and hopeful followers, to zealously hold onto to him, to implicitly trust in him, and trust that when God declared the exact time was right, their trial would end.
10 “For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:10-11 ESV)
God had a future and a hope planned for the Israelites, and he does for us, too!
Remember Joseph’s warm words to his brothers?
20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. (Genesis 50:20 ESV)
So, too, we might experience what seems like straight-out evil for a time. But God is working for good. Matthew Henry in his commentary says,
We are sometimes ready to fear that God’s designs are all against us; but as to his own people, even that which seems evil, is for good. He will give them, not the expectations of their fears, or the expectations of their fancies, but the expectations of their faith; the end he has promised, which will be the best for them.
You might be thinking of another favorite verse at this very exacting time!
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 ESV)
So, as you face today, with its plans, trials and stressors, trust God for the long term. He has a plan. It is utterly good! And in it you have a future and a hope!
In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,
Let us Pray,
Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, thank you that every good and perfect gift comes from you, the King of all kings and Lord of all lords. You have promised that, if I commit whatever I do to you, then you will timely cause my plans to succeed. My success will come from aligning my plans with your will. Guide my path and show me favor. Now may you, the Lord of all, give me success at all times and in every way. In your mighty name, Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.