“ For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”. Jeremiah 29:11
This passage is one of the most well-known and frequently repeated among Christians. Many interpret this verse to mean that God has a plan to bless them with a new job or riches, or to spare them from suffering, perhaps on the condition that they trust in God or obey his commands. But Jesus trusted in God, he was faithful to him unto the very end, and yet, he was a poor manual laborer, was falsely condemned and ultimately crucified as a rebel. So, we cannot guarantee that God will always reward us with earthly prosperity. Many who have taken notice of these inconsistencies have criticized any use of this verse entirely, claiming that these words do not apply to modern Christians at all, but only relevant for Jeremiah’s original audience.
So, do these words apply to us? They unquestionably do. Though not in the way we might imagine. However, when we take a deeper look they can be a source of tremendous peace and comfort.
This passage is found in the Book of Jeremiah, in which God’s people, the Israelites, are in exile. Their land has been subjugated and they are now languishing under foreign oppression, subdued by the tyrannical hand of a monstrous empire, with no hope of rescue. For all they know, God has abandoned them, and their great heritage has ended in ruin. It is in the midst of this tragedy that they hear the words of Jeremiah, which come as a message of hope for these scattered people. God says that ultimately, he will not leave his people in ruin, but will rescue them from their oppressors. Thus, this verse is not a general promise God has made to give his people prosperous, leisurely lives during the time of their exile. If it were, the promise of its eventual end would be rather lackluster. Instead, it acknowledges a time of suffering in exile, but declares that it will end – that the destiny of God’s people is not ruin, but restoration, and perhaps equally importantly, that they can live with a renewed sense of peace in the present as a result of this newfound hope.
So, what does this mean for us in the present?
The Scriptures speak of us as exiles too. Not all of us are under tyrannical emperors, or wicked chieftains. However, we traverse through an age to which we do not belong. We languish under Sin and Death, our unnatural overlords, yearning to be free from their grip. In our exile, our dreams are crushed, and plans are thwarted. We experience disease, disaster, poverty, even the death of those we love, and eventually our own. In the midst of our difficult pilgrimage, we may be tempted to believe that God has abandoned us, that we have no hope for a future free from our present afflictions, and that death is simply our natural and final course.
In these times, we, like the Israelites before us, must look to the words of Jeremiah. Though they may not have been written directly for us, in Christ, all the promises of God are reinvigorated and given new life. When we read this verse, we too can be assured that our exile will end, not in ruin, but in restoration. God’s promise is not that we will secure the jobs for which we apply, or that we will be financially prosperous, or that we will be spared from suffering, or even that we will not die “before our time.” But rather, it is a promise that death is not the end. It is a promise that the God who raised Jesus from the dead will raise us up with him.
Does this verse apply to us? It certainly does. We may wish it meant that we will be rewarded for our faithfulness with luxuries and leisure in the present, but I am convinced that the hope and future promised by our God is far sweeter. For while we may suffer in the present, we are promised that there will come a day when we will experience a joy that surpasses all present understanding, in which the Father will raise us to new life and wipe every tear from our eyes. So, read Jeremiah 29:11 as often as you can and know that it applies to you every bit as much, or rather, even more so, than it did to those that first heard it. Read it and remember that God loves you and that he will never abandon you. He has a plan to prosper you, a plan not for your harm, but to give you a hope and a future – and as you dwell on this truth, you will begin to taste the joy and peace that God has planned for you before the foundation of the world. At atriohill.com, we have many wonderful products to remind you of this powerful verse. Christian Journals, Christian Coffee Mugs, Christian Jewelry and Christian Home Decor.