“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfareand not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11, ESV
The above passage sounds like a great promise to Christians today. Many people make this their life verse. Yet, they don’t take into account that this passage is talking about them. It wasn’t written to us. It was written to Jeremiah’s audience, idolatrous Southern Judah.
One would not take this passage out of context if they had just read the whole book. God appointed Jeremiah to be a prophet of Judah to plead with them to repent of their sin or be taken into Babylonian captivity. Strangely enough, no one makes those passages their life verses.
In light of the rest of the book, Jeremiah is comforting the people of Judah over their impending judgement, some of the effects they were already feeling. Jeremiah tells them to trust in the Lord during their time of judgement. The surrounding context supports this.
“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 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. 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. For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the Lord.
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. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.” (Jeremiah 29: 4 – 14, ESV).
God was not done with Judah. He was putting them into captivity to prepare them for the Messiah. Much like when they went to captivity, Israel rejected their Messiah like they rejected Jeremiah’s message. Judah went into captivity then, now they are dispersed again, til the time for salvation to the Gentiles has ceased(Romans 12:25). Now we live in an age where anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. If anyone repents of their sin and trusts in the blood sacrifice of Jesus will be saved.
Don’t apply what doesn’t apply to you. There are things we can learn from this passage about how God deals with His people and how God used this to bring about the state of the nation His chosen one would come from. We can also know God keeps His promises.
If God kept His promises to His people then, God will keep His promises now. Jesus promised he will be with us always to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). The Holy Spirit is a promise of our final salvation (Ephesians 1:13-14). Jesus promises to come back to judge the living and the dead (Revelation 19 – 22). These are promises to which we can all hold fast.
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