A Verse I hear quoted a lot in church and by TV preachers is found in Jeremiah 29:11—“’For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope’” (NASB).
Why not; it doesn’t get any more positive than that.
To be fair, it can be argued that the words in the verse above do capture the will of God for the life of every true believer. And that’s the way it’s being presented from pulpits.
But the problem with the way the verse is being presented is that most of the time I hear it used, it is not presented in its proper context. This verse was not given as a promise to the people of God at large. It was intended to encourage His people as they were in captivity.
Because of their sins, God had allowed them to be taken into captivity into Babylon. While they were there, Jeremiah sent them a letter: “Now these are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem unto the residue of the elders which were carried away captives….” (Verse 1, KJV).
The Setting for Jeremiah 29:11
- God was the one who had caused His people to be taken into captivity: “Whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem unto Babylon” (verse 4). Their captivity was God’s judgment upon them for their disobedience.
- False prophets were speaking false hope to the people in the name of the Lord (sounds like false prophets today). God says concerning them, “They prophesy falsely unto you in my name” (verse 9). The implication is that the false prophets were promising the people that their return to Jerusalem was at hand when it was not.
- Their captivity would last seventy years (verse 10). This was the exact opposite of what the false prophets were saying. That’s a long time to be captive in another country. The duration of the people’s captivity suggested that God was severely displeased with His people.
That brings us to the Proper Context of Jeremiah 29:11. God was saying that contrary to the fact that I have allowed you to be led into captivity, and contrary to the fact that I will keep you in the hands of the enemy for seventy years; this does not reflect the plans I have for you! My plans for you are for welfare and not calamity; they are to give you a future and a hope.
What the Proper Context of Jeremiah 29:11 Means to Us
What God allowed to happen to His people must have seemed to be unthinkable. Sometimes, we may find ourselves in situations that we regard as unthinkable that God would allow. But those circumstances do never reflect God’s attitude toward us. He always has “thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end” (KJV).
This verse underscores the importance of the need for us to always walk by faith and not by sight. For instance, God promised, “I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place” (verse 10).
In other words, no matter where you are in life, no matter how bad things may look at the moment, believe that God has something good in store for you—“plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.”
Copyright © 2019 by Frank King. All rights reserved.