Since I generally blog on Mondays, I will usually blog about either Sunday’s reading or Monday’s reading. This week I couldn’t resist talking about something we read on Sunday. It’s a very familiar passage of Scripture. It’s one of those verses that have made it to coffee cups, wall plaques, and devotional books. It has become a comforting thought for those who are already comfortable. We’re doing fine and this verse reminds us that our “doing fine” will be continuing into our future. For many of you, when you read it as a part of your daily reading, it was like discovering a long-time friend. Let’s look at it again:
Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
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.
It seems so familiar doesn’t it? This verse has been quoted, preached on, and written about to help so many people as they stare into a future that is uncertain. I like the way that the Message Bible presents it as well.
Jeremiah 29:11 (MSG)
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.
One thing that I think gets missed with this verse is the context in which it is found. For me the reading of this verse usually speaks into my future that God has prepared for me. God has it all planned out. The future looks bright. When I get to the future it is going to be great.
But when this verse was first spoken by the prophet Jeremiah under the inspiration of God’s Holy Spirit, it was spoken into a very dark time for God’s people. As a result of rampant disobedience to God and what He was asking of His people, they had been carried off in bondage by their foreign conquerors. Here they were in exile in a land that wasn’t theirs. And in the middle of all their fears and amidst all their doubts and questions, God brings hope to them that they would never have expected to have. Prior to the above verse we read:
Jeremiah 29:4-10 (NIV)
4 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. 7 Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” 8 Yes, this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. 9 They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the Lord.
10 This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place.
When we look at the context of verse 10, we see that this prophecy is coming at a time when it would seem that God’s people had no hopeThey were experiencing the consequences of not following God like He had asked them too. They had no reason to believe that they would ever experience His provision and blessing again. They would die in a foreign land as the slaves and servants of their conquerors. What had been, the privilege of being God’s chosen people now appeared to be only a memory.
It was in the middle of this misery that God spoke to His people He had chosen. Jeremiah was telling them that God wanted them to look at themselves as not being exiled from Him, instead they were simply exiled from their homeland. He went on to encourage them to marry, build homes and have children. This was a way of Him saying He would bless them in this foreign land for the next seventy years, after which He would bring them back to their homeland.
God was telling them He wasn’t finished with them yet. God was telling them their future was bright. But not only their future was bright, they were already under the influence of His plan for them.
How about you? Have you ever found yourself feeling that you have just done too many things wrong, things that you knew better not to do? Do you feel that you are no longer under the influence of His plans? If you do I want to invite you to step back under His influence, the influence of His plan. After all He’s still offering you “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” If you need to you can pray this simple prayer:
I have lived in a way that is outside of your plan for my life.
I know that your plan for me is far better than anything else I could
follow. Please forgive me for my foolishness and like your people in the book of
Jeremiah help me to walk always in you. Thank you Lord. Amen