Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
This is a verse that has inspired and encouraged many believers, and rightfully so. We hold on to the belief that God is sovereign and that He is in control of all things. We believe that “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6). It is an amazing thought to think that the God over all creation has a plan for our lives. There is a God that “knit me in my mothers womb” (Psalm 139:1). We believe it!
However, the problem comes when we look at Jeremiah 29:11 as a verse that declares our prosperity…now. This verse should definitely remind us that God is control and has plans for our lives. But when we look at the context of this verse, we begin to realize that this “hope and a future” may not be what we think it should. As many of us know, our plans and Gods plans aren’t always the same.
To understand the context of this verse we need to look at the whole book of Jeremiah. You can go back in read the chapters before chapter 29 for yourself. However, there are a few very important things to understand.
If you read the book of Jeremiah or even the few chapters before chapter 29, you will see that Jeremiah is telling the people that they will be taken into captivity. This captivity will be for 70 years in Babylon. He says that after this captivity, then they will be returned and freed. Verse 11 is part of the promise that God hasn’t abandoned them. It’s a promise that when the 70 years are up, he will return them.
While this is a great hope, we need to understand something. The Israelites were just told that most of them were going to die in captivity. If it was truly going be to 70 years, then they were not going to see freedom. Jeremiah 29:11 takes on a new meaning when we realize that this “hope and a future” was going to be lived by later generations.
The interesting thing is what God tells the people to do in the verses preceding Jeremiah 29:11. God basically tells captive Israel to settle in. He tells them to make Babylon their home. He says, “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.” (Jeremiah 29:5-7).
The Israelites must have felt restless in their circumstances. They must have been confused, angry, and were ready to prosper. However, God tells them to settle in and live life. He tells them to make the best of their situation. They were to build homes and have families. They were to live life to its fullest, despite the captivity. Even in the hard times, God still had great joys in store for them. But in order for this to happen, they needed trust Him and live life.
The problem is that verses like 29:11, when used out of context, can produce very dangerous doctrine. There are many that preach a prosperity gospel based on verses like 29:11. This doctrine says that the mark of a true believer is one with enough faith to produce financial, physical, and emotional prosperity. If you are not prospering in these areas that means that you do not have enough faith or there is sin that is keeping it from you. While there might be shreds of truth in some of this doctrine, the doctrine overall is complete garbage. This is unscriptural and it is an insult to the true Gospel of grace.
God never promises that you will be wealthy or have excess. He does promises to be Jehovah Jireh, our provider. He will always supply all your needs. However, if God does decide to give you excess “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded” (Luke 12:48). He will always give ways to use that excess. However, its not promised that we will all experience this financially security.
God never promises that you will never be sick physically or emotionally. If that were the case we would never die or be sad. He does promise to be our strength and “by his stripes we are healed” (Is. 53). There is healing available in the work of Christ. But in John 9 Jesus had healed a blind man. There were those that asked, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” Even in our sickness God has a plan that will ultimately bring Him glory.
This prosperity gospel seeks to bring a weight upon the believer that does not experience what we consider to be prosperity. However, we must remember Jeremiah 29:11 was not written to those that would live the future return from exile. It was written to remind Israel that despite the struggle, He was with them.
I think that there are two important truths to learn from Jeremiah 29.
1. Make the best of the current circumstances
We cannot understand all that God has planned. When we are in the middle of an “exile” experience all we want is deliverance. However, it’s in the exile experiences that we truly learn to trust God. In the exile experience we learn to trust in his provision and strength. In the exile experience God may to telling us to trust him and settle in. While in the exile experience; how can we make the best it?
2. Leave a legacy
As I said, Jeremiah 29:11 was not necessarily for those that heard it. It was for the next generation that would experience freedom. That meant that the Israelites that heard the message had a responsibility to leave a legacy with the new generation. It was going to be up to them to show the upcoming generation what it is was like to serve God, even in the exile experience. While in the exile experience, with whom are we leaving a Godly legacy?
When it comes right down to it, God is in control. Maybe, Jeremiah 29:11 is going to be for you. Maybe we are soon going to see the end of the exile experience. But, maybe we are going to have to settle in and trust God. Whichever it is, just know that God is our provider and our strength. We are never promised an easy life without trials. In fact, we are promised that we will experience hardship. However, when we have our trust in Him, he will take care of us. So whether you are in an exile experience or a time of prosperity, never lose sight of the one that is in control.
This series, Misunderstood, will address many different topics. We will look at misunderstood scriptures, misunderstood doctrine, and misunderstood beliefs.
For more from the Misunderstood series, click here