That Verse You Love: In context God's plan is good, not pleasant

by Kyle
published September 9, 2017

 

Read More Looking Up

Read More Upward Glances

Tags

There are some Bible verses everyone knows.

John 3:16, for instance, everyone knows. Jeremiah 29:11 is another.

This verse finds its way onto graduation cards and Instagram bios with notable frequency. It’s a great verse, and it makes us feel really good.

Its popularity is no wonder – who wouldn’t like for God to tell them, “’For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,’ says the Lord, ‘thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.’”

It is so lovely to know that God thinks good thoughts toward us. What a comfort!

God wants what’s good for us, so logically it seems like he’ll do what’s good for us. Rather, we think, he’ll do what seems good to us.

So, with this hope – based on something God didn’t actually say – we put “Jeremiah 29:11” on our social media posts, congratulatory cards, or a necklace we wear, without ever actually looking at.

But if you were to read Jeremiah 29:11 by itself with fresh and critical eyes, some questions would naturally emerge.

One of the most beautiful things about the Bible, though, is that those questions are answered in the original context of the verse.

Who is God talking to?

In the context of the whole Bible, we learn in 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles and the book of Jeremiah that Jeremiah was a prophet who ministered in Jerusalem. He had the unenviable job of informing Jerusalem that because of their unfaithfulness to God and idolatry, God would send an army to destroy the city and take them into captivity, and there was nothing that could be done about it. This verse is part of God’s message to his people.

Why does God want to assure them?

In much of the book of Jeremiah, God has, through the prophet, been laying out his case against Israel and how they deserve discipline for their unfaithfulness and evil. But this is not a punishment. God cannot sit by and do nothing, but he does not delight in harming his people. While they’re in cosmic time out, God tells his people how to respond. Jeremiah 29:7 says, “Seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace.”

This seems counter-intuitive, so God explains their captivity is not permanent. Jeremiah 29:10 says, “After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place.” They don’t need to worry about escaping. God has that covered. So they can bless instead.

Why would God rescue them from punishment?

God is willing to rescue them from the captivity he subjected them to because he has, “thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give [them] a future and a hope.”

In the captivity, he exercised his justice. In Israel’s release, he exercised his grace. And while grace is always a free gift, it also always has an intended effect on the heart.

Jeremiah 29:12 says, “Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.” Just a couple chapters later, as God continues to lay out his plan of hope for Israel, he says, “But this is the covenant, which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” (Jeremiah 31:33)

All along, God has worked to restore the relationship between humans and himself. He has worked in a special way and to a special degree to do that in Israel. Whether through what seemed bad or what seemed good, God was and is always drawing people to himself. He especially uses calamity and trouble to do that.

Jeremiah 29:11 does not give us license to look forward to success in college or business. It’s not a promise of constant material gain.

Instead, God lays out the principle that, no matter what happens, he has an ultimate goal of drawing all people to himself, whether through blessing or discipline.

We get to look forward to a closer walk with Jesus. A follower of Jesus’ only source of peace - our only future and hope - is not in tranquil circumstance or material provision. It is wrapped up in a restored and deepening relationship with God.

What do you think?

Leave a Reply



(Your email will not be publicly displayed.)


Captcha Code

Click the image to see another captcha.