Is Jeremiah 29:11 really about us? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
I am a supporter of the ministry of Celebrate Recovery. When I meet people struggling with porn, alcoholism, co-dependency, or any other addiction, I always point them to Celebrate Recovery. While I love the program, I do have one problem. That problem is that so many people give a testimony and hardly a month goes by where I don’t hear someone quoting Jeremiah 29:11.
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.
That certainly sounds encouraging. God knows the plans He has for us. He has plans to give us a hope and a future. Wow. How assuring!
Or is it?
Let’s start with asking who the “You” is in the passage. Hint. It’s not us.
The you refers to the people of Israel. The people that figured since Israel was going into exile in Babylon, well then that means God is done with them. God’s message to them is no. The game is not over. He will bring them back, but it will be a time of about 70 years in captivity first. So much time that they are encouraged to marry and have families and get used to life in Babylon. Most of those people would die in Babylon, but the people themselves would have a hope and a future.
It’s quite odd that we take this one little part of this verse and say that it’s about us. Nothing else there is really about us, but this one is. On what grounds? How do we know that this passage in isolation is about us, but not everything else is? Let’s consider some other examples.
We could say that Scripture has God saying “Ask me for whatever you want and I will give it to you.” That sounds good. It does say that. The difference is that’s part of 1 Kings 3:5 and it is God appearing to Solomon personally in a dream saying that.
Or Exodus 33:14 with “My presence will go with you and I will give you rest.” That sounds good, except God is saying it to Moses and specifically talking about the wilderness wonderings.
Isaiah 45:3 says God will give us hidden treasures. Should I get a metal detector and go to the beach and expect to find a treasure? No. The message is what was said to Cyrus and likely referring to what people would hide in their own homes to keep safe from thieves.
Let’s not forget that there is a picture of a Christian daily Scripture calendar that says “All this I will give you if you will worship me.” Sounds good again, except, whoops! That was the devil that said that one and it was said to Jesus in the wilderness temptations.
Isn’t it interesting that we take the verse that gives a positive message to Israel that we like and say, “That’s about us!” but then ignore all the verses that give negative messages? There are several of those. Why aren’t they about us?
So what do we do with this passage in Jeremiah? Disavow it? It has nothing to say about us? Maybe it doesn’t, but it has something to say about God, which in turns says something about us. It says that God keeps His covenants. Even when Israel was disobedient and broke the covenant, God never fully abandoned them. If God loves faithless Israel like that, will He not love us the same way? We can also add in that a passage like Romans 8 is for us that says if we love the Lord, all things will work for our good. In gaming language, this is the ultimate cheat code if we could learn it. Whatever happens for us, God will work it for our good.
Jeremiah 29:11 is not about you, but it reveals something about God that can apply to you. Take the principle instead. Don’t make the passage about you.