A Non-Denominational, Bible-teaching Church
Sunday Service 9:30am | 301 Clinton St. Hudson, IL
God Promises His Children a Hopeful Future
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.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
This is a common favorite verse, and it is one that Bible scholars are quick to steal from the people of God. They are right that we must understand the context and audience of a verse. Here God is speaking to the Jewish exiles, living outside of the promise land because of their sin. God’s people had been scattered just as the covenant-curse given through Moses had promised.
This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Jer 29:4 (NIV)
He goes on to tell them to settle in to Babylon. Be good neighbors and work for the good of the people who they live among…
“Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 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. 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.” Jer 29:5–7 (NIV)
In verse 10, God promises that in 70 literal years he will cause a return to the Holy Land. We can see this promise is perfectly fulfilled in the opening verse of the book of Ezra.
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.” Jeremiah 29:10 (NIV)
This leads us back to our “favorite verse” of Jeremiah 29:11. In the context, we can see that God is reassuring his people of his intentions towards them as they begin a 70 year span of difficulty living as exiles in enemy land. They would be tempted to feel discarded by God. Like they had blown it forever. He lets them know that even this is for their good, not their harm. It is all still on track to fulfill the promise spoken to Abraham to make a people of blessing from his descendants and to secure them in the land he had promised.
“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.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
So here the (Dispensational) Bible scholars tell us, “take the verse down off the wall. It isn’t for you. It was for the Jews in the Babylonian exile.” Full stop.
Not so fast! All the promises of Scripture are yes and Amen in Christ! The New Covenant reveals the larger, fuller promises that the Old Covenant contained within the promises of Abraham’s offspring, a promise land, and a special people of God.
The promised offspring is not just a genetic nation, but Jesus himself! People from every nation are grafted in through Jesus to the promise of Abraham and become God’s own special people - The Kingdom of God - to reign in a new heaven and new earth for all eternity!
Yet we are still looking forward to the fullness of that promise. We are waiting for Jesus to bring us to the promise land he is preparing for us. So we live in spiritual Babylon now. He tells us through the prophet Jeremiah to work for the good and blessing of our neighbors that we live among. To pray for our enemies who persecute us. Jesus extends the hope of return from exile to all people of the earth through the gospel when he says in Jeremiah,
Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” Jeremiah 29:12–14 (NIV)
We can hear those words echoed in Jesus,
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” - Matt 7:7 (NKJV)
For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Romans 10:12–13 (NKJV)
So all people who believed the gospel message, who have called on God and sought him through Jesus, have been brought out of Babylon and are no longer captive to sin or this world’s order. The promise of Jeremiah 29:11 is for them. As members of God’s holy nation, Jews and gentiles alike, his plans are not to harm them, but to bring them eternal prosperity and blessing.
In every hardship, we can cling to and be encouraged by God speaking to us through Jeremiah 29:11 as much as we turn James 1:2-4 to remind us to consider all our hardships pure joy for their refining work, or as we turn to Romans 8:28 to remind us that everything is working together for our good, or as we turn to Hebrews 12:5-11 to remind us that the hardships we endure are loving discipline to bless us, not harm us.
The promise of Jeremiah 29:11 is not just true of the whole people of God together, but of all the individuals who are called by name to be citizens of his Kingdom. The “you” is to his holy nation and to you specifically. God knows very well every detailed plan he has made for your individual life. Every part of it to prosper, rather than harm you. Plans that would refine you and cause you to look to him alone for all your hope and confidence. Plans to bring you to the hope of eternity. If that isn’t a wonderful Gospel promise for New Testament believers, I don’t know what is!