“’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)
This is a popular verse often quoted to provide people hope in their personal circumstances in life. It’s also a verse about which people have written many critiques and admonitions not to take verses out of context.
On its face, this verse seems to say that God has plans for us, and by “us” I believe most people assume it means for each one of us. God has plans for you… and for me. His plans are to prosper us, not to cause us harm. His plans include hope and a future. That is exactly what this verse says, right?
I’m going to go out on a limb and says, “Yes!” It means what it says. But I think we tend to jump to the conclusion that it’s all about us. And here, I have to admit that the application of this verse to modern individuals in the 21st Century is not the primary meaning.
I don’t think that means that we shouldn’t find application of the verse relevant to our modern lives. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) This verse seems to suggest that all Scripture, not just some verses, are applicable and relevant to “the man of God” (each one of us).
But that being so doesn’t suggest that the context isn’t important. While God may speak to us, as I believe He does sometimes, personally through isolated verses and passages, there is a broader context. That broader context is itself, “profitable” to us. In fact, the broader context often provides insights we would fail to see any other way.
To be perfectly frank, we tend to view our lives, Scripture and even God in very myopic and provincial ways. We focus heavily on our immediate circumstances and our immediate future. Even when we are thinking beyond our immediate circumstances and future, our focus tends to be this worldly.
We are, at a basic level, finite beings. Our vision is finite. Our focus naturally gravitates toward the finite. But God is infinite, and He offers to us his infinite love and an infinite destiny.
When we think about Jeremiah 29:11 in the context of an infinite God who, therefore, has infinite plans for us, that perspective changes everything.
St. Augustine, I understand, emphasized the multi-layered meanings of Scripture. From the literal to the figurative, the present to the future, and so on, Scripture can be understood at different levels, and each level of understanding is “true” and is profitable, has application, to our lives.
In that vein, we should always be mindful of the big picture. The big picture is God’s grand design, His overarching plan for us and all humankind. And these plans are being worked out in the history of the world and in our collective and individual histories.
With that said, let’s look more closely at Jeremiah 29:11 in the context of the period in history in which it was written and in the greater scheme of God in the history of His dealings with mankind. We will do that in Part II of this series on The Plans God Has for Us. And then we will come back to its relevance and application to us today.
3 thoughts on “The Plans God Has for Us – Part I”
“ll Scripture is breathed out by God”… please realize that the Bible, in its current form, did not exist when this verse was “spoken”. There were many books that were initially included in the Bible, and then later taken out… what about those? I’ve read some that for the life of me can’t figure out why they weren’t included.
I appreciate your comment. That is a popular position advanced by people like Bart Ehrman and others, but perhaps you haven’t read people like Daniel Wallace on the subject. You can look up his presentations on YouTube if you would like a concise summary. We have such a wealth of New Testament manuscripts in so many different languages (like 25,000), and we have so many writings of the early church leaders quoting the text, that we have an extremely high degree of confidence in the authenticity of the text. In fact, if we didn’t have one manuscript, but only the writings of the early church leaders, we could piece together the entire New Testament.
As for the Old Testament, the Dead Sea Scrolls, which date to hundreds of years before Christ, include manuscripts of every Old Testament book except for Esther. When compared to the text w have today, the accuracy is in three high 90th percentile. That was the conclusion of Dr. Gleason Archer, one of the greatest Hebrew scholars of the 20th Century. After reading the entire intact Isaiah Scroll that dates to 200-300 Years BC. The text is virtually identical all respects.