The Plans God Has for Us – Part III

Even in the midst of the very Judgment of God, God desires to bless us! He is every appealing to us to listen to Him and respond to Him. 

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n the previous two blog posts on The Plans God Has for Us, we considered the fact that the often-quoted verse about the plans God us for us – plans to prosper us and to give us hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11)[1] – should be viewed in historical context. (Part I) That historical context was the 900-year history of disbelief and disobedience of God’s people ending in 40 years of warning of impending judgment that culminated in the judgment coming to pass with the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem and exile. (Part II) In this post, I will try to draw some conclusions in the application of this verse and relevance to our modern lives.

This letter was the message of God through the prophet, Jeremiah, to God’s people that He gave them at the very beginning of their exile. In this letter, God tells them that they will remain in exile for 70 year![2] In fact, this shocking statement – you will be here 70 years – is the statement that immediately precedes the famous verse we all know:

“’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.’”

In a sense, God is telling them, “I’ve got good news and bad news. The bad news is that I have imposed my judgment on you, and it will last 70 years. But the good news is that I have plans for you, good plans to prosper you and to give you hope and a future.

70 years! In an age in which the average life expectancy was about 35 years, that’s two generations! For the vast majority of the exiled people, this meant their lives would end in captivity. What kind of hope and future is that?!

The exile was the judgment God warned them about. God’s people had been so disbelieving and disobedient that God virtually banished them from the very land He promised them about a millennium before.  But even in the midst of this judgment, we need to look carefully at what God is saying. Just before announcing that this judgment thing is going to last 70 years, God gives them instructions:

“This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: ‘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.’”[3]

Imagine the 40 years of warning and the weight of that impending doom on those who actually took it seriously. As with most things we fear, the fear is worse than the reality.

During this time of judgment in exile in Babylon, God says to them, basically, “Don’t despair! Go about your lives. Embrace the circumstances into which I have brought you. Live life. Make plans. Bless those around you, seek to better the those around you, and I will bless you.”

Even in the midst of the very Judgment of God, God desires to bless us! He is every appealing to us to listen to Him and respond to Him.

Continue reading “The Plans God Has for Us – Part III”

The Plans God Has for Us – Part II

The overarching theme of the Book of Jeremiah is judgment.


Though Jeremiah 29:11 is often quoted as a stand-alone verse, the context of it dramatically enriches its meaning. The context also reveals meaning that we would miss if we didn’t understand the circumstances in which these words were spoken. This is the main message of the first installment of this three-part series – The Plans God Has for Us – Part I.

When we read the following words, we should be mindful of the context:

“’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)

Aside from the fact that we often ask God merely to bless our own plans, not considering (or taking seriously) that He has plans for us, this verse is often quoted with anticipation of some immediate or not-too-distant hope and future. But the context suggests that we should apply the verse in a much larger context than the immediate and near future circumstances of our own lives.

Consider that the prophet, Jeremiah, lived and served God during the last four decades before the last of God’s people who were given the Promised Land, the nation of Judah, were overtaken and exiled to Babylon. Jeremiah’s life and prophetic ministry spanned from the 13th year of the reign of King Josiah (627/626 BC) through the siege and capture of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 586 BC.

These were doom and gloom years in which an ominous cloud of darkness loomed over Judah and eventually swallowed them up. Most of Jeremiah’s ministry focused on warning God’s people of the impending doom.

Jeremiah wasn’t’ a popular prophet (not that prophets are known to be popular). He was imprisoned, and his life was threatened multiple times during the course of his ministry. People didn’t like or receive well the drumbeat of warning that he pounded.

The Book of Jeremiah reveals a prophet whose life was full of emotional angst, as the people of Judah didn’t want to hear what he had to say and were hostile to his message. He was faithful to God in spite of the unpopularity it brought him. He often lamented the hard-heartedness of the people and their refusal to take heed.

“Jeremiah found himself addressing a nation hurtling headlong toward judgment from God. The Israelites may have feared the future as the outside powers drew near, but rather than respond with humility and repentance, the people of Judah primarily lived as islands unto themselves, disregarding both the Lord’s commandments and the increasing danger that resulted from their disobedience.”[i]

Because Jeremiah’s ministry stretched over the 40 years just before the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem and exile, the overarching theme of the Book of Jeremiah is judgment. The chronicle of the history of God’s people from the covenant God made with them in the Sinai Desert to the time of Jeremiah was approximately 900 years marked by ongoing disbelief and disobedience, culminating in the Babylonian exile.

Jeremiah 29:11 is quoted from a letter Jeremiah wrote to the Babylonian exiles after the judgment he had been proclaiming for four decades finally came to pass.

The larger context is almost 900 years of disbelief and disobedience from the very people God chose to call His own. The immediate context is 40 years of Jeremiah warning God’s people of God’s imminent judgment and their refusal to listen or change their ways. In that gloomy scenario in which that judgment finally came to pass, Jeremiah writes:

“’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)

As we look at the entire letter from Jeremiah to his exiled brethren and consider its application, then and now, the nuances of Scriptural meaning and application to our lives becomes more poignant. We will do this in The Plans God Has for Us – Part III.

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[i] See Insight for Living, Jeremiah, by Charles Swindoll.

The Plans God Has for Us – Part I

‘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.’


“’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.