Text: Jeremiah 29:11 | Listen to Message
Got a Christian friend graduating from college, getting married, or interviewing for a new job? Then you’ve probably seen this verse dropped into a greeting card, email, or social media meme, wishing them well:
I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
Let me make three quick observations about this verse:
One, we read this as if the “you” here is us.
Two, the health and wealth, “prosperity gospel” interpretation of this verse simply doesn’t hold up to the real life experience of the church around the world.
Three, we are clearly desperate for hope in the midst of our trials and transitions. We have an innate longing to find something in the Bible that helps us navigate our way into the future.
Does this verse do #3 for us? I would argue yes, though probably not how you think.
First of all, who’s speaking in this verse? Jeremiah the prophet. To whom? To the Jews who’ve been taken into Babylonian exile about 600 years before the time of Christ.
So the first thing to note is that this verse isn’t talking about us, it’s talking about them. And the “you” is plural because Jeremiah is talking to all of them.
Second, is there anything in the context that sheds light on the meaning of this future wholeness – the shalom – that God intends? Absolutely!
The verse right before this reads, “For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place.” God not only tells them what his “plans for wholeness” entail, he tells them when it will happen!
Verse 14 confirms, “I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.”
Okay, so, question: Did God do that for them after seventy years? The biblical and historical answer is yes! King Cyrus of Persia let the Jews return to Jerusalem after seventy years, rebuild their temple, and restore their city. End of story. Jeremiah 29:11 is a fulfilled promise of God to the exiles of Israel.
Here, then, is the theme of this verse when read in context:
Though God disciplined his people when they sinned, he did not ultimately give up on them or destroy them, but rather planned for them a future restoration, which they eventually received and experienced through repentance and faith.
If we want to apply this to our lives today, this is the truth we need to be applying. Let me suggest three ways you can do that.
1. The Gospel is a declaration of good news over sinners.
Jeremiah 29:11 is a declaration of profound hope for sinners who’d broken God’s law incessantly, and deserved nothing but judgment. Let this story point you to the even greater hope for sinners found in Jesus.
2. The good news is that we get shalom because of the grace of Jesus Christ.
We don’t deserve shalom; we deserve God’s wrath. But listen to the incredible exchange described in Isaiah 53:4-5: “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.”
The good news of the Gospel is that Jesus took the wrath we deserved and gave us the shalom – the peace with God – that he deserved. Now, in him, we get to live under his shalom, his ultimate peace and prosperity, forever.
3. Therefore, we draw near to Christ in repentance and faith.
Because we’re accepted by free grace, because God has made outrageously kind promises to sinners, because God has an unshakable plan for our future, therefore, we continually confess two things: I am a great sinner and Jesus Christ is a great Savior.