Do you want God to be for you?
What I mean is this: Don’t you love to know that God has great plans for you?
I supposed many people do because we love to quote Jeremiah 29:11.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
Recently I heard a sermon on this passage that basically said:
God always have great plans for us, and his plans are for our welfare and good. He wants us to live in hope.
But is this verse about what most people are being lead to believe? Is this verse about the unassailable, infallible plans for good things in your life?
I think it is not for two reasons.
Who was Jeremiah Talking to?
If you simply turn to the first verse of chapter 29 you read this:
These are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders of the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.
Jeremiah was talking to the exiles in Babylon. Now why were God’s people in exile? Because as a people they had sinned against God by worshiping and serving idols instead of the one true God. As punishment or consequences, they were to go into exile for 70 years.
So what sort of good plans can those facing their deserved consequences expect?
That their punishment will not totally destroy them nor obliterate their people. So for this reason I don’t think we can use this verse at new years for good plans for us as Christians especially if we are not talking about living in our consequences.
What did Jeremiah tell them to do?
In chapter 29 verses 5-10 hear Jeremiah’s letter from God to the exiles:
Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. 8 For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, 9 for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the LORD. 10 “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.
Their false prophets were telling them don’t settle down in this place, because God is going to deliver us from this place that is not our home. God says, “Wrong.”
God expects his people to settle down and seek the welfare of their captors. Because only as they seek the welfare of their captors, will they experience welfare.
And they have to be there for 70 years and then God will restore them. For he knows his plans.
So that means that the plans that God has for his people are plans that center on restoring disobedience people, who have lived through their consequences and been obedient to God in the midst of consequences.
So how can we use this verse rightly? Let me suggest a couple of things:
- It shows us the character of God. He is holy and will punish sin, but he is compassionate and will not totally destroy his people.
- It shows us that God’s actions of punishment or discipline on us have a restorative purpose.
- It shows that God in his providence was pursuing the establishment of the Messiah and was unwilling to let his people’s sin cut off his divine plan of redemption for mankind.
- It shows God’s compassion on those who humble accept their consequences and live obediently before God.
- Finally, it shows how even in facing consequences, God’s people can be a blessing to those around them.
So next time a pastor preaches from this verse without referring to the whole chapter, just get up and leave. That kind of pulpit crime needs to be stopped.