This blogs most misused verse is a very popular one. More than likely you have seen this on graduation cards, FaceBook, and twitter. This is one of the ultimate feel good Bible verses out there for people to cling to, and have as their “life-verse.” One you may have used before, and one I know I have used incorrectly. Let’s be honest, without context this verse does sound very appealing to human nature. God has a plan for us and it is a plan to prosper us, and it has a great future! Does that not sound good for the American Dream, with God’s endorsement behind it? God wants to bless us right? With money, success, and a comfortable life! That’s what many interpret this verse to be about. When someone doesn’t get the job they will share this verse, or any disappointing event in life. However, if we look at this verse in context it has quiet the different meaning than how it is often used.
Before we start let me say that I do believe God has a plan for us. In the grand scheme of things that plan is for our greater good. That being said it doesn’t mean it will happen the way we want it, and that there won’t be hard times. Remember that God’s desire is to be glorified, and that to be demonstrated through our lives no matter our circumstances. There are a lot of good people who have led a tough life, but in the end saw the true meaning of this verse an I hope you will too.
First off, who was this written by? Jeremiah who was a prophet charged with a very tough task. He was sent by God to foretell some tough events upcoming for the Israelites. They had broken their covenant with God, and all sin has consequences. Jeremiah’s job was not easy and he suffered and endured a lot because of it. Jeremiah was the messenger for God, and sometimes people do not want to hear what God has to say because it hurts. The same thing is true today which is why you see so many “Seeker Churches” growing. It’s why people like Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, etc. are very popular today. They do not address the sin issue but tell people what they want to hear so they will keep coming (prosperity gospel, it feels and sounds good), and keep giving. It happened even then! If you read in Jeremiah there was a false prophet by the name of Hananiah. He was speaking a prosperity gospel like many do today. Hananiah ends up dying because of his false prophecy’s, let that be a warning to us and false teachers.
Now what is Jeremiah going to prophecy to the people of Israel? What he is going to say is going to be very tough for them to hear, and not pleasing to the ears. The people, they will be exiled because of their evil deeds for seventy years. Most of those taken into exile would not make it out of exile. Devastating to hear, right? Absolutely. They are about to enter into slavery, lose their land, and be subject to hard labor.”Truth be told God’s people were looking at seventy years of hard labor, a season of fatherly discipline that would last well beyond their lifetimes, all the while being dominated and subjected to the humiliation of being slaves to their enemies. It would be a hard life.” I think we can agree this does not sound very prosperous.
Jeremiah then writes a letter to the Israelites making the initial trip into exile. It is a word of encouragement for lack of a better term. Telling them that God wants them to make the best of the circumstances. To work, settle, and marry although they are away from home and to pray for their captors. In that is where Jeremiah 29:11 shows up.
We need to notice first that God is speaking through Jeremiah directly to the Israelite people of Judah, not any one individual. This was a plan for a nation, not a personal promise intended for one person. That is why we need to be careful taking it out of context and making it fit into our own lives here in the twenty-first century. These are plans to restore this nation, his chosen people, and take them out of Babylonian captivity.
Next, this is a promise for the people who will exist after the captivity (70 years from when it was written!). Most of the people who lived to hear the promise would not live to see it come into fruition on earth. So the initial exiles had to realize this was not short-term, i deserve the best blessing from God. They were going to have a hard life until they died and experience much pain. However, this verse is used today the opposite way! The promise was written for those yet born, that would come out of captivity and be leaders in Israel.
So is this verse applicable to us today as christians as the same way as it was to Israel? To that I say no. Though we may not say it, when putting this verse out there we are saying God is obligated to do this. He is obligated to bless me and prosper me, it is in the Bible. When the first people who heard the blessing never received it on earth! We expect a big time paying job, a healthy family, and am easy life and that is never guaranteed, actually as a christian we are promised to suffer! When we apply this to our lives as individuals we take the verse out of its original context. God is talking to a nation that experienced great loss and suffering for seventy years! It was also not an immediate promise as it is so often used.
So can we apply this to our lives in any way today? I say yes to that. “The riches and greatest fulfillment of this prophecy is to be realized in a spiritual way.” This future hope that we see in the verse has an eternal meaning to it, the “future hope” of experiencing God in all His glory forever. It is not about the American Dream, it is about God’s glory. For us it prosperity and protection in Him forever, and that is our eternal hope!
Put yourself in the sandals (see what I did there?) of the people who heard this. Walking to Babylon heading towards exile. What if that was God’s will for you life? Look at the disciples and Paul’s lives. Look at Jim Elliot and the countless martyrs our faith has had. Life cut short, no wealth, and much suffering. Does this verse not look different? For us with no doubt we have a future and a “heavenly hope” which exist for those who have their faith in Christ and have been adopted into His family That is the best application for this verse. It all is not reserved for just heaven though, but it is not monetary gain here necessarily also. These are spiritual blessings reconciliation, grace, forgiveness, peace, fellowship with God, and all else God gives us as believers. If we twist this though into a preconceived notion of what life should look like for us in a material way, then we have overlooked its meaning to suit our human desires and that is wrong.
Now God may choose to bless people do not get me wrong. There are many wealthy Christians, many healthy families, and overall good lives for many believers. The thing is we cannot expect these things, or be disappointed if we don’t see them in the sense that we want. We cannot demand things or expect things from God. We should not be seeking or expecting glory in our lives, friends we are here to glorify God. Whatever way He sees fit, whatever circumstances He puts us in, how we live our lives matter. What we do either shows our love or our dissatisfaction with God. Let out lives proclaim joy, contentment, and glorify God in all we do! Through the good and the bad, He is sovereign and He is in control. We are aliens and strangers to this world. God will fulfill this promise, but not all of them will fulfilled in the way we think they should be. Live by faith, seek Him daily, and rest in the fact He does have a plan and walking in His will is where true joy and protection are. The safest place in the world is the most dangerous at the same time, that is inside the Will of God.
This verse has many great promises, but if we use it to justify or even demand the “American Dream,” then perhaps we should all be willing to take on seventy years of captivity if that is what He chooses. Trust the King, know the word, and live freely in Him. We will prosper one day if not on earth in heaven, and I long for that future! Make Him known friends not with what we expect, but by what He has done. He has a plan for you, glorify Him with it.