An often misapplied verse
For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
If you hang around church circles long enough, you hear this verse….a lot. I think the usual way it’s used can be paraphrased as follows: Nothing disastrous will happen today (because His plans are for good and not for disaster). So have hope, because your future will go well. In other words, the verse is often used to speak to circumstances. Imagine the tailspin our faith suffers then, if the tragedy strikes.
This week I noticed the verse just prior: This is what the Lord says: “You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again.” (29:10)
God’s people were exiled in Babylon for 70 years, then the Lord…
This promise was spoken 70 years before the Lord would come and do the good things He had promised for those suffering in exile. I am not certain people quote this verse with such a long view in mind. This verse is not about our current life on earth, but about our life on earth in the context of God’s larger story in history. Seventy years from now, I will not be alive. I will be in heaven, but only when I am in heaven will the glory and purpose of my life be fully realized. This is true for everyone. God asks us to wait by faith.
I don’t think we can expect God to show us our part in the story.
Tamar is a woman in the Old Testament that had a terrible life. She was treated horribly by her father-in-law (Judah) and lived much of her adult life in isolation and shame (Genesis 38:1-14). In a gutsy plan to stop the mistreatment and seek justice for herself, she gave birth to Perez, who was her father-in-law’s child (Genesis 38:15-29).
This week I was reading Matthew 1 in the New Testament. Name by name, I read the genealogy from Abraham to Jesus. Look at verses 2-4: Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Serah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezran the father of Ram…
And there she is, named within the glorious genealogy of Abraham to Jesus. Women aren’t traced in geneologies, so to earn a mention of connection is extremely significant. God saw her, and Perez was a by-product of the plan she had put into place to end the mistreatment.
Tamar died not knowing her role in God’s story.
She didn’t see it when she was alive, but she sees it now in eternity, much more than 70 years ago.
Now here is the key.
This verse never was about our circumstances. God’s heart to give us a good plan for a future and a hope is found in Jesus Christ, and was always meant to be the point, the promised Savior. In Him alone we have hope.
Children of God, exiled here for a while on earth, be encouraged by Jeremiah 29:11 today with the long view in mind: For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
Picture Explanation: Our house was festive this week because our daughters came home for their birthday. We gave them gifts, of course, but the gift I most enjoyed was the one they gave me…being home together on the actual day they turned 26! These two made me a “mom.” I didn’t plan for them, and I never deserved them, so I treasure the title. I continue to pray for and trust God with their stories, knowing that at any given moment, what I see in their lives is being swept up into something larger that only my eyes of faith can see. May He continue to teach me how to trust Him with them.
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