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November 02, 2007



After reading the recent posts on Jer. 29:11, I became more and more intrigued as to why it is one of the hardest scriptures to understand. Now, I could be taking this totally wrong, but from what I have gathered, the promise made in this verse is not the promise we make it out to be. I have always thought the best way to interpret scripture is by first looking at the context. So basically the context of Jer. 29:11, (and please correct me if I am wrong) is a letter and promise made to specific people, during a specific time, and ironically the original people did not see those plans, rather their future generations did. It was not a promise made to us. Which leads me to another question… is our culture really that egocentric? I think it is funny how we hold on to this verse so deeply when there is obvious confusion on exactly what it means, because it seems so comforting. But then we seem to ignore other verses in the bible where it is made very clear a promise has been made to us. For example, 2 Tim. 3:12 states “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Again, correct me if I am wrong here, but this is one verse that is definitely ours and we don’t often enough claim this one! So, how then do we know how to take Jer. 29:11 for what God truly intended for us in our culture today? I know, you are going to talk about this more, and like Jeff posted, I am excited to see how to apply it to my life today for God’s glory.

Jim Fleming

Great questions. I won't "spoil" the last post which will come out next week. But, yes, isn't it interesting that we quote this verse as if it were a universal promise when, in fact, the "plans" God had for the majority were plans for calamity - see 29:17-19.


A couple of things that interested me:
-That God first told everyone in exile, earlier in Chapter 29, to keep living their lives....just do it in their new place. And THEN verse 11 comes. PLEASE correct my thinking, but it's like God is saying, "This thing that has happened to you? Deal with it. You can live your lives no differently that how you did before AND it's all part of my plans that are for your good." It gets elaborated on, but it seems like verse 11 caps off what God is saying rather than the beginning of what he said.
-The implication up through verse 13 is that the people's calling out to God and their listening to the "Prophets," meaning that the less they heard the Prophets, the more they were inclined to call out to God (and vice versa). Am I reading that wrong?


Woops...I just realized I might be tangenting away from your intentions. Sorry...

Jim Fleming

I would adjust one statement in your comments. When you say "You can live your lives no differently that how you did before," that is NOT what God would say to the exiles. The exiles were equal participants in the failure of Israel to heed God at the time of Jeremiah. The only difference was God had been "kind enough" to give the exiles their lives, which would not prove true for the majority who remained in the land. When Jerusalem fell to Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC, most of them died, a few were taken prisoner, the small remainder fled to Egypt and died. God wants the exiles AND those still in Jerusalem to repent. You are right that the exiles do need to get used to the fact that they are not going back. God is saying, "Start living for the long-term in Babylon." But the exiles would do well to embrace a dramatic "life-style" change. This would be a good time to start pursuing God like never before.


Hey, this is jg, and I think I need to clarify some things. I am in no way pulling a Joel Osteen here; I don't propose that we find any comforting verse in the Bible and claim it for ourselves. To do so would be, as Jim told me once, to put words in God's mouth, and to have faith in that is not to have faith in Him, but in ourselves. This verse is often engraved on plaques and cutesy mugs to be used as gifts at graduation, and so I understand the skepticism people have when someone says she claims this verse for herself. Sure, we need to know the context in which a verse appears. I'm no idiot, but I also have faith that the same God who showed the love and concern that He did for those people at that time is the same God who deals with me today. Therefore, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that He could use this verse in my life. We can't deny the Holy Spirit's role in illuminating Scripture as it applies to our lives. Sure, there is a danger in allowing anyone the right to interpret Scripture as he/she sees fit all under the guise of "the Holy Spirit gave me this verse and I claimed it, so it must be true." But there is also a danger in telling someone who is convinced in his/her mind that the Lord has spoken that He hasn't. For one who is diligently seeking Him, one who is abiding in Him, and His word in her, is there not a safety from error when one listens to the still, small voice?
Also, this verse poses problems for some, probably because they read it through a worldly lens. When the Lord says He has plans to prosper me, I'm not mistaking that for money or wealth, which some may do. Also, His promise to not harm me, to give me hope and a good future stands, but it may not play out in the way I would expect. I take comfort in this verse purely because it helps me see who God is, and because I can rest in His promise that whatever happens, it will be a part of His loving plan, and that looking back on my life, I wouldn't have chosen to have it any other way. My greatest fear is not going through hard times, but rather not being able to find God and take comfort in Him when those hard times come. When we become fearful about an uncertain future, there is nothing wrong with allowing the Lord to minister to us through His Word as long as we are regularly in the word and seeking Him, not just a guarantee. In other words, we can't search the index of our Bible, turn to a verse, and claim that it's God's word for us (unless it is, of course)! Let the Spirit do His work.

Alex Marshall


You are right on to say the same God who spoke to Israel is the God we follow, and certainly his words convey a meaning to us today. The danger, however, lies in assuming the wrong meaning. When we take things out of context and apply them in ways they were not meant to be applied, we are not handling the scriptures accurately. So we must be careful that our understanding of a verse is accurate before we try and make an application of it. To me, at least, it seems that spirit primarily moves in us at this point, guiding us in applying the scriptures. Certainly we must listen to the Spirit's lead. However, scripture also tells us that the enemy is good at playing someone he's not, so we need to make sure that anything the spirit "leads" us to do or think is supported by what scripture means in context. God will not contradict what he has taught us in his word, in other words. Does that make sense?

Interestingly, I think part of the big struggle with this Jeremiah passage is that in context, I think it did mean a material prosperity. God's promise was ultimately to bring the people back to the land, which is pretty material in nature. However, this particular promise was specifically for Israel in this situation, when we misapply it to be a general statement about all of us, we get in trouble. Certainly the Bible teaches that God works all things to good for his people, but it does not seem to always be a material good on earth. It just so happens in this particular case it was.


When I say to let the Holy Spirit lead, I am assuming that you can know that it is, in fact, the Holy Spirit, and not Satan. Surely this is a matter that we must leave between the individual and God, since those are the only two who know what is in a person's heart. All I'm saying is, allow God to be God and say what He wants. Sure, it's dangerous to give free license to the masses when interpreting Scripture, as not everyone is a scholar, and not everyone loves God. People have done terrible things after faulty interpretations of Scripture, and they will be held accountable for it. When it comes to something like this, though, I think we must leave it up to the individual and God. That is why I made the point about being in the word day in and day out. We can trust Him to not lead us astray if our heart is right. He is bigger than what level of education we have and what intellectual level we are on. We are commanded to love Him with our MIND, but also with our heart, soul, and strength. God uses our minds, but He also uses our spirit to point us to the truth.

Alex Marshall

I can readily agree with that. The more time we spend in studying and understanding scripture, the more our minds and hearts will be in tune with God and the more easily we will see his leading and be willing and able to follow it.

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