Jeremiah 29:11 Meaning (why this verse doesn’t mean what you think)

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Jeremiah 29:11 is one of the most famous verses in the entire Bible. Christians love this verse. But it’s also one of the most misquoted verses in the Bible. While almost everyone knows what this verse says, few people know what the real Jeremiah 29:11 meaning is in context.

Commonly this verse is read as a personal promise that is written to us. But the problem with this way of reading Jeremiah 29:11 is that it ignores who this verse was originally written to.

So that’s what I want to do in this article. I want to break down Jeremiah 29:11 and look at who it was written too and what it means for us today.

For I Know The Plans I Have For You…

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

Besides John 3:16, this is probably the most recognizable verse in the Bible. It’s everywhere. From coffee mugs to graduation speeches, Christians love this verse.

Most often this verse is claimed as a personal promise written directly to us. God has a plan to prosper us and not to harm us. And that God has a plan to give us hope and a future.

The problem is this verse is not addressed to you and it’s not addressed to me. But it was addressed to someone. And before we jump to how this verse applies to us we need to understand that context.

For more about John 3:16 check out: John 3:16 Meaning: The Verse We Know, But Never Think About

Jeremiah 29:11 Meaning In Context

If you want to understand Jeremiah 29:11’s meaning than you need to read the rest of Jeremiah 29. You need to read the verses that come before it and the verses that come after it. When you read it in context you can get a fuller picture of what this verse is saying and how you can apply it to your life.

When you read the surrounding verses in Jeremiah 29 what you will see is that God is talking to the nation of Israel through the prophet Jeremiah.

During this time the Israelites are living in captivity in Babalyon. In other words they are slaves. That’s important thing to take note of, this passage is addressed to slaves living in enemy terroritory.

In this time of captivity, there were false prophets going around claiming that God was going to release His people soon. And in Jeremiah 29 God is denouncing these false prophets and telling His people that they are going to have to wait 70 more years. And not only does He tell them to wait, but He also tells them to seek peace while they are there.

That’s some tough news to hear. Most of them hearing this message will be dead before they will be released. That’s tough pill to swallow.

Jeremiah 29:11 was written to a real people that lived at a real time. And that’s important for us to know because it gives us the context in which this verse was written.

You see this verse wasn’t written as a promise to you. In fact, it’s not written to any single person. Rather it’s addressed to a group of people. It was written a promise to the nation of Israel who were going through a really difficult time. And God is promising them that even though things seem bleak, He’s still in control and He will work things out.

This verse is giving hope to a group of people that are struggling with understanding what God is doing. That’s the context in which this verse is written.

Applying The Context

Jeremiah 29:11 isn’t written to us today. BUT, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing for us. I think when we read this verse in context it makes the application even more powerful.

While this verse isn’t a personal promise, it is a powerful reminder that God is still in control. Even when things don’t seem like it. Even when life is tough. Even when the world is falling apart around us. God is in control.

Even though the difficulties we are facing will probably still be there tomorrow this verse reminds us that God is right there with us. He’s a good God and He will bring His people through it.

This verse is not a promise that we will get what we want. That our lives will be good and prosperous. Remember this was written to slaves that were told they would die as slaves. Rather this verse is encouragement that even on the darkest days that we can have hope in what God will do.

Jeremiah 29:11 For Us Today

So where does this leave us? What do we do with this verse? This verse is a promise to God’s people that His plan for us is good. And who are God’s people? In the context of the verse, it’s the Israelites. But when Jesus enters the picture He opens the door for everyone. In others words, we are all His people. So the truth of this verse is still true for us today.

Many have taken this verse to mean that God will make their life easy, or they will get exactly what they want. But that’s not what this promise is. Really it’s the opposite. This verse is promising that we will have troubles. And the Israelites didn’t want to hear it; they’d rather listen to the false voices telling them the better sounding noise. Sound familiar? That’s something we do all the time.

This verse is telling us that while life will get incredibly difficult at times, it is God who is in control. And while the difficult season might not end tomorrow, God is still there and He will bring His people through it.

This is why Jesus says, Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Matthew 6:25-26

This message is a direct tie to Jeremiah 29:11. It’s not a promise of a life where there’s nothing to worry about. It’s a promise of a life wherein the midst of worrisome problems we can have peace. Having faith, believing in God, means trusting that His plan is what’s best for us, even when it doesn’t make sense.

Some things might never make sense in this life. It must have seemed that way to the Israelites that died in captivity. But God can see things we cannot. He is orchestrating a story we are not yet privy too. One day things will be revealed, and we will see the larger picture.

Until then we have this promise. God is with us, and we can find peace and rest in that. The Gospel message isn’t one of an easy life. Rather it’s a promise that we can hope because the God we serve has overcome death and is walking beside us.

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