“For I know the plans I have for you,” declared the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future…”
Yes, we have probably all heard the famous verse Jeremiah 29:11 many times before. It is one of those popular verses that people will list if you ask them to tell you their favorite Bible verses. It is one of those verses most likely to show up on a sweater or wall-hanging plate decoration, or on top of a doorway of a church.
It is often repeated as a source of comfort for those that are in times of sorrow or tension, as a reminder that God is still present and in control of their livesand as assurance that there is still joy and hope that awaits. It is also a verse people quote in excited optimism, wherein they find confidence that God will bless them with wonderful things in their days to come.
Well, the intensity of the verse becomes so much greater when you understand who the verse is really speaking to. See, this chapter of Jeremiah was written to the many Jews taken into Babylonian captivity when the Babylonian Empire attacked and defeated the nations Judah and Israel and exiled many of their people. For the people of God at the time of the chapter’s writing, the future looked very dark and grim indeed, and they absolutely needed some source of hope. They needed to know they still had a future, and that this defeat at the hands of a great empire was not their end.
That hope is delivered in this very chapter, Jeremiah 29.
In verses 4- 10, God tells the exiles to build houses and eat from their gardens, to find spouses for their children so that their families will increase and prosper, and to work for the well-being and fortune of those cities they land in for exile so that it-and them along with it- shall prosper. God tells them to keep their ears away from false prophets who will prophecy without having been sent by Him.
Clearly, God is instructing the exiles to keep living not in a state of defeat or despair- or in the deception of false prophets- but in the hopes of good things to come for themselves and their families. Then, the promise of blessing starts with the next two verses, 10 and 11, which read:
“This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 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.”
The real weight of Jeremiah 29:11, that popular verse, speaks of hope and promise at the end of a time of great sorrow and despair, of promised blessings to come and of the faithfulness and unending concern of a loving God.
During this current season of Coronavirus lockdown, we are ourselves somewhat exiled from our usual places of gathering, from our routines, and from seeing many of our friends and family. This season can be depressing, dull and monotonous, lonely, and upsetting. I have heard of worries mounting regarding the toll it will have on economies across the world and the deeply concerning effects that economic downturn might
have on the affordability of necessities once lockdown ends. These are just a couple of the many concerns frequenting people’s minds right now, the most frightening of all, of course, being the danger of the contagion itself.
Yes, the future as far as we can see may seem dark and worrying, but I would ask us not to forget what God, in Jeremiah 29, said to those Jews in their own exile. To His children, there is the promise of blessing to come. To those he loves, there is hope.
Do not live in defeat or despair, but in the hopes of good things to come. Live expectantly, like the Jewish exiles, working where you can for the prospering of yourself and those you care about. Call your friends and family on the phone and make someone feel a little less lonely. Ask people what things they need prayer for and be sure to let them know that you will pray accordingly. Read your Bibles and devotionals, and do not let this
season halt your own increase in wisdom and closeness to God.
Let the word of God be an encouragement in difficult times and the inspiration that comes from the promise of good things to come. Let us all live reminded of the coming blessings of God.