The other day I was listening to a popular local Christian radio station when a man came on and shared his testimony for how God used the radio station to give him hope. During his testimony the man quoted Jeremiah 29:11 and talked about how God showed him that He had a plan for his life. Whenever I hear someone use that scripture to support the claim that God has a plan for their particular life, I cringe a little inside. It’s not because I don’t understand the person’s sentiment; I do. It’s because the person saying it is using the verse out of context and when it’s shared on a grand forum, like a radio station, I think it relays an incorrect understanding of the Gospel to thousands of people and only perpetuates western Christianity’s mishandling of Jesus.
I’ve written about this before and addressed the difference between God’s plan versus His desire for our life. You can read it HERE, so I won’t go into it again, but I think this is the perfect time of year to talk about what God told Jeremiah to say to the Israelites.
To clarify and set the foundation, when read in context, we can see that Jeremiah 29:11 is actually being said to the whole Israelite nation as the are being sent into exile. In verse 11 God is telling His people His thoughts toward them are one of, in the Hebrew, shalom, or peace. In some translations, shalom is translated into prosper, but the intent is the same. God’s thoughts toward the Israelites are thoughts of peace and goodness. His desire for them is that of goodwill. It has little, if anything, to do with material prosperity and more to do with peaceful growth as a people and nation. Then God tells them that those thought are not simply intangible well-wishing on His part, but are the catalyst His plan to give them a future and hope. These plans are two-fold and point to both a short-term and long-term plan.
In the short-term, God is telling His people to take hope in His promise to rescue them out of exile after 70 years. Imagine that promise. Imagine the thrill as you hoped for that day. That’s good news enough and might have been a good place to leave it, but God didn’t leave it there. Because God is a God of redemption and reconciliation and had continually told Israel that He intended to save the world through them, the long-term plan is why we will gather in churches and homes, tonight and tomorrow to celebrate and remember. God’s short-term plan was seen 70 years after Jeremiah spoke Jeremiah 29:11, but His long-term plan was seen 2000 years ago, in a Bethlehem manger, in the birth of Jesus.
Jesus is our future and our hope; He’s our now. He is the plan that God enacted long before He spoke to Jeremiah, Isaiah, Moses, or Abraham. I don’t want to discount the fact that the Holy Spirit may lead someone to that scripture verse in times of despair. Times when there’s no money in the bank and no food in the cabinet, when your child lays sick or worse in the hospital, when all seems lost. He does; He’s led me there. But when He does, I’m certain that the only reason is to point us toward Jesus. The situation may not go away, it may get worse, but our hope is still Jesus. Tragedy is not God’s desire for us, peace is and that’s only found in Jesus.
Our hope, who is Jesus, ought to continue to thrill us (Click to Tweet This). So as we head to our Christmas Eve services tonight and gather for presents and good food tomorrow (our tradition is CRAB!), let us do so in a way that glories Him and acknowledges the Good plan of God.