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What this Famous Verse Really Means

Jeremiah 29:11 -- The 4th Most Popular Verse (according to the BibleGateway Search)

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by Rod MacIlvaine in Uncategorized

What a promise!

God’s promise in Jeremiah 29:11 has been a lifeline for God’s people ever since it was penned in 595 BC.

BibleGateway lists it as the second most-searched-for verse.

God says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, [plans] to give you a future and a hope” (29:11 ESV).

God addressed this promise to Jewish exiles deported to Babylon in 597 BC. As you might imagine, these exiles were heartbroken over having to live in this foreign city for 70 years. Some would die in captivity. Others who left Jerusalem in their prime would return as senior citizens. Their beautiful city had been ravaged by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.

Their future seemed bleak indeed!

So God issues two challenges: First, he gives an immediate command. “Build a life in Babylon that’s faithful to me” (my condensed paraphrase from Jeremiah 29:4-7). Then he issues a long-term promise: “I have good plans for you, plans that include your Shalom (your welfare). Therefore, you can hope in me” (my loose paraphrase of 29:11).

Sometimes we too are thrust into a place that feels like exile. Life hits us with unexpected twists and turns, and in those uncertain places, we lose hope for the future.

  • Perhaps, we’re forced into a move we don’t want to make.
  • Maybe, we suffer financial setbacks, or a relationship fractures.
  • Perhaps we endure physical ailments, threatening long-term health.
  • Perhaps we fear developments in culture that are beyond our control.

In that place of “exile”, we wonder if there is a future for us, because we can’t imagine it, given our present circumstances. In this promise God guarantees two things: 1) He knows our future. (That thought alone is enormously comforting in times of pain!) And 2) God’s future includes our Shalom.

Shalom is a wonderful Hebrew word that means well-being, peace, completeness, soundness, and wholeness. Shalom is not a promise for riches and unbounded success. It’s a promise that God will sustain our life in such a way that he will bring us peace and well-being, no matter what happens.

Many followers of Christ look at our nation and world, and they see out-of-control spending and unstable currency. The guns of war rumble louder in hot spots around the world. Nuclear powers scramble to perfect their weapons’ delivery systems.

Closer to home, basic morality has been redefined: right is defined as wrong, and wrong is defined as right.

Moreover, it’s entirely possible that each of us will go through painful seasons where the future we hoped for suddenly seems unclear. If we’re not careful, we can slouch into a cynical pessimism.

But God is still God, and we are still his beloved children. Jesus is still seated at the right hand of the Father, and he’s the one who said, “The gates of hell shall not prevail against [the church].”

Therefore, we can seize Jeremiah 29:11 in fresh ways…no matter what obstacle or trial we face.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, [plans] to give you a future and a hope” (29:11).

God has plans for us, and those plans include our Shalom!

Do you have the courage to live in that reality?

 

 

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