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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)

A key component in biblical literacy is learning to recognize that the Bible is not my story, but God’s story. It’s not first and foremost about me, but about him. So, we learn to read through a “God-centered lens” not a “me-centered lens.” And even when the Bible tells us about humanity, it’s pointing us to God’s restoration plan for all mankind. It’s not my handbook for personal prosperity. A great example of seeing this bigger picture comes from Genesis 50 when Joseph notes that God rescued him for the good of many, for “the saving of many lives.”

It’s important to keep this bigger perspective in mind when it comes to the popular verse, Jeremiah 29:11. The way that we understand this verse is a great test to see if we’re really “getting it.” Are we learning to see Scripture as God’s story, not as something merely to enhance my story?

“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)

As a standalone verse, this sounds like a guarantee of enduring peace and prosperity. It’s a great verse! Here, though we have another example of why we need to read Scripture in context—and why we need to try to keep the rest of Scripture in mind.


“As a standalone verse, this sounds like a guarantee of enduring peace and prosperity.”


From the surrounding chapters in Jeremiah, here’s the immediate context: it comes in a letter Jeremiah wrote to those whom King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had exiled. Many false prophets were preaching the prosperity of Judah in the previous chapter, with the prophet Hananiah saying that God told him the Babylonian captivity would end within two years. This conflicted with what Jeremiah had prophesied about a decade earlier—that the Babylonian captivity would last seventy years.

“This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years.” (Jeremiah 25:11)

Before the “hope and a future” verse, Jeremiah repeated the original prophecy again:

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.” (Jeremiah 29:10)

The implication of what he’s saying here is that not one of the people who heard this promise directly would actually live to experience it. So, he told the exiles to

“Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease.” (Jeremiah 29:5–6)


“The implication of what he’s saying here is that not one of the people who heard this [70-year] promise directly would actually live to experience it.”


Note he was telling them to settle down in their captivity. They were exiles in Babylon, and God was telling them they were going to be there for a while. He went even further, telling them to pray for their captors and seek the prosperity of the land where they were in exile. For, as that land prospered, they too, as inhabitants in the land, would prosper (Jeremiah 29:4–7). Despite what false prophets had been telling them, they would remain captives in exile for seventy years, and only after that would their circumstances improve.

How did they know things would get better? Jeremiah 29:11: God knew his plans for them, and his plans were for their good.

The picture here is how God was gathering the nations as we see in Zephaniah. Empires were rising to subjugate multiple kingdoms so that when Jesus came to conquer sin and death, his kingdom would subvert them all with his spiritual kingdom. We see this dramatically displayed in the book of Daniel. God’s plan to prosper Judah, giving them a hope and a future, was not an immediate promise of health, wealth, and happiness. It was a promise that God’s restoration plan was still tracking. It is the same restoration plan we see throughout all the prophets—the same plan introduced in Genesis 3:15.


“God’s plan to prosper Judah, giving them a hope and a future, was not an immediate promise of health, wealth, and happiness. It was a promise that God’s restoration plan was still tracking.”


It’s important to read the Bible as God’s story for the restoration of all mankind, and not as our personal fortune cookie. When we read it with the big picture in mind, we avoid being misled into trying to apply specific promises that aren’t ours except in the sense of their participation in God’s grand restoration plan.

Even people in Bible times needed to catch on to this caution. For example, God did desire the prosperity of Judah, and he was going to save them—a generation later. For them, Jeremiah 29:11 wasn’t a promise for here-and-now prosperity as the false prophets had preached; it was a multigenerational promise.

Likewise, God has a beautiful plan for us today. But it’s a plan for contentment and joy on the basis that Christ promised to be with us. There is no guarantee of riches, security, or political favor in this broken world. As an American, I know what it’s like to be blessed to enjoy liberty and abundance, but God is not with us any more than he is with those who are being persecuted and killed for the gospel’s sake in Nigeria or North Korea.


“God has a beautiful plan for us today. But it’s a plan for contentment and joy on the basis that Christ promised to be with us.”


As we walk through seasons of disruption, it’s important for us to understand that, whatever we face, Jesus is still with us and that is why we have hope and a future: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20b).

Excerpted from Tina Wilson’s 365-day chronological Bible study Step into Scripture: A Daily Journey to Understanding Your Bible.

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