Gracefully Truthful

Discover the original intent of Scripture. Make good application to our everyday lives.
Become equipped to correctly handle the Word of Truth!

Read His Words Before Ours!

Jeremiah 29:11-14

For I know the plans I have for you”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“plans for your well-being, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. 12 You will call to me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.

13 You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and places where I banished you”—this is the Lord’s declaration. “I will restore you to the place from which I deported you.”

The Original Intent

1) Is this a promise from God that we will be safe and prosperous in the future?

Absolutely essential to answering any question in Scripture and before applying it to ourselves is context. If we refuse to do the hard work of studying the culture and time and people to whom the words were originally spoken to, we will undoubtedly end up with an extremely poor application to our own life in modern day.

In fact, often we won’t have a true application at all, we will have a misapplication, which distorts the meaning of God’s Word. In studying Scripture, it’s imperative that we study well and handle His Word with care, respect, and wisdom.

Yes, this passage is indeed a promise from God, but it was not given to all mankind across all times and cultures, nor was it for perfect peace and eternal prosperity. It was written in the context of Israel’s history.

They had rebelled time and again over the course of hundreds of years, with prophet after prophet calling them back to repentance. Still they refused. Finally, the Lord banished them to exile in a Gentile land with a Gentile ruler and no temple for them to worship. Their land was gone and their heritage was gone along with everything that made Israel Israel. Their consequence was severe and was to last 70 years, waiting for an entire generation to die out.

As bleak as the punishment was, God, full of mercy and grace, gave them a promise and repeated it often with every prophet He raised up. It was a promise of return to their own land, of restored possession, of blessing as a nation, and for Israel to be gathered back from all the remote lands to which she had been driven out.

It was the sweetest, most precious, kindest gift from the God they had cheated on, abandoned, and rebelled against. It was a completely undeserved gift.

The Everyday Application

1) Is this a promise from God that we will be safe and prosperous in the future?

While this promise does not apply to us in the same way as it did to Israel, because, well, we aren’t Israel, and neither are we living in the period of their Exile, there are Scriptural truths we can apply to our everyday lives.

First, we share many similarities with Israel’s heart behavior. What they exhibited as a nation, we each live out in our individual lives. We are the rebellious ones, running against the God who crafted us for relationship with Him. Though He relentlessly pursues in love, we keep pushing back by worshipping other gods; we crave to satisfy the lusts of our flesh and the pride of our hearts. We spurn the God who loves us, rebelling again and again, just like Israel.

The Psalmist writes of all humanity, “There is none who does good”, “…all have fallen away”, “….not even one does good.” (Psalm 53:1-3) In the New Testament, Paul repeats this same truth, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

The reality is we can’t have a future and a hope beyond anything temporary and fleeting in this life because we are so broken and so separated from God because of our rebellion against His holiness.

BUT!
Just like God offered a completely undeserved, radical gift of relentless love to Israel, so He does for us TODAY! Scripture says, “But God proves His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

Even though Israel rebelled full force, God gave them a hope and a future. Even though we also rebel full force because our hearts are sin-sick, God gives us a free gift of salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9) that will result in a life after death that is beyond comprehension in beauty, safety, and abundance.

This is indescribable! For today, life on earth, He gives us His presence, His Word, His Spirit dwelling inside of us to teach us, comfort us, and never ever leave us alone, and He frees us from every guilt and shame of our past! No monetary, worldly perspective of “happiness” can compare!

The Original Intent

2) Does the Lord have only good plans for everyone?

One only needs to read the surrounding verses to see how this statement couldn’t possibly be true. The phrase, “This is what the Lord says” that so powerfully introduces this famous passage of the Lord having good plans for you, is also the exact phrase introducing these promises, “I am about to send sword, famine, and plague against them”, “I will make them a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth—a curse and a desolation…I will do this because they have not listened to my words.” (Jeremiah 29:17-19) 

These promises were also spoken to Israelites who disobeyed and did not go into exile to Babylon with the rest of the nation, but instead stubbornly decided to “hide out” in Jerusalem, thinking they could escape God’s punishment.

At the end of the lengthy promise of impending doom on these “sneaky Israelites”, the Lord finishes it out by stating to Israel in Exile, and you too have not listened!” (Jeremiah 29:19)

No one would escape God’s just punishment, He had given His word. God was not smiting and punishing just because He “felt like it” or because His character can only handle showing limited goodness, it’s because wrath and separation from God and His blessing was what Israel rightly deserved. 

Disobedience from a righteous God earns one consequence every single time, death. (Romans 6:23)

The Everyday Application

2) Does the Lord have only good plans?

We often get wrapped up in wondering why we don’t experience more blessing, or have more things, or have less relationship strain, or why God doesn’t heal everything, almost as if we deserve to be blessed.

But this is far from the truth of this passage’s message in Jeremiah 29.

What we rightly deserve is punishment and removal from God’s presence because, like Israel, we “have not listened” to Him, instead choosing our way over His.

The only way we can experience blessing is through the free, undeserved gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, afforded to us because He was willing to pay the costly price of His death and separation from God the Father for us, on our behalf.

Even then, we still manage to twist up the meaning of “blessing” and “abundance” from God and translate it into meaning “happy, peaceful life”. We water down the free gift of being in right relationship with the God of the Universe, which is what can be correctly applied from Jeremiah’s “I have plans to give you a hope and future”, and insert a cheap version that implies a life with smooth sailing and happy relationships, maybe even material wealth as well.

Make no mistake, the Gift, the Blessing, the Abundance, the Hope, and the Future, IS God Himself. When we look for something other than that, we have missed the abundance God intends for us; we settle for something far, far, secondary.

The Original Intent

3) What precipitates these “good plans”?

It takes a careful reading and a willingness to both go slowly, and lay aside pre-conceived ideas about a passage in order to truly understand its intended meaning, this is especially true for these verses.

The Lord did indeed have a very good plan for Israel. A plan to bring them home and restore them. But these plans were not arbitrary, and neither were they a guaranteed promise just because God had the plans.

Something needed to happen first, before His good plans could be brought to fruition. Heart change. 

His plans were a promise, yes, but only if heart change happened. First, God speaks of His good plans, then He outlines the clear path for unleashing those good plans on Israel in verses 12 and 13

You will call to me and come and pray to me… You will seek Me.” 

When Israel could come to the realization and acceptance of their own sinful ways, owning their rebellion, and then willfully choosing to abandon their sin by calling on God, coming to Him in humility, praying to Him in communion, and seeking Him with their hearts, then the Lord would lavish His good plans on them, bring them home, and restore them.

The Everyday Application

3) What precipitates these “good plans”?

When we study this passage closely, isn’t it beautiful to see the gospel here?! God has designed very good plans. 

Plans that far outweigh the ownership of land and repairing of Jerusalem from destruction. God’s plans for us include an eternity of unbroken relationship with Him and all the rich benefits that come from simply being His beloved one.

But He does not force those good plans on us. He pursues us with great love, wanting to give us His goodness, which is Himself, but He does not insist we take Him up on His offer.

He does not force our hand to relinquish our idol worship. Instead He makes the same invitation to us as He did to ancient Israel.

If we call on the Name of the Lord, we will be saved. (Romans 10:13)

If we come to Him in humility, He will draw near to us and lift us up. (James 4:8-10)

If we pray to Him, He will respond in love like a good Father. (Luke 11:13)

If we seek Him, we will be found by Him, and “all these things will be added.” (Matthew 6:33)

These gracious, good, kind plans of the Lord are unleashed in the same way they were for Israel. Are you responding to Him?!

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