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The meaning of Jeremiah 29:11 isn’t missed and this verse is regularly abused.
“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
Jeremiah 29:11 is one of the most well-known and quoted verses in the Bible. It’s promise is held dearly by Christians all over the world. But despite it’s popularity the meaning of Jeremiah 29:11 is often misused and misapplied. It’s one of the most misquoted verses in the entire Bible.
While many Christians have this verse memorized and hanging on their walls, the context in which it’s written is often ignored. And that’s a dangerous practice. When we ignore the context in which the Bible is written we can quite literally make it say anything we want.
So, what does Jeremiah 29:11 mean? To answer that question we will have to look at the context. We will look at the verses that happen before and after Jeremiah 29:11 and we will look at what was happening historically at the time. This helps us see what the meaning of Jeremiah 29:11 is for us today.
To start, let’s look at how the Jeremiah 29:11 meaning is often twisted and misused.
What We Commonly Get Wrong About The Jeremiah 29:11 Meaning
Jeremiah 29:11 is everywhere. From coffee mugs to graduation speeches this verse is plastered everywhere. Yet despite the popularity the meaning of Jeremiah 29:11 is often misapplied.
Most commonly the meaning of Jeremiah 29:11 is applied as a personal promise. That God has a wonderful and perfect plan for ME. Many take this verse and apply it specifically to them, that God has their life perfectly mapped out, and they only have to walk in obedience to God.
Others take this verse a step further claiming this verse is a promise of health and wealth. Since we are children of the King we should only expect the best. With this view pain and suffering are a sign of lack of faith.
The main problem with these interpretations of Jeremiah 29:11 is that they are very ME centered. It’s all about what God can and is going to do for ME. And that’s not the meaning of Jeremiah 29:11. Or the Bible for that matter.
So, what does Jeremiah 29:11 mean? Let’s dive into the context and find out.
The Meaning Of Jeremiah 29:11 In Context Historically
Context matters. In fact, I would say context is king. When we are reading the Bible we cannot ignore the context in which what we are reading is written in.That means we should do three things when reading the Bible:
- Look at the surrounding verses
- Consider the original audience
- Look at the larger narrative of the Bible
For more about reading the Bible check out: 5 Practical Tips To Help You Read The Bible Better
To help us understand the meaning of Jeremiah 29:11 we will focus primarily on the first two in the list above. Let me just say this, the common ways this passage is interpreted does not fit the Biblical narrative. The Bible teaches selflessness not a ME centered faith.
When you rewind a little bit from Jeremiah 29:11 what you see is God talking to the nation of Israel through the prophet Jeremiah.
During this time the Israelites are living in captivity in Babylon. They are slaves. That’s important thing to take note of, this passage is addressed to slaves living in enemy territory. We should read these words through that lens.
In this time of captivity, there were false prophets going around claiming that God was going to release His people soon. And in Jeremiah 29 God is denouncing these false prophets and telling His people that they are going to have to wait 70 more years. That’s bad news.
But God doesn’t stop there. Not only do they have to live in captivity for 70 more years, but God also instructs them to seek peace while they are there.
That’s some tough news to hear. Most of them hearing this message will be dead before they will be released. That’s a tough pill to swallow.
This is who Jeremiah 29:11 was written to. Real people that were going through a really tough time. And that’s important for us to know because it gives us the context in which this verse was written.
The meaning of Jeremiah 29:11 isn’t a personal promise written to you. It’s not a promise that if we follow God he will allow us to prosper in this life. The context tells us otherwise. This verse is written to a people who would likely all die as slaves. Not a great life.
Jeremiah 29:11 is addressed to a group of people, not individuals. It’s a promise that God is still in control even when things are bleak. It’s a promise that even though things might not make sense to them now, God’s plan is still good. This verse is giving hope to a group of people that are struggling with understanding what God is doing.
If you want to keep studying the context and the meaning of Jeremiah 29:11 I would highly recommend Dr. Thomas Constables Bible Notes. It’s free and there’s quality notes on every passage in the Bible. You can read his notes on the meaning of Jeremiah 29:11 here: Expository Notes On Jeremiah 29:11 Meaning
What Does Jeremiah 29:11 Mean?
We simply cannot apply this verse as a personal promise to us unless it is clearly a personal promise. Jeremiah 29:11 is not written to us today. It was written to a real people that lived during a specific time. That doesn’t mean it has no application for us today. That just means it’s not a personal promise. The context makes that clear.
Jeremiah 29:11 is written FOR you, but It’s not written TO you.
So, what is the meaning of Jeremiah 29:11?
While this verse isn’t a personal promise, it is a powerful reminder that God is still in control. Even when things don’t seem like it. Even when life is tough. Even when the world is falling apart around us. God is in control.
God was faithful to fulfill his promise to the nation of Israel. He did just what he said. That should bring hope to us that God will continue to fulfill his promises. Even in dark days and difficult situations we can have hope that God will lead us through.
This verse is not a promise that we will be prosperous in this life. That as long as we trust God our lives will be easy and we will have all we want. After all, we are following Jesus who had anything but an easy life. And he promised if we follow him we would face similar struggles.
What does Jeremiah 29:11 mean? It is a reminder that even though we will face difficulties in this life God’s promises are still true. He is faithful and will bring us through.
How Should We Apply The Meaning of Jeremiah 29:11 To Our Lives?
So where does this leave us? What do we do with this verse? This verse is a promise to God’s people that His plan for us is good. And who are God’s people? In the context of the verse, it’s the Israelites. But when Jesus enters the picture He opens the door for everyone. In other words, we are all His people. So the truth of this verse is still true for us today.
Many have taken this verse to mean that God will make their life easy, or they will get exactly what they want. But that’s not what this promise is. Really it’s the opposite. This verse is promising that we will have troubles. And the Israelites didn’t want to hear it; they’d rather listen to the false voices telling them the better sounding noise. Sound familiar? That’s something we do all the time.
This verse is telling us that while life will get incredibly difficult at times, it is God who is in control. And while the difficult season might not end tomorrow, God is still there and He will bring His people through it.
This is why Jesus says, Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Matthew 6:25-26
This message is a direct tie to the meaning of Jeremiah 29:11. It’s not a promise of a life where there’s nothing to worry about. It’s a promise of a life wherein the midst of worrisome problems we can have peace. Having faith, believing in God, means trusting that His plan is what’s best for us, even when it doesn’t make sense.
Some things might never make sense in this life. It must have seemed that way to the Israelites that died in captivity. But God can see things we cannot. He is orchestrating a story we are not yet privy to. One day things will be revealed, and we will see the larger picture.
Until then we have this promise. God is with us, and we can find peace and rest in that. The Gospel message isn’t one of an easy life. Rather it’s a promise that we can hope because the God we serve has overcome death and is walking beside us.
I want to hear from you! How do you apply the meaning of Jeremiah 29:11 to your life? What do you think the meaning of Jeremiah 29:11 is?
Don’t forget to share your thoughts! How does the meaning of Jeremiah 29:11 change your faith?
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Jeffery Curtis Poor
Husband. Father. Pastor. Church Planter. Writer. Trying to be more like Jesus each day.
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