Christians Should Ease Up on Jeremiah 29:11

Posted on June 13, 2022

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By David Ettinger

Believers Love This Verse!
Jeremiah 29:11 is in the pantheon of most-loved Bible verses.

It reads (ESV): “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Believers love this verse because it promises good things for them. However, the term “good things” is relative. Most 21st century Christians see this verse as a promise for material goods in this life. In truth, God’s greatest promise to us is for eternal life following our current existence (John 3:16; 10:28).

Another thing Christians often neglect in Jeremiah 29:11 is that the plans of promise are God’s plans (note the words “I have”), not theirs.

Sadly, the vast majority of Christians embracing Jeremiah 29:11 completely neglect the context: This verse concerns a specific people at a specific time in a specific situation.

The Context
Chapter 29 is about the exiled Israelites in Babylon. Israel – specifically the tribe of Judah – would be exiled in 3 deportations to Babylon, and Chapter 29 was written during the first.

In Chapter 28, the false prophet Hananiah told the exiles they would only be in Babylon for 2 years. This was rubbish, and the Lord used Jeremiah to set the record straight.

In Chapter 29 God had Jeremiah write a letter declaring His instructions “to the surviving elders of the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon” (v. 1).

God told the exiles to “Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce” (v. 5), and to “seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (v. 7).

The reason for this is that, “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place” (v. 10).

God’s plan was for Israel to remain in exile for 70 years, not 2! This could not have been easy for the deported exiles to hear. It meant that just about all of them would never see Israel again. Therefore, they were to settle in and wish for the best life possible where they were.

And also note that this is verse 10 – the verse which directly precedes the cherished verse 11.

Only after God drops the 70-year bombshell does He say: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (v. 11).

In other words, God is telling Israel as a nation that He will bring them back again to their land, though the people He directly made the promise to would not be returning. He did promise them, however, that He would take care of them if they were obedient to Him.

Not a Christian Context
The next 3 verses – 12 through 14 – address Israel’s specific situation:

Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.

These verses don’t apply to Christians. Christians have already sought God and found Him, through Jesus. Also, the fortunes of Christians – ultimately, eternal life – have already been assured. And of course, God does not drive Christians into exile.

Therefore, the context is not Christian, and it takes a degree of twisting to fit it into one.

That said, there is some application to Christians in that God works for our welfare. However, if you as a Christian are going to “claim” Jeremiah 29:11, understand what it says.

A false prophet promised Israel 2 years in exile; God promised Israel 70 years. This must be considered when “claiming” this verse. In other words, God’s plans for you just might include an adulteress spouse, being fired from your job, suffering health issues, and any number of circumstances you would rather not experience.

Something to Reconsider
So, Christian, what is it you are hoping for? A wonderful spouse? A great job? A lovely home? Good health? Jeremiah 29:11 promises none of these.

What it does promise is a hope and a future – to the exiled Israelites. And it promises the same to Christians – if accepted in its context. We indeed have a hope and a future, but it is to be found in the Lord Jesus Christ when He assures us: “I give them [His followers] eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28).

That’s far more specific and much more Christian in context.

Therefore, how about memorizing and “claiming” John 10:28 and easing up a bit on Jeremiah 29:11, which, in Christian terms, is rather vague?