Thursday, 19 April 2012
[This is reposted as part of our Best-Of Revelife Week. It was originally posted on November 24, 2009.]
After seeing the post about Matthew 18:19-20 I was reminded of another commonly misquoted and misunderstood verse, Jeremiah 29:11.
"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."
It's a beautiful verse, and many Christians say it to one another all of the time, but do they really know what it's about?
If you read the book of Jeremiah or even the few chapters before chapter 29 you will see that Jeremiah is telling the people that they will be taken into captivity, for 70 years they will be in captivity in Babylon. And then when the 70 years are up they will be returned. Verse 11 is part of the promise that God hasn't abandoned them and when the 70 years are up he will return them.
This is a little bit of the context of just chapter 29, for a full understanding you have to read the whole book of course, but even if you read the few chapters before it becomes pretty clear.
This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: "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. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper." Yes, this is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: "Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them," declares the LORD. This is what the LORD says: "When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. 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. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to 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 will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you," declares the LORD, "and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile." - Jeremiah 29:4-14 (NIV)
During the time of Jeremiah there were many false prophets saying that Babylon isn't going to take over and take them captive, and that God was going to deliver them immediately. Jeremiah calls the people out for their sin, calls out the false prophets, and tells the people that they are going to go as captives into Babylon for 70 years. In the passage above you can see that he tells them to build houses, marry, have kids, etc. because they're going to be there for awhile. The promise of Jeremiah 29 is telling the people that their descendants will be returned to Judah in 70 years, not those people now. So, it is a promise, just not directly for those whom received it but instead to their grandchildren.
While it is true that God does have plans for us, and those plans are for His good that isn't what this verse is about, and as Christians we need to use the Scripture properly rather than taking it out of context.
Sadly many people don't look at the context of passages in the Bible, or they hear it on the radio or see it on a t-shirt and trust without verifying the real meaning. Also the TV preachers are horrible for using this, and many other passages, to try to claim a gospel of financial prosperity, health, and wealth.
Pastor Voddie Baucham does an amazing job of explaining the meaning of this passage, and how it applies to the lives of modern Christians today in this video: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=1863221767917599647
That link is to a great resource, I hope you'll take the time to watch it. Let me know what you think.
Do you think that this verse is misused? What is your response to the verse's explanation? How can we use the verse more appropriately?