Plans to give whom a hope and a future?

Here’s something that’s been bugging me – maybe someone could help me understand?

Again and again I’ve come across Christian writers who quote this verse:

“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 an encouragement to all believers.

And the more I look at the passage from which this verse is taken, the more weird this seems to me.

Have a little look with me:

10 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. 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. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 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.” (courtesy of Bible Gateway)

God is very clearly talking to the exiles from Judah. His promise here is to a particular nation (which happens to be my nation). Where does anyone find a reason to pluck a verse from the middle of this promise and say it applies to all Christians?

Sorry, I just don’t get this. Am I missing something?

35 thoughts on “Plans to give whom a hope and a future?

  1. It's the blindness of our (Gentile) collective arrogance and false teaching, either direct or by omission, about Israel. When we read the Bible 'devotionally', 'Israel', collectively, is automatically taken as code for 'me' individually. It has become an unspoken axiom of our Bible reading. It's the self-centred greed I grew up with, by which I grab all the juicy bits for myself, without even wondering if someone else had a prior claim to them, although they have a great big label on them: 'For the Jew first, and then some of it for the Gentiles'.. So we rob the Jews and unconsciously deprive ourselves of the blessings that would have come to us through them.P.S. It's also a consequence of a teaching which I once swallowed, that Israel turned into the Church – what has been labelled 'the hour-glass theory' (narrowing down and then widening out).P.P.S A long time ago I used to speak sometimes to 'Women's Fellowship' meetings. These were held typically on a Tuesday or Thursday afternoon, often in areas where people had a history of hard times, and were attended mainly by the elderly. At certain times, say when someone had a birthday, they would bring out the 'Promise Box'. It was shallow,made of wood or cardboard, and tightly packed with little paper 'scrolls', standing upright. A person would dip into it at random, picking up one of the 'scrolls' with a special little stick by inserting it into the middle of it, and read it out for all to hear. On each 'scroll' was printed a verse of Scripture, which was always a comforting or uplifting promise, and was then taken to be 'special' for that person on that day; and everyone was encouraged to think how nice and special that was for that person at that time. I can't remember off-hand which particular verses they included, but I wouldn't be surprised if one of them began 'I know the plans I have for you…..'. (I have often heard this as a personal prophecy when praying for someone. It sounds impressive!). It would be typical. In the context of their lives, it may have had a profound meaning to them and given some comfort and hope, BUT…..looking back on it, it also seems a kind of 'divination', which the LORD YHWH strictly forbade, and the hope it conveys is false, a hindrance to getting the true comfort of the Scriptures which comes when we get the big picture of His being and His ways, and that entails finding the meaning of a Scriptural verse in its original context, so that any personal meaning has a firm basis in something bigger than our own thoughts and imaginations and is objectively verifiable in terms of the whole counsel of God.

    Like

  2. I've actually pointed this out to a friend long ago, and she got made at me because it was one of her favorite inspirational verses, filled with hope. I am all about putting verses back into context, but at the same time, I don't want to discount that the our hope in the Lord extends beyond the immediate fulfillment of a prophecy.Is this really new – for followers of Christ, to take a single verse and make it mean something completely different than it would in context? I can trace this all the way back to Matthew and the way he quoted single verses like Hosea 11:1 (see Matthew 2:15). If you put that verse in Hosea back into context, you might start scratching your head, wondering how Matthew came up with such a thing. Well, we can always shrug our shoulders and say, "Yeah, but Matthew was inspired."

    Like

  3. Funny, that's exactly what I was going to say (without the shrug though). snowburst saidI don't want to discount that the our hope in the Lord extends beyond the immediate fulfillment of a prophecy There are plenty of verses in the Bible that are there to give hope to all believers. And yes, there are some that have more than one level of meaning, but I can't see that this is one of them.

    Like

  4. I said "with a shrug" because of this idea that we do read things without question. I can't see how the verse Matthew quotes has more than one level of meaning either, and I especially can't see how it Hosea 11:1 is related to a perfect Messiah, but according to Matthew, it does and it is. People look at what Matthew says and don't look twice, never stopping to wonder. Most people don't even go back to look at the context of the Messianic verses quoted to see for themselves and just take it for granted that, yes, this clearly speaks of Jesus because so-and-so in the Bible said so, while I sit there thinking, "Huh? I have to look into this more."I understand your concern of replacement theology, and I share that concern. That is why I raised the issue of this verse in Jeremiah with my friend, who normally would be more careful about context. All I'm saying is that we can't discount it altogether. Christians do not, as many believe, replace Israel as the "new chosen people." They are, however, blessed to be grafted into the cultivated tree, which means they do receive the same nutrients (blessings) flowing from the root as the rest of the tree. I think the problem arises when they forget that branches grafted into a tree do not replace the tree from which they receive their nutrients and cannot survive and thrive without it.

    Like

  5. I agree that Hosea 11:1 without Matthew's interpretation does not look like it's talking about the Messiah. I guess the question is how strongly we accept Matthew's authority on this. I do sometimes hear English-speaking Christians speak about some verses in the OT as though it's obvious, when really it's only obvious when you read it in English and/or when you read it in the light of later interpretation in the NT.My concern about the Jeremiah verse wasn't about replacement theology – the context in which I came across it was a context in which I know RT is not accepted. So I don't think the writer was thinking along the lines of: anything good that the Bible says about Israel, now automatically applies to the church. (Grrr…) So I assume the thinking was along the lines of: in the Bible God says "I know the plans I have for you….", which sounds really nice and positive so we can all be encouraged by this verse. The trouble with this kind of thinking is, the Bible says lots of stuff but how do you work out what applies to you and what doesn't? If you go with that kind of thinking, you can say quite truthfully, the Bible says "there is no God" (Psalm 14:1). Or, if you stay with quoting God himself, how about all Christians taking personally Jeremiah 50:11-12?I know sometimes God gives a verse of Scripture to someone personally, or to a group of believers, and then I have no problem with taking for ourselves whatever is in that verse. But if God hasn't told your friend that this verse is for her, what sort of hope can she take from it? That's not to say that it doesn't happen to be true that God has good plans for her etc – it's just that in this verse he's talking to the exiles from Judea and not to anyone else.

    Like

  6. I have a sincere question based on the above. A person can't embrace the truth above because it was written specifically for the exiles in Judah? It has no power for today or for a person who reads it? The responses sound kind of legalistic. Sincerely.

    Like

  7. Literally, yes, but are we going to pin God down and shove Him in a box like that? His words are written to be preserved and remembered, to give us an idea of Who He IS and how He relates to us. Much of the prophecy given to the exiles has at least a dual fulfillment. So yes, the literal fulfillment of this was that the exiles were able to return to the land. But do we stop there? Can we not see beyond this to the hope that the Lord will bring all His chosen home one day from the four corners of the earth? This is the hope. Not that we will get a good job or a nice house or the husband or wife we might be seeking (as many Christians do wrongly interpret this to mean), but that we would be gathered to the place we can find Him, our true Love. The applies as much to our brothers and sisters who have been adopted into the family of Abraham through their faith as it does to us.I love the reference to Jeremiah 50:11-12 by the way. That was simply fabulous. I'd love to see the look on a congregation's collective face if a pastor was bold enough to preach on that! :D

    Like

  8. If you're talking about the name-it-and-claim-it prosperity gospel, then yes, I would have to say I agree with you. But if you really mean what you said that it was only meant for the exiles of Judea in that time and at that place, then no I cannot because I know His plans for the exiles go well beyond the return in 70 years. That return was just the beginning of something so much bigger (think Daniel 2:31-45; 7:2-27).

    Like

  9. Well, my question is simple: who is God saying it to?Let me give you another example. God said to Abraham: "Leave your country, your people and your father's household" (Genesis 12:1). Are you taking that as a command to yourself?Or how about a promise? God said to Abraham: "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you… and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." (Genesis 12:2-3) – Do you think these promises apply to every person who reads this verse?

    Like

  10. I'm not sure what you mean. I don't know you (at least as far as I'm aware) and do not know in what ways we are different.You raised a question – which I welcome – and I tried to reply to it. You are welcome to respond to my reply.

    Like

  11. I did say that sometimes Bible verses have a meaning on more than one level. Like sometimes a prophecy is looking into a near-future and a more-distant future at the same time.I just think we should be careful with these things. We need to look at the verse in context and ask: what is this about? what is God saying here? He may be saying more than one thing. But looking at this verse in Jeremiah I don't see where anyone can get the idea that that specific promise is given by God to all believers.Again, I do believe that God has good plans for us – he loves us, so of course he has good plans for us. There's plenty in the Bible that was written as encouragement for all believers. Let's rejoice in that – let's enjoy what is rightfully ours. I don't think we have the right to pluck a verse from just any-old-where in the Bible and apply it to ourselves personally.

    Like

  12. meirav saidI just think we should be careful with these things. We need to look at the verse in context and ask: what is this about? what is God saying here?I'm totally with you here, but I don't think I can agree with what you say here:"But looking at this verse in Jeremiah I don't see where anyone can get the idea that that specific promise is given by God to all believers."If this prophecy of God's plans for Israel are a hint at something greater than a return to the land, then it does apply to all believers, even if he is speaking directly to exiles at the time. It is the kind of thinking that God is only talking to Israel at that particular time that causes many Jews to believe that none of the Messianic prophecies extend beyond a kingdom where the "land" of Israel is at the center. It's all about the land. Of course many Christians have to go and ruin their own argument by believing that Jesus proved it doesn't apply to the land at all, but to them as the "new Israel." If there are any misquotes about this verse, I see it more in relation to using this verse to advance either replacement theology or the prosperity gospel, both of which contradict the true Good News of the Lord.meirav saidI don't think we have the right to pluck a verse from just any-old-where in the Bible and apply it to ourselves personally.Plucking verses willy-nilly is wrong and leads to a lot of horrible doctrine. But if we were to do what you said and "look at the verse in context and ask: what is this about? what is God saying here?" then I believe we can apply any verse to ourselves personally, even (and especially) Jeremiah 50:11-12.Another friend and I once got into a debate about this also. She said something about how she could apply any and every verse in the Bible to her life, and I said that only when we keep Scripture in context can we truly apply it. I challenged her with I Chronicles 26:18. She said it wasn't easy at first, but then she prayed about it and gave a beautiful response. I wish I could remember it now. But whatever it was, I remember that it proved my point that we can't apply anything until we know the context of the people, place and time, especially since her answer included research on the guards at the temple, something that she admittedly would not have known to research without the Spirit leading her to look deeper into what that verse was about.

    Like

  13. Hmmm… there's something in what you're saying that I am definitely not getting, Leigh Ann.Can you explain to me how you would apply to yourself for instance "Leave your country, your people and your father's household"? or one of those verses you quoted in your own blog about taking verses out of context, like that Job one for instance?I really want to understand what you're trying to say here.

    Like

  14. Picking that verse out willy-nilly without any regard to context? No, I wouldn't apply that or any other verse in the Bible that way. Not in a serious manner anyway, though I can get a bit ornery sometimes, like when I tell people I'm searching for my home planet because God told me I'm an alien in a strange land, and it doesn't get much more strange than this!But I can apply the context to my life – not just the context of Genesis, but how Genesis 12:1 fits in with the rest of Scripture, including the Renewed Covenant. Moving on to verse 3, God told Abraham that in Him "all the families of the earth shall be blessed." Because Abraham did follow God's command on sheer faith, I and my family are indeed blessed through the Messiah that was born through Abraham's line.As for that blog entry you mentioned, yes, I can apply that verse in Job, but again, only when placed back into context. Job was defending himself against his friends who were judging him without knowing all the facts. How could they when even Job didn't know all the facts behind what was happening to him. Yes, I know how this feels, and I do understand Job's frustration.When I originally posted that entry on xanga, someone had asked me what my point in writing it was, so I did write a follow up. My point was the same as the one I'm trying to make here. I am agreeing with you that context is very important, if we want to truly understand Scripture. However, I am disagreeing that putting it back into context means we cannot apply it to ourselves. I do believe that in a previous comment I showed how, in context, this verse you quoted in your original entry does apply to all believers. Yes, God did say this after telling the exiles that in 70 years they would return to the land, but when God says He has plans for Israel, He is hinting at something much greater. I do believe this is a Messianic prophecy, especially when taken in context with other prophecies promised to the exiles throughout the writings of the Prophets. And if it is indeed Messianic in nature, then it does apply to all believers.

    Like

  15. Okay, I think I'm beginning to get what you're saying.You're looking at the Jeremiah verse and you believe God is hinting there at something else. I guess I'm not sure that he is, but I can live with the fact that some might see a hint there that I'm not seeing.As for the Job verse in its context you feel you can identify with him, so it's not that you're saying this verse is factually true about you, but that there's something in what is described there that you recognise in your own life.And with the Abraham quote, what you can apply to yourself there is the blessing you have received. This is where I see clearly that we're talking about two different things – applying a verse to yourself in the sense that you can see something in that verse that is relevant to you, that's not the same as saying: what this verse says is entirely applicable to me. What would worry me is if you were to look at that verse and say: the Bible says that in me all family's on earth shall be blessed. (I know this may sound insane, but I've come across that kind of thinking.)

    Like

  16. yes. all the time. and it frustrates me to no end. but notice they only pick the good verses. ;)But i have a question about the prophecy in Jeremiah. If God was only referring to returning them to the land after 70 years, then wouldn't the rest of the prophecy be a lie? Did they not suffer severe calamity when Greece and then Rome took over the land? Was the temple not destroyed leaving the people believing God had deserted them, leaving them without much hope? Were the people not exiled again, forced never to return to Jerusalem as long as Rome ruled? If that verse is not messianic in nature, and this is what God means by having a plan of welfare for the Israelites upon their return to the land, then I would want no part of God's plans, for looking back in context of what happened next, I would see no hope in it.

    Like

  17. Oh no, I wasn't trying to say the Jeremiah thing is only about that one return to the Land of Israel – just that I don't see it referring to anyone else. I see a promise to a nation – a promise that has been unfolding in various stages and hasn't finished unfolding yet. But not a promise to individuals who simply like the sound of it and, as you say, only pick the positive ones. (Which is what I was trying to hint at by suggesting Jeremiah 50:11-12…)

    Like

  18. btw, i do understand your frustration with how people interpret this verse, usually to mean they can hope that God will give them what they want. my concern with what you were saying was that it was meant only for the exiles of Judea. to me this is the opposite extreme and just as frustrating. as i said, it is this kind of thinking that makes it so difficult for so many Jews to see beyond the hope for the physical land, when quite often, the land is used as a symbol of something even better with which nothing on this earth can compare.

    Like

  19. let me add the disclaimer here that i also believe the prophecies over the land are also to be taken literally in regard to the land. the spiritual does not replace, but enhances it. this is what i meant by dual fulfillment.

    Like

  20. I think maybe it's time I showed what the context was in one of the places where it bugged me. It's in a book called Encouraging Women (published by CWR, who I have a lot of respect for) – it's a collection of writings by Christian women, one of whom is Irene Addison writing on the subject: "Hope – the anchor of the soul".She's talking about checking our hearts to see how we view God, because sometimes "Subconsciously you see God as one who is looking for your faults… Intellectually you believe God is a good God, but underlying that belief is the fear that perhaps He has some disappointment or failure or disaster in store for you… The truth is, God has no defeat or failure planned for you… "For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you…" (and here she quotes Jeremiah 29:11 from the Amplified Bible.)So she's taking this verse as evidence that for each of her readers, God has only good things in store and no failures or disasters.Nice thought, but is it true? Do Christians never meet with failure or disaster? Is our life forever to be full of only good things? I don't think so. And I definitely don't think that's what this verse says. (In fact, it's not even a promise that all will always be well for the People of Israel – God has always had good plans for us, but hey, we've done a good job of rebelling… but that's another story.)

    Like

  21. ahhh … i guess she hasn't read those parts written by the followers of Jesus about being tested by fireand boy can i take so many verses out of context to contradict her … just to be ornery, of course. shall I have a go? :Pit may be unintentional, but to me, this interpretation falls in line with the prosperity gospel.

    Like

  22. I do think it's unintentional in this case. I think she hasn't fully thought through the implications of what she is saying.It's an easy trap to fall into when you seek to encourage. (But my pastor back home explained to me that the Biblical ministry of encouragement doesn't mean only saying nice things, it sometimes includes kicking people in the shins to get them going…)

    Like

  23. unintentional as it may be, it's so ingrained in the doctrine our churches teach, that context is all but forgotten when all we want to think about are all the "blessings" God will bestow on us as a reward for our faith. while i may disagree with you on that one thing i mentioned above (two if you count the teletubbies), our thoughts on this subject are very similar.

    Like

  24. She forgets that there are countless followers of Jesus who died in the faith. They probably prayed earnestly to be delivered from prison, from the lions den, from the end of the gun barrel, but no angel came to deliver them from death's clutches. In fact, many died like Stephen did. They died in faith.

    Like

  25. yes, as you say we were promised persecution, and plenty of Christians around the world are experiencing it – our real hope is in what is to come in the next life, not in a nice comfortable existence here and now.

    Like

  26. Pingback: Did God really say…? | Meirav's Blog Archive

  27. Pingback: Did God really say…? | Meirav's Blog

Questions? Thoughts? Talk to me - I don't bite :)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s