11 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. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:11-13 [ESV]}
How many of you have at least the first verse of this famous passage framed and hanging somewhere in your home? We get warm fuzzies when we read these three verses. However, like most verses we have hanging somewhere in our home this one too has been taken out of context.
What is the context then? Well the inhabitants of Jerusalem have been carried into exile and bondage. King Nebuchadnezzar had carried a bunch of them into exile to Babylon. Now there were false prophets telling the people it was only going to be for a couple of years. Just a little bit of hardship and then they would come back to Jerusalem.
However the God of the universe had other plans. It was going to be seventy years of captivity and that’s what Jeremiah’s message was to these prisoners. This is the prophesy of Jeremiah from God:
9 … for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the Lord. 10 “For thus says the Lord: 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.…” (Jeremiah 29:9&10 [ESV])
So what should we do? Take down these “sweet” passages from our wall. First lesson is we should always check the context before we take a passage of Scripture at face value. No, second, remember vv. 11-13 are verses of hope, but in the midst of tragedy and hardship. And by quoting this passage it may not make the hardship go away. For these exiles for them all it lasted a lifetime. Yet there was a plan God was working out that was going to bring prosperity to their families. It was just they were not going to see that blessing. When you are walking down the hallway after a difficult confrontation with a teenage child, or a dark medical diagnosis or something that doesn’t look good for you and/or your family and you see those framed verses hanging on the wall think of this. Remember God has special plans for you even through the darkness. Don’t focus so much on the promises — as comforting as they are — but on the God who has made them. He’s where we find our comfort and strength.