"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 a hope and a future."It proclaims a wonderful truth. The Lord - the God of Israel, the Creator of the universe, our Father - has a master plan for all of us, one that gives us hope in any circumstance and a future of mercy from him.
But I must confess that most of the times I have read this verse, I have lifted it out of context. Big time. Reading it alone, without looking the context of the passage leading up to it (and without the historical context) can give a false sense of what the Lord is saying through his prophet Jeremiah. I know it has for me. Out of context, we could easily conclude that God is promising bounty, riches, and worldly success for me. And sooner rather than later. But this is not the promise at all.
You see, this chapter comes on the heels of 28 chapters where Jeremiah is sharing some tough news with God's people. He is telling them that they have turned from his ways, and that as a result, the empire of Babylon is going to invade their land, kill many of them, take the rest of them into captivity, destroy their sacred Temple, and impose their false religion on them. It is going to be 70 years of misery.
(Side note: God loved these people; so did Jeremiah. Sometimes love means delivering a hard message that needs to be heard - quite different from one definition of love floating around social media these days.)
So, after delivering this hard message born of love, Jeremiah turns to the promise. The promise that there is hope. There is hope when God's people turn back to him. Hope and a future. That future is 70 years away. It's not coming now...or next year...or even this decade. Seventy years from now. Hear verses 10 and then 11:
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 a hope and a future."A little different, isn't it? Will there be hard times? Yes. Does God promise an easy life or easy success? No.
He promises that, no matter what you're going through, there is a future. He has a plan, and if we will put our lives in his hands he will bring about a glorious end. It may be a long, long time from now. But he is an eternal God and the big picture is what matters, not our momentary happiness.
That is a hope and a future! Not immediate happiness. Not something I can see with my mortal eyes. But a plan I cannot even fathom, where God's eternal purposes are for my good.
And that's so much better!