Jeremiah 29:11, a Plan to Prosper You?
Jeremiah 29:11 reads, "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, a plan to prosper and not to harm you, to give you a hope and a future."
What a beautiful promise from God's Word, right? Slap it on a coffee cup and fill me up with some of that! We love that verse. In fact, according to BibleGateway.com, it is the second most searched Bible verse on the internet after John 3:16. But there's a problem with the way we tend to use it. See, Jeremiah 29:11 isn't addressing you and me.
The verse appears in a letter written by the prophet Jeremiah to Israel, who at the time was under Babylonian captivity having been exiled because of their sin. In verse 11, God was assuring them that they would not be annihilated by Babylon, but instead needed to pray that they would benefit from the welfare of their captors.
He then says that they will call out to Him and he would restore their scattered nation. But that was a promise that wouldn't be fulfilled for another 150 years. The Israelites hearing that letter weren't even of the generation that would receive the things it promised.
So what we have is a proclamation, given to a specific nation, in a particular situation, which prophesied the restoration, of a future generation. It was not written as an individual promise of health and wealth.
It's true that to those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (That's Romans 8:28, by the way, the third most sought after verse on the internet.) But we need to see the fulfillment of these promises the way the Old Testament faithful did.
As it says in Hebrews 11:16, it wasn't an earthly land they desired, but a heavenly one. And that's what we should be looking forward to when we understand the text.