Sometimes people toss Bible verses out like Santa throwing out candy at a Christmas day parade. We call it encouragement, theologians call it proof texting.
Proof texting is the method by which a person appeals to a biblical text to prove or justify a theological position without regard for the context of the passage they are citing.
I don’t always think it is bad. In fact, I am very much in the camp that believes God speaks to us personally through scripture. I believe that there may be times when we are reading our Bibles and God gives us a specific verse or passage to speak to us about whatever issue/situation/life-moment we are going through. It may not have much to do with the context of the passage, but God has ordained it as a word for us that day.
With that said…I have a bone to pick with Jeremiah 29:11. People go nuts over this verse. They love it.
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.
Beautiful. Classic. Can be found tatted on every poster, picture, mug, plate, napkin, wall hanging, glass figurine, worker at the Christian book store. It’s a verse thrown out when people are happy about their new car, new boyfriend, when the sun is shining, when the McRib shows up at McDonald’s again. It’s also thrown out when people are down and out. You lost your job? God’s got good plans for you. You lost your home? God’s got good plans for you. You lost your favorite pet jelly fish? God’s got good plans for you. Don’t you just want to say to those people who tell you that, “Yeah, if that is true why did you get a bag filled with gold when all I got was a sack of
turds…sorry Dad for saying turds garbage.” I digress.
This verse was in my scripture reading for today. My husband and I have had many conversations about it and he is initially the one who pointed this out to me.
Hence, I am stealing his wisdom for my gain. Thanks, babe! God’s got good plans for you! This verse is great. It is a beautiful promise, but there is a lot more to it than that. These people, the people God was talking to, were in exile. They were banished. They were living in a country that was not their own. They had seen destruction, death, loss and immense change and pain in their lives.
This was what God said first to them:
Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 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. 7 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.
In other words, live your lives. Build, plant, marry, increase, seek peace, seek prosperity of the city, pray. Live life, right now in the place you are in, in the moment you are in, live life.
Then God said:
Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. 9 They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them…
Stay strong. Don’t be deceived. Don’t go astray. Don’t listen to people that are not spreading godly truth. They are not from God.
Finally, God said:
When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good 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.
Can I just point out something? He said 70 years, people. Seventy years. These people, after the horror they already went through, had to live in this place where they DID NOT want to be for 70 years. Yet, when they were in that place God told them to live life, to keep seeking him and to protect themselves from people who would lead them astray from God and that the fulfillment of His promise was coming.
Our generation has a hard time understanding this. We can make an egg in the microwave and Skype with somebody in China all in under 3 minutes. We have fast cars, fast internet, fast lives and we expect God to move fast. I teach youth and they have a hard time with this concept. “I prayed for ________________ and God didn’t answer me yet.” Right, why should they feel any different? We put out a friend request, people answer. We shoot a text, we get a response. We fire up the oven and food appears. We throw our clothes in the washer and BAM! wooly warm heaven. God apparently doesn’t always work like this and so it trips us out.
I don’t believe this verse is meant to be just tossed around without any concept of the rest of the passage. There is a deeper meaning here and a greater message than simply, “God’s got good plans for you and me.” Yes, God’s got fantastic plans. God has the very best plans. God’s plans would blow our minds could we comprehend them. And yes, though I make-fun we should praise God for the good things in our lives. Absolutely. Yet, sometimes, God’s plans are simply for us to start living in the moments we are in. Doing good, seeking truth, aligning our lives with him. Sometimes, though we are faithful, 70 years go by before we see the fulfillment of what God has promised. Nobody really likes to say that, but that is Jeremiah 29:10. What I’m trying to say this morning is don’t be discouraged if you find yourself in a season of unfulfilllment. Live, work, play, pray, keep truth, protect your spirit. God’s got good plans for you.