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. – Jeremiah 29:11
I’m old enough to remember a particular radio spot about a superhero, in which the phrase “He’s everywhere, he’s everywhere!” introduced each little episode of his interesting adventures. Today’s contribution to the ‘Eisegeses Unplugged’ Series has it’s own version: “It’s everywhere, it’s everywhere!”
This passage has been claimed as universal promise for each and every Christian, in evangelical circles across the land. It’s also used quite frequently in by hose engaged in ‘wooing’ people to Christ. But is that the original context in which it was used? Who spoke those famous words, to whom, and why? Let’s take a look.
These are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders of the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon (v 1). . . . “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon (v 4). . . . “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. 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. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you (vv 10-12)
The passage under discussion was originally spoken via letter to children of God from Jerusalem, living in exile in Babylon because of their unfaithfulness and idolatry, reminding them that the exile would not last forever, but there was hope for the future. that’s the context.
Please don’t misunderstand me, I believe that God does have plans for all of His children, and that God offers us all relief from the ‘stuff’ of life that we face. However, I don’t think it’s wise to claim universal individual ‘promises’ from passages of scripture into which we tend ‘fit’ our own aspirations and dreams.
The ‘eisegesis’ involved with this passage, along with many others, is at least 1) reading into the context that which is not there and 2) the fleshly tendency to define what we want God’s provision to look like. And if we never experience what we think we have been promised, the enemy has a field day with our faith, if not the assurance of our salvation.
Oh, I almost forgot. There’s also the little issue of those throughout the history of the church who might disagree with the ‘wonderful plan’ idea. You can start with the disciples and move forward in time. Don’t forget the Apostle Paul, Fox’s Book of Martyrs, many who served on the mission field (Jim Elliot comes to mind), Richard Wurmbrand , and those whose torture, persecution and death are reported almost daily in this, the ‘enlightened’ 21st century.
Once again, we report, you decide.