Jeremiah 29

It has been over 5 months since I posted an entry to our liturgy on Jeremiah. Some of it has been busyness. However, most of it has had to do with spiritual wrestling. You see, Jeremiah 29 has the verse. You know, the verse.

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.” — Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

It is on coffee cups, journals, engraved in rocks, posters, coasters and Bible covers. That verse practically has its own theology.  I know that my struggle is one that has its roots in faith and Christianity that is cursed with abundance. It creates a kind of narcissism that might rival the ancient Greeks. I believe that verse, out of context, has done more damage than any other verse in the Holy Scriptures.

It reminds me of this lyric from the group, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds1:

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds — Abattoir Blues

There is this shortsightedness that comes from ignoring something important, and treating it lightly, and highlighting our personal gain while doing so. Reading Jeremiah 29 (and verse 11) with such hubris, leads us exactly where Satan wants us: thinking that everything is about us.

The previous 28 chapters do a better job of showing what the world looks like when everything is about us. Truth is we choose faithlessness and unfaithfulness. Jeremiah 29 should and does, show us how much God loves us. Don’t you dare read Jeremiah 29 without considering the story in the preceding 28 chapters.

  1. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds is a secular band. Be warned.

4 Comments

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  1. Sue Livingston June 13, 2017 — 8:37 am

    Excellent commentary, Robert. Sue

  2. Deep, thought provoking. Wow

  3. doncadwallader June 13, 2017 — 9:52 am

    This verse is embedded in the first (also the first letter in the Bible) of three letters that Jeremiah wrote from Jerusalem to the exiles in Babylon. The letter is a warning against bogus prophets preaching false hope, and this verse is a promise from God for the exiles who return from Babylon back to Israel after “seventy years are completed for Babylon.” Verse 11 would “happen” after they were brought back from exile and “did” verses 11-14, i.e., “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart” (another “famous” verse). But they all didn’t do this, they all didn’t return. Some were not able to return, but most chose not to return. So the promise of v.11 was only partially fulfilled.

    • It is hard for me to comment on this section of Scripture. Really, any scripture that has been used as a memory verse outside of its original context. Years of misquotes and proof texting has “ruined” the truth of what Scripture really is saying here. I get like the Pharisees; I want people to have to read the first 28 chapters before they get to read verse 29:11. Imagine, if we can’t even read those chapters, think of what Judah must of felt living through them.

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