One of the Most Misunderstood and Misapplied Bible Verses

Some time ago I read an article in Relevant Magazine where Thomas Turner wrote that Jeremiah 29:11 is “possibly one of our most beloved, yet most misunderstood verses in the entire Bible.”

BibleGateway.com lists it as the second most accessed and read verse on their website, just behind John 3:16!

This verse is popular in various books about your purpose in life, the purpose of the church, and God’s purpose for your marriage and family.

Jeremiah 29:11 even has its own facebook page!

So what does it say? Why is it misunderstood? And what is it’s meaning?

Jeremiah 29:11 says “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.”

The Context

These words were spoken to the prophet Jeremiah at the time of Judah’s fall to Babylon (609-586 B.C.) Those addressed are clearly stated in verse 4. “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.”

In verses 5-9 God tells them what to do, how to act, who to listen to and who to avoid. In verse 10, God says they will be in Babylon for 70 years. Then he says, “I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place.”

The books of Ezra and Nehemiah record the Jews’ return to their homeland. The reconstruction of the Temple, the restoration of the law, and the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem.

God’s Plan and Promise

The promise goes back to God’s call of Abraham. He promised him a fertile land, to create from his descendants a great nation, and to bring a spiritual blessing to the world through his seed (Gen. 12:1-3). The first two promises were fulfilled when Israel became a great nation and received the land of Canaan.

The third promise was fulfilled in the coming of Christ. Paul affirmed it in Galatians 3:16. “Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ.”

The faithful remnant who returned to Palestine under the leadership of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Zerubbabel ultimately gave birth to the spiritual Kingdom founded by Jesus Christ (Matt 16:16-19).

Misapplied

Jeremiah 29:11 really does not apply to specific individuals. It’s not about God’s plan for me to attend a special school, marry a certain person, pursue a designed career or move to another city.

Preacher John Piper was right when he said, “First of all, we twist (Jeremiah 29:11) because we make it a promise directly to us when it was a promise made directly to a specific group of people under special circumstances and during a specific time and in a specific place.”

“Secondly, we twist it because we make it for now when it was actually a multi-generational promise. And thirdly, we twist it because we make it for me when it’s supposed to be for us.”

Our Purpose In Christ

The Bible clearly states in the book of Ephesians that God purposed, planned and predestination salvation in Christ Jesus “before the foundation of the world.” We are the chosen in Christ. Adopted as sons of God by Christ. Receive forgiveness of sins in Christ. And enjoy “every spiritual blessing…in Christ” And all of this is to glorify God, our Creator. (Eph. 1:3-10).

God has plans for all of us in Christ! He is our hope of a prosperous future.

Jeremiah 29:11 is a great verse that finds fulfillment today when we accept Christ as Lord, come to him in obedience, and find our place and purpose in serving Him.

–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman

6 Comments

Filed under Bible

6 responses to “One of the Most Misunderstood and Misapplied Bible Verses

  1. Steven Estes

    Thanks for pointing out the context of this passage as it has been misapplied by so many who would say, “God has a plan for me” essentially with the same meaning in today’s vernacular. Good job!

  2. Clifton Dennis

    So many are misled because context to them doesn’t matter. Context in the Bible is what does matter.
    Thanks, Ken

  3. Paul writes to the Philippians these words. “Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel.” (Philippians 1:12). As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.

    God’s plan for Paul was to be in chains for Christ and to advance John’s testimony (John 3:28-29). John testifies to his followers saying. ‘I am not the Christ, but I am sent before Him.’ The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom stands and listens for him, and is overjoyed to hear the bridegroom’s voice.

    Imagine how hurt, bruised and fractured Jesus and John’s followers became when Peter the Rock disowned Jesus (Matthew 26:69-75 NIV).

    Why did Peter disown Jesus? Was Peter against people marrying? Did he think John’s testimony was outdated? Was he afraid he and his people would lose their freedom and independence? Did Peter think Jesus was guilty of blasphemy for claiming to be the Christ, the Bride belonging to the Bridegroom, the Gate…the Vine, and the Light of the World?

    Peter eventually has a change of heart and confesses his love for Jesus. How? What happens? How does Jesus’ death on the Cross effect Peter? Ah and there is the crux.

    If it was God’s plan for Peter to disown Jesus why did it hurt Jesus so much? Many people will ask. Didn’t Jesus realize that everything would work out in the end according to God’s plan. Many will add. Don’t Christians realize modern Biblical Scholarship says there is no evidence that Jesus was ever married? Yet others will add. Why then was Mary Magdalene lifted up as the Bride of Christ for two thousand years?

    So, today many people also ask. If God had a plan for Peter, doesn’t God have a plan for me? Can’t I be just like Peter and disown Jesus? Won’t Jesus love me and forgive me and let me go and be happy pursuing my career and love affairs without the encumbrances of marriage and children. Isn’t that what Christianity is about, freeing people from the bondage of hererosexual marriage for the purpose of childbearing and raising children. Isn’t this the way Christians are to find their place and purpose in serving Him…doing good deeds and being kind to people?

    Ken, the seeds of Abraham like the stars in the heavens are many. The many stars and the many seeds of Abraham form one magnificent wonder. Think of a pomegranate. A pomegranate is full of seeds and yet the pomegranate is a seed in itself. Christians are now many and they need to remember their story. They need to show their love for each other in unity. They need to proclaim and exemplify Christ as the cherished Bride who belongs to the cherished Bridegroom, not Satan.

  4. Ps. Mark

    Interesting reading … I would just like to suggest that Gal. 4:16 be changed to Gal 3:16 in the article that was written.
    Blessings …

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