What's in a Promise?

“‘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. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.'”

Jeremiah 29:11-13

This passage is one that I hear regularly, which always seems to be used as a way to ensure our individual accomplishments. We use this passage to paint a rosy picture of our worldly wealth and success. That God will give us success and protect us. But a deeper look into this passage shreds this interpretation apart. And while there are some truths in the common interpretation of this passage, the deeper and truer interpretation is even more rich and powerful.

To properly understand this verse, you have to look at the context for the full picture. Jeremiah tells Israel they’ll be judged and exiled for 70 years (25:11). Obviously, a prediction like this would get people talking. Is this guy serious? Who does he think he is?

Next, a prophet named Hananiah shows up. He says this Jeremiah character is wrong and that Israel will only be judged and exiled for two years. Forget this 70-year thing, Hananiah built up the Israelites' hope. The more convenient prophesy was the one the Israelites latched onto, ignoring Jeremiah’s word from God. Of course, Hananiah was a false prophet and God had other plans. Jeremiah was his prophet and God wanted to make sure the people knew. So, Jeremiah, listening to God, prophesied that Hananiah would be dead before year end.

"in the seventh month of that same year, Hananiah the prophet died." (28:17)

God proved his superiority in the ultimate way. Not only did God show who his prophet was, he drew the attention back to him and the judgement he was bringing. So, the Israelites stood at attention, finally heeding Jeremiah's warning and listening to the prophet God had given them.

This brings us to the famous passage.

“‘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. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.'”

Jeremiah 29:11-13

Jeremiah wanted to make sure the Israelites saw the big picture. Despite the 70 hard years in front of them, it’ was a declaration that God would be there. It’s a declaration that ultimately God and his people prevail. It was a promise given at one of their lowest of lows letting them know that God has their back and they'll have the ultimate victory.

This is a promise we can latch onto no matter our circumstances. It won’t be easy. It couldn’t have been for that nation with 70 years of trouble ahead. While we use this promise to lift ourselves up, this is truly a promise of God's ultimate victory through our trials. This isn't a promise of always getting or having the best. This isn't a promise of our individual victory in life. This is a promise of his ultimate victory. And that is a promise we can latch onto, no matter where we are or what we're struggling with. It's a promise that brings the ultimate hope: our Savior is the ultimate victor and he has our back.

And if you continue on to the next verse, Jeremiah gives us the road map to being a part of God's prosperous plans for his people. When you call on his name, he will listen. And when you seek him with all your heart, you will find him. Previously the Israelites hadn't sought him, thus they fell prey to the false prophet Hananiah.

So, first and foremost, we shouldn't just latch onto God's plan for us, but instead, we should latch onto God. Because when we seek him, we know that eventually, his plans will be revealed and that we will ultimately prosper. What a promise!