“For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome.” Jeremiah 29:11 Amplified Bible
Let me begin with this, I sincerely doubt there are many Christians who have not either read or had quoted to them this verse, especially when our circumstances are not what we would have chosen. It is another like John 3:16 and the 23rd Psalm, those verses we have been taught which help bring understanding to our lives on a planet in complete rebellion against its creator.
I realize those last few words may not fit the theology of all, the study of God. Nor do those words fit in with most popular psychology, the study of the psyche. The origin of the word psyche is from the mid 17th century Latin from the Greek word psukhe meaning breath, life, soul. Still, it doesn’t take much to look around and see the wrong taking place on this world of ours.
I had never read the Amplified Bible’s version of Jeremiah 29:11 before today. I must admit I quite like the way it has been presented. There are many times in my life when I haven’t felt like God has plans to prosper me, and that’s how this verse reads in many other translations. Of course, that may have a bit to do with my expectations and my definition of how God will prosper me. In terms of the other Bible translations, I haven’t reached the prosperous part of those plans as yet! Too often I find prosperity quite lacking when it comes to income vs. the expenditures of my life.
God declares quite plainly that His thoughts and plans are for our welfare. The dictionary defines welfare as the health, happiness, and fortunes of a person or group. If God has promised me health, happiness, and fortune, how do I put into perspective the health and financial challenges I have experienced in my life. There is no need to list the challenges, as it would be extremely boring for you to read and doesn’t do me any good to enumerate. Besides, I’m not the only one who has experienced challenges.
The next word is happiness, defined as the state of being happy, feeling or showing pleasure or contentment. This begs the question, what does one need to be content or show pleasure? How does one decide that God is or is not fulfilling His promise? We’ll leave the happiness part and move to fortune.
The definition of fortune is chance or luck as an external, arbitrary force affecting human affairs and also as a large amount of money or assets. I have already addressed the lack of the latter definition in my personal life. Is the first definition one that can be accepted in the life of a Christian? Does God lie or not? If He does, then why do we bother to read the Bible? If God doesn’t lie, then the first definition just won’t work in the life of a Christian.
We’ve reached the next part of the promise God makes in this verse. That is, He promises us His plans and thoughts are not for evil. Once again I want to be sure I understand what God is telling me here. As an adjective, evil means profoundly immoral and malevolent, harmful, tending to harm, (of something seen or smelled) especially unpleasant. As a noun, evil is defined as profound immorality, wickedness, and depravity especially when regarded as a supernatural force.
Evil exists on this little planet we call home. Its presence is felt 24/7, every month of every year since it was loosed on humanity. More than that, our many times great-grandparents handed the keys of their home to the one whose only desire is to destroy anything and everything God has created. And God promises us His plans do not include evil. Then why is He so often accused of bringing evil into our lives by those who claim His Son’s name?
It would appear we need to understand how God defines the words He uses, the promises He makes. It is essential we know what God is saying and why He says it! I want to discover God’s ideas about expectations, plans, and especially the Gospel.
Let’s take a second look at those words from as close to God’s definition as it is possible to come. Strong’s concordance leads me to the definition of thoughts as intention, invented, means, purpose.
God tells us He has the ability to invent with intention the purpose and means He has for us as His chosen ones. I don’t know about you, but this definition clears up a few misunderstandings on my part. Imagine, God declares He has all we need in His thoughts!
The next challenge we face in realizing what God has in mind for us is the plans. The word plans is defined as: to credit, account, be taken care of, (and my favorite) artistic designs, artistic craftsmanship, designed things planned.
God reveals that His intimate love makes us priceless through His creativity. For us as individuals, His promise is that we receive those things He has designed and planned. We are the revelation of His love as works of art! You and I are how God has chosen to communicate His love through understanding His desire for us as a relationship with His Works of Art.
The word that may be most controversial in this whole verse is the word prosper, meaning well-being, intactness, wholeness, peace, may have a focus of security or safety which can bring feelings of satisfaction. God desires to make us complete as we were originally meant to be. Add to this His peace which brings to us a focus of security and feelings of satisfaction. God is offering us that which cannot be destroyed by the world or by His enemy.
Now we come to harm, meaning bad, disaster, trouble, by extension: ethically evil, wickedness, what is bad to God. How does this impact our ability to receive what God is officering? Ethics entered the picture helping us to see God’s ultimate responsibility. Consider how this definition from God’s perspective impacts our lives. God tells us He desires to keep us from ethics that are evil. We are challenged to consider harm in God’s terms. The question that leaps out at me is how are my ethics? Do I bring into my relationships wicked ethics? Can I accept it is my ethics which are out of sync with God and are part of the harm He is keeping from me?
As we are in this process of trying to arrive at how God defines His words, we come to welfare and peace. They are defined as happy, friendly, health, prosperity, familiar, perfect, to be at peace, rest, safety, completeness. In these words, I find God’s driving impetus to be a relationship. His greatest desire is for a relationship with those He created, their life to be safe and happy. His longing is for us to be where we would discover our completeness as we rest in peace with all that is familiar. And we find the familiar in our God and Creator because we were created in His image.
I find the final word simply amazing in light of its definition in the Greek text, written by the Apostle Paul. It is hope. Hope is defined as confident expectation. In Jeremiah we discover hope means expectation. What do we expect from God? Are we willing to see our lives through the definitions God provides? For He has promised us a future which is defined as the far side, the other side, at the last, in days to come, final destiny, and final outcome.
This world, our world, is temporary. There is a New World to come where we will finally receive all God has planned for us. Until then, we wait with hope, a confident expectation!