STUDENT POST: Does Jeremiah 29:11 Still Apply?

Editor’s note: This post is part of a series featuring outstanding excerpts from student papers at the BibleMesh Institute, which offers affordable online training for local churches, schools, and ministries. The author’s name has been withheld for privacy and security purposes. He is preparing to serve as a missionary overseas.

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

This passage is a dialogue of God speaking through Jeremiah to the exiles in Babylon. It comes in the form of a letter sent to the exiles by Jeremiah. In verses 10 -14, the tone becomes one of compassion, where God is speaking very tenderly to his people like a father speaks to the son he loves. In verse 10, God promises that when 70 years of captivity are up, God will come to them and bring them back to Jerusalem. God would fulfill the promises he made back in Jeremiah 25, namely that the exiles would only stay in Babylon 70 years. In verse 11, God states that he knows the plans that he has for his people, and those plans were to prosper them and not to harm them. Here, God is stating that he wanted to again prosper his people and bring them back to the Promised Land. The 70-year exile was part of God’s plan to give the exiles a hope and future.[1] As a result of the exile and judgement, the exiles would call on God and seek him with all their heart. In verse 13, we observe a conditional statement: the exiles would find God only when they sought him with all their heart. The judgement of God should prompt the exiles to turn back to God in repentance and turn from their sins. This really was the purpose of the exile.[2] The exile would show the people their great need for the Lord. In verse 14, the Lord states that he would gather all the exiles from the nations and bring them back to the Promised Land. This is part of the hope and future that God promised in verse 11.

These verses constitute a special promise to the exiles of Israel as they lived out their 70-year exile in Babylon. The promises contained in Jeremiah 29 are not blanket, universal promises that can be applied to our everyday lives while ignoring the broader context of Jeremiah. These verses are not a promise that God will make our 21st-century lives easy and prosperous, or that everything will go easy for us when we follow the Lord.[3] In addition to this, we need to understand that the Jews in Jeremiah’s day related to the Lord under a different covenant, and today we as believers are under the New Covenant.

With all of that in mind, we can draw out three main biblical principles from this passage.  The first is that God is a loving and just God. God had placed the Jews in exile as judgement for their sins, but at the same time we see the love of God as he speaks to his people in a tender voice, promising them that he would lead them back to the Promised Land. From this we see that God is a just God who punishes sin, but at the same time he is a merciful and forgiving God who longs to restore his people back to himself. In our relationship with the Lord, we need to remember that when we sin, God longs to forgive us and restore us back to himself. Ultimately that restoration is possible through the atonement Jesus Christ provides. If we feel condemned and distant from God because of our sin, we need to realize that our sins are covered by the blood of Jesus. As a result, we can come back to the Lord.

Next, we see that God is sovereign over everything. God orchestrated the Babylonian exile, and now he would bring the Israelites back to the Promised Land by means of the Persian Empire. We live in very uncertain times with COVID and lots of political unrest. At times it seems like God is not in control. Jeremiah 29 reminds us that we can trust God fully with the future because he is in control of everything. We do not need to worry; we just need to trust in the Lord.

Finally, we as New Testament believers need to realize that God has special plans for us as well. These plans are ultimately fulfilled in Jesus Christ, and thus they are better plans than what God had for the Jews in Jeremiah’s day. We will have problems and possibly persecution in this life, so we need to remember God’s great eternal plans for those of us who are followers of Jesus Christ. The hope of Jesus helps us focus on the things that are eternal and unseen rather than the temporal things that we can see. In Jesus Christ we have a hope and future, and that is that we get to spend eternity with Jesus in heaven.

[1] Michael Rydelink and Michael Vanlaningham, The Moody Bible Commentary (Moody Publishers: Chicago, 2014), 1147.

[2] Michael Rydelink and Michael Vanlaningham, The Moody Bible Commentary (Moody Publishers: Chicago, 2014), 1147.

[3] Russell Moore, “Does Jeremiah 29 apply to you?” The Gospel Coalition, 1 January 2018, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/jeremiah-2911-apply/