What Does Jeremiah 29:11 Really Mean?

Jeremiah 29:11 is one of the most popular verses in the Bible. We see it everywhere from Coffee mugs, t-shirts to graduation cards. 

So, what does Jeremiah 29:11 really mean? To answer this question we will start with the context and then see how it applies to us today. 

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. Jer 29:11

jeremiah 29 11 14

What do we think about Jeremiah 29:11?

We commonly apply this as a personal promise. God has a wonderful plan for ME which excludes all trials in my life and the only thing I need to do is walk in obedience to Him.

Some think of this as God’s promise to us of health and wealth. With this view, pain and suffering are looked upon as  a sign of lack of faith or did something to cause God’s wrath.

These thoughts are centered around ME and what God can do for ME because I obey Him.

Meaning Of Jeremiah 29:11 In Context

Context matters. In fact, I would say context is king. When we are reading the Bible we cannot ignore the context in which what we are reading is written in. That means we should do three things when reading the Bible: 

  1. Look at the surrounding verses
  2. Consider the original audience 
  3. Look at the larger narrative of the Bible

To help us understand the meaning of Jeremiah 29:11 we will focus primarily on the first two in the list above. Let me just say this, the common ways this passage is interpreted does not fit the Biblical narrative. The Bible teaches selflessness not a ME centered faith. 

In Jeremiah 29:11, God is talking to the nation of Israel through the prophet Jeremiah. During this time the Israelites are living in Babylonian exile. They are slaves. That’s important thing to take note of, this passage is addressed to slaves living in enemy territory. We should read these words through that lens. 

Bible exile

In this time of captivity, there was more than one false prophet going around claiming that the release of Gods people was coming soon. And in Jeremiah 29 God is denouncing these false prophets and telling His people that they are going to have to wait 70 more years. That’s bad news. 

God Does a Plan, Even If They Won’t See It

But God doesn’t stop there. Not only do they have to live in captivity for 70 more years, but God also instructs them to seek peace while they are there.

That’s some tough news to hear. Most of them hearing this message will be dead before they will be released. That’s a tough pill to swallow.

This is who Jeremiah 29:11 was written to. Real people that were going through a really tough time. And that’s important for us to know because it gives us the context in which this verse was written.

The meaning of Jeremiah 29:11 isn’t a personal promise written to you. It’s not a promise that if we follow God he will allow us to prosper in this life. The context tells us otherwise. This verse is written to a people who would likely all die as slaves. Not a great life. 

Jeremiah 29:11 is addressed to a group of people, not individuals. It’s a promise that God is still in control even when things are bleak. It’s a promise that even though things might not make sense to them now, God’s plan is still good. This verse is giving hope to a group of people that are struggling with understanding what God is doing.

If you want to keep studying the context and the meaning of Jeremiah 29:11 I would highly recommend Dr. Thomas Constables Bible Notes. It’s free and there are quality notes on every passage in the Bible.

What Does Jeremiah 29:11 Mean? 

We simply cannot apply this Old Testament verse as a personal promise to us unless it is clearly a personal promise. Jeremiah 29:11 is not written to us today. It was written to a real people that lived during a specific time. That doesn’t mean it has no application for us today. That just means it’s not a personal promise. The context makes that clear. 

Jeremiah 29:11 is written FOR you, but It’s not written TO you. 

So, what is the meaning of Jeremiah 29:11? 

While this Bible verse isn’t a personal promise, it is a powerful reminder that God is still in control. Even when things don’t seem like it. Even when life is tough. Even when the world is falling apart around us. God is in control.

what does jeremiah 29 11 really mean

God’s promise was faithfully fulfilled to the nation of Israel. He did just what he said. That should bring hope to us that God will continue to fulfill his promises. Even in dark days and difficult situations we can have hope that God will lead us through.

This verse is not a promise that we will be prosperous in this life. That as long as we trust God our lives will be easy and we will have all we want. After all, we are following Jesus Christ who had anything but an easy life. And he promised if we follow him we would face similar struggles. 

What does Jeremiah 29:11 really mean? It is a reminder that even though we will face difficulties in this life God’s promises are still true. He is faithful and will bring us through. 

Application Of Jeremiah 29:11 To Our Lives

So where does this leave us? What do we do with this verse? This verse is a promise to God’s people that His plan for us is good. And who are God’s people? In the context of the verse, it’s the Israelites. But when Jesus enters the picture He opens the door for everyone. In other words, we are all His people. So the truth of this verse is still true for us today.

Many have taken this verse to mean that God will make their life easy, or they will get exactly what they want. But that’s not what this promise is. Really it’s the opposite. This verse is promising that we will have troubles. And the Israelites didn’t want to hear it; they’d rather listen to the false voices telling them the better sounding noise. Sound familiar? That’s something we do all the time.

This verse is telling us that while life will get incredibly difficult at times, it is God who is in control. And while the difficult season might not end tomorrow, God is still there and He will bring His people through it.

This is why Jesus says, Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Isn’t life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Matthew 6:25-26

God is In Control

This message is a direct tie to the meaning of Jeremiah 29:11. It’s not a promise of a life where there’s nothing to worry about. It’s a promise of a life wherein in the midst of worrisome problems we can have peace. Having faith, believing in God, means trusting that His plan is what’s best for us, even when it doesn’t make sense.

Some things might never make sense in this life. It must have seemed that way to the Israelites that died in captivity. But God can see things we cannot. He is orchestrating a story we are not yet privy to. One day things will be revealed, and we will see the larger picture.

Until then we have this promise. God is with us, and we can find peace and rest in that. The Gospel message isn’t one of an easy life. Rather it’s a promise that we can hope because the God we serve has overcome death and is walking beside us.

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