Jeremiah 29: 11
We’re in a series called God’s Big Promises: God Says You Are, You Can, You Have, You Will. So far we’ve covered 3 amazing promises of God: You are Forgiven: God’s Answer to Guilt - You are Never Alone: God’s Answer to Fear - You Have a Way Out: God’s Answer to Temptation
Now we come to one of the best-known promises in the Bible: For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29: 11 NKJV
Most of us know this verse by heart. We share it with those going through a hard time. For many people, this is the only verse from Jeremiah they know.
We will never understand this verse unless we know something about its background. It was written to the Jewish exiles in Babylon who had been forcibly removed from Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. Having been uprooted from all they held dear, they now live hundreds of kms away from home, in the heart of worldly and pagan idol worship. All their dreams and hopes had been smashed. They wondered, “How could God have let this happen? If we are truly his people, how did we end up here?” They wondered if God had forgotten them.
Always keep these 2 things in mind:
God will not always do what we expect Him to do,
but He will always do what he says He will do.
1. God Thinks About Us All the Time
“I know the thoughts that I think toward you.” God thinks about us! That may be the most important statement you’ll ever hear. The God of the universe thinks about us. He knows who we are and where we are. Not for one second are we ever lost or forgotten.
We don’t always think about each other. We forget birthdays and anniversaries. That’s why we have apps that send us reminders.
Most of us are better at remembering bad things. It’s easy to focus on the faults, failures and frailties of those close to you. But that’s not what God does. The Bible says, “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” Hebrews 10: 17 God forgets our sins, but he remembers us. We do the opposite. We forget our friends, but we remember their sins. No wonder we’re so messed up.
Even though God has the whole world to run, he never forgets his children. He knows your face, he understands your pain and he records every tear you shed.
This would have been an enormous encouragement to the Jews in captivity in far-off Babylon. God has just said, “You’ll be returning home but not for 70 years.” v. 10. They wouldn’t be in Babylon forever, but 70 years is a long time to be in exile. God says, “You think I’ve forgotten you. You are here because you forgot me, and it’s true I am punishing you for your sin, but my punishment does not diminish my love for you. You are forever in my thoughts. You are still my people. I have not forgotten you.”
Great comfort in the following truth: God knows what He is thinking even when we don’t. Many times I have said, “Lord, what are you doing? Why is this happening?” So much of life makes no sense. The good and the bad, the happy and the sad, it all gets jumbled together with no apparent rhyme or reason. Even if I say to myself, “God has a plan,” it’s hardly clear to me. But God knows what he is thinking when his thoughts are hidden from me.
There is even more encouraging truth in this verse.
2. God’s Thoughts Toward Us Are Good
“Thoughts of peace, and not of evil.” It is not enough to know God thinks about us. We need to know what he is thinking. In this case he makes it clear. “Thoughts of peace, and not of evil.” “Plans for welfare and not for evil”- “Plans to take care of you, not abandon you” - “Plans for good and not for disaster.”
This answers our greatest question. Is God for us or against us? Here we have God’s answer. All His thoughts move toward one expected end. Nothing happens by chance or for no purpose at all.
We will never properly understand this great promise if we think it is a good luck charm to protect us from pain or to keep us from suffering. Remember that this verse was given to the Jews to give them hope that their time in Babylon would not last forever. It is not a “Get Out of Babylon Free” card.
It is God’s way of saying, “I still love you even though you have blown it badly, and I still have great plans for you in the future, and the future starts today, not just 70 years from now.”
You are asking, “But what about when we sin? Does God still love us then?” Good question! All of us sin, and we sin more than we know. We’re not as good as we think we are, and we’re worse off than we know. Even when we sin, God does not think evil toward us because that goes against his nature. When the devil whispers in your ear, “You’re rotten. You’re no good. You’re a bum,” tell him he’s right, but God still loves you, and he cannot think evil against you. Even when we suffer because of our sin, God intends to bring us to repentance and healing. God still loves us even when we sin.
That’s what grace is all about. Grace that only works when we are good is no grace at all. We need grace that runs to us when we have acted stupidly for the 47th time. We need “47th time” grace, and that’s what we have in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We all know that’s true, but we forget it until life falls apart.
3. God Intends to Give Us a Future Filled With Hope
“To give you a future and a hope.” God is not just giving a vague promise that things are going to be better sometime, somewhere, somehow. That’s true, of course, but this verse has a particular focus. God has an appointed end for his people, and nothing will hinder them from reaching that appointed end. 70 years down the road the same God who raised up a pagan king (Nebuchadnezzar) to judge them will raise up another pagan king (Cyrus) to deliver them. Neither pagan king was aware of his part in God’s plan. Each man acted according to his own free will, and God worked through those kingly decisions to bring his children home.
The Lord has no unfinished plans. That includes sending his people to Babylon, keeping them there for 70 years, and then bringing them home once again. Seen in this light, this promise becomes a great comfort, especially when we go through hard times. It teaches us that God thinks of us, that his thoughts toward us are good, and that when his purposes have been completed, he will bring our troubles to their appointed end. This is the “hope and future” we all need.
What should we say in response to all of this? Our first and greatest need is to submit ourselves to our Heavenly Father and say very simply, “Lord, you see what is ahead even when all is dark to me. You have a purpose even when my life seems to be going in circles. I bow before you and say, ‘Blessed be the name of the Lord.’ Amen.”
Our position should be one of ever-increasing hope in the Lord. I admit that is hard to do when you see your child suffering from cancer, or when your marriage falls apart or your career dissolves, or your loved one is battling Covid-19. We live in a fallen world, and we ourselves are fallen people, not yet what we could be or should be or someday will be. No Bible verse can take away the pain of this world. But this promise leads us out of the darkness into the light.
We cannot escape the troubles of life. Ask the Christians in Sudan if they know anything about suffering. Ask the Christians in India what it’s like to follow Jesus. Our brothers and sisters around the world face trouble every day because of their faith. This promise tells us God intends good for us and not evil when we go through the furnace time.
What difference does being a Christian make? Because Jesus died and rose again, our 2 greatest enemies lie at his feet: Sin and Death
He utterly defeated them both. The Lord Jesus purchased us with his blood and brought us into God’s family, guaranteeing our salvation. No wonder the Bible says, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8: 31 Either we believe that or we don’t.
If we don’t, we are bound to end up unhappy, frustrated, miserable, filled with doubts, given to anger, and prone to seeking quick fixes instead of waiting on the Lord. But if we believe that, then we will wait patiently on the Lord, knowing that Babylon is better for us than Jerusalem, even as we wait for the day when we finally go home.
We’re not home yet. But we will be soon.
Fear not, child of God. No one knows what a day may bring. Who knows if we will all make it through this week? But our God is faithful to keep every one of his promises. Nothing can happen to us except it first pass through the hands of a loving God.
If your way is dark, keep believing. When you finally get to heaven, you will look back over your life with all its twists and turns, and you will say, “Jesus led me all the way.” Amen.