“For I know the plans for you” means that, regardless of your disobedience and weaknesses, God has your future all mapped out, even if right now your situation does not look or feel like it. You are probably surprised to know it does not fit every situation.
Jeremiah 29:11 is one of the most popular Bible verses in the Bible. It is one of the favorites of many many many Christians. But it is also one of the most misunderstood verses too.
Because of it being taken out of context, the verse is often misapplied. Its true power is often missed. What is the real meaning of this very beloved portion of Scripture? It’s not what you think.
What does Jeremiah chapter 29 mean?
One of the first things to understand about Jeremiah 29:11 is who this text was written to. The prophet Jeremiah was called to ministry by God. The Israelites had been committing serious sins. Jeremiah’s job was to call them to repentance and tell them of the consequence if they refused to turn.
What sins were they committing? They were guilty of quite a number of things but chief among them was idol worship and human sacrifices:
For they have forsaken me and made this a place of foreign gods; they have burned incense in it to gods that neither they nor their ancestors nor the kings of Judah ever knew, and they have filled this place with the blood of the innocent. They have built the high places of Baal to burn their children in the fire as offerings to Baal—something I did not command or mention, nor did it enter my mind. Jeremiah 19:4-5
Jeremiah warned that if they did not stop the disobedience, God would send the Babylonians to capture and enslave them.
For this is what the Lord says: ‘I will make you a terror to yourself and to all your friends; with your own eyes you will see them fall by the sword of their enemies. I will give all Judah into the hands of the king of Babylon, who will carry them away to Babylon or put them to the sword. 5 I will deliver all the wealth of this city into the hands of their enemies—all its products, all its valuables and all the treasures of the kings of Judah. They will take it away as plunder and carry it off to Babylon. Jeremiah 20:4-5
Well, as history tells us, Jeremiah’s words came to pass. The last verse in the book of Jeremiah gives us a summary of how many people were eventually exiled to Babylon:
So Judah went into captivity, away from her land. This is the number of the people Nebuchadnezzar carried into exile: in the seventh year, 3,023 Jews; in Nebuchadnezzar’s eighteenth year, 832 people from Jerusalem; in his twenty-third year, 745 Jews taken into exile by Nebuzaradan the commander of the imperial guard. There were 4,600 people in all. (Jeremiah 52:27-30)
More specifically, Jeremiah 29:11 is addressing those who were exiled in Babylon as a result of the first to sieges. Jeremiah was not taken to Babylon during the siege.
He was initially shackled up but he was set free by the captain of the Babylonian royal army. Therefore, much of Jeremiah 29 is actually a letter sent to Babylon from Judah.
Jeremiah 29:11 meaning – For I know the plans I have for you: What does God mean?
One of the major questions that seemed to be on the minds of the Israelites in Babylon was, “When will this be over? When will God allow us to be released to go back home?”
The false prophets tried to answer this question with lies. This is why Jeremiah needed to write this letter. Although Jeremiah was not in Babylon, a number of false prophets had been taken captive.
While in Babylon they prophesied that the exile would be short. But this was not true. Jeremiah heard about the lies and wanted to let the people know the truth.
They would be exiled in Babylon for 70 years! (Jeremiah 25:11-12). But God’s promise was that they would be released in His own time.
The false prophets were very sure that they knew what God was up to. But Jeremiah assured them they did not. God himself said “I know the plans”. The Hebrew word for know is yada. This word is heavy with meaning.
When God says He knows the plans, what He really means is that He already sees the plan in extreme detail. Yada carries the idea of intimacy like that which exists between a married couple.
Absolutely nobody but God had the blueprint for their future! So only He could reveal the truth to Jeremiah.
That’s why God encouraged Jeremiah to ask God to show him His secrets:
Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. Jeremiah 33:3 ESV
Jeremiah 29:11 meaning – plans to prosper you and not to harm you
The Israelite exiles were not happy about their situation. They wondered about God’s intention towards them.
If they were so dearly loved by God, why were they suffering like this? God must want to harm us and destroy us, they thought.
But again, their estimation of their situation was wrong.
On the contrary, God had no such ill-will towards them. His plan was to “prosper” them. The Hebrew word for prosper used in this verse is shalom. This word is translated complete peace.
This kind of peace is not just peace of mind. It extends to spiritual, physical, financial and all kinds of peace. God had a plan that was so complete that every area of their life would be taken care of.
Believe or not, their unpleasant situation was God’s doing. But the purpose of positive and perfect. It was for their good that they were exiled.
Jeremiah 29:11 meaning – plans to give you hope and a future
Being trapped in Babylonian exile felt like a literal dead end to the Jews. They were totally convinced that they were going to die and be buried in Babylon.
They were sure they would never be released from slavery. Their lives were going to end right there in Babylon.
To some extent they were not wrong. Many of them would not live to see God’s promises fulfilled. Afterall, 70 years is a pretty long time.
Yet, that did not change the fact that God’s intention was to restore the Jews to Judah. God’s message through Jeremiah was that they would not all be wiped off the face of the earth while in exile.
The Hebrew word for future aharit refers to a time that comes after everything else.
Despite their disobedience that landed them in exile, there was life after slavery!
The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Write in a book all the words that I have spoken to you. For behold, days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will restore the fortunes of my people, Israel and Judah, says the Lord, and I will bring them back to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall take possession of it.” Jeremiah 30:3
Application lessons from Jeremiah 29:11
So, what is the message of Jeremiah 29:11? How do you trust that God has a plan for you? What lessons can we learn from the experience of the Jews those thousands of years ago?
As you usual, there are a number of lessons that we can apply to our lives but I will just explore a few.
Our actions and decisions have consequences that we need to own
Jeremiah 29:11 is a promise to people who were grossly disobedient and terribly stubborn and refused to give up their will to God.
So, God issued a consequence after multiple warnings. If you are a parent, you should know how this works. How many times are you willing to tell your child to stop misbehaving before you do something about it?
If you are a teacher, I’m certain you can relate as well. How many times are you willing to talk to a single student about their behavior without taking some kind of action?
I grew up in the era where twice was enough to be spoken to by an adult.
Well, God is also a parent. He warned more than twice. He sent Jeremiah. He sent Isaiah. That amounted to years and years of warning.
So often when we end up in a difficult situation because of bad decisions that dishonored God, we want to play the victim.
It should not work like that. We need to be honest with ourselves about why we are suffering.
Are the difficulties and discomfort the consequences we are facing because of disobedience to the voice and will of God?
Sit with it. Confess it. Own it. Embrace it. Then ask God what’s your assignment in this season. For the Israelites the assignment was to bloom where they were planted.
God’s discipline is mingled with mercy and grace
Although the Jews were being discipled, God did not leave them alone in it. God promised to be with them even while they were in Babylon.
Better yet, God gave them an assignment:
Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. Jeremiah 29:5-7 ESV
In other words, they were to bloom where they were planted. How about that. Their assignment was to get married and have children and have lots and lots of children.
God could have caused them all to be slaughtered by the Babylonians. Instead, they were preserved by God and treated fairly well in Babylon.
Daniel and his three friends served at the highest level of government. Yes, they had their struggles but God showed up to cover and protect them.
If you are in a season of experiencing God’s consequences, look up from your sorrow and identify how God’s grace and mercy is still evident in your life.
Perhaps your disobedience could have and should have cost your life but you are still here.
Maybe you should have lost your mind, your business, your spouse, your job but God has preserved all that.
God’s mercy is always mingled with his chastening. Look for it. Dwell on it.
God’s plans are perfect
Although the Jews were experiencing consequences in the current reality, God gave them hope. A life of exile was temporary. Granted, they would need to wait all of seven decades to be released but still, they had hope.
The hope they had was built on the knowledge that God had a plan. Their discomfort would not last always but they needed to be uncomfortable right now. It was all a part of God’s plan.
He sent Jeremiah to assure them that they had a future, a perfectly planned future that God had already seen in extensive details. Jeremiah 30 details some parts of God’s beautiful plan for them:
For I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal, declares the Lord, because they have called you an outcast: ‘It is Zion, for whom no one cares! “Thus says the Lord: Behold, I will restore the fortunes of the tents of Jacob and have compassion on his dwellings; the city shall be rebuilt on its mound, and the palace shall stand where it used to be. Jeremiah 30:17-18 ESV
These verses only cover a promise to restore both their health and their wealth. Read the whole chapter for a fuller overview of the plans that God had for them.
If you happen to be in a season of consequence, trust that God has a perfect plan for your life. He will not allow you to die where you are.
If you keep your hands in His and “bloom where you are planted”, He promises that His plans and purposes will be fulfilled. And His plans always bigger and better than our imagination can fathom.
God does not make mistakes. God does not lie. Everything God does is perfect.
Final words “For I know the plans I have for you” meaning
So often, Jeremiah 29:11 has been misquoted and misapplied. This Scripture is about God’s
Every effort to redeem and restore a disobedient people.
I suppose that could apply to all of us Christians because none of us can claim to be God’s perfect little angels. Nevertheless, this is probably not the verse you want to use if you’re applying for a job or praying about starting a business or when you’re desiring an A on that exam.
But if you find yourself at the end of your own mistakes, admitting that you did not follow God the way you should have…now is a good time to claim God’s mercy, grace, and promise to rescue you in His own appointed time.