For I know the plans I have for you”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11
Running across this verse in Jeremiah made me stop and think for a moment. We have all heard, seen and probably have this verse in our homes somewhere. They are wonderful words to remember and reflect on in our daily lives. Remembering God has our backs, has a Master plan for each of us and has us in the palm of His hand is something I certainly need at the forefront of my mind. However, I think to often we look to verses for our own purposes and forget to consider the context they are found in. We miss the deeper meaning and magnitude of the words spoken when we do this.
Jeremiah 29:11 is only one verse (out of 25) taken from, “the text of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the rest of the elders of the exiles, the priests, the prophets, and all the people Nebuchadnezzar had deported from Jerusalem to Babylon.” (Jeremiah 29:1)
God’s people, who had their city plundered and people taken prisoner to Babylon certainly needed to hear there were brighter days ahead. That God had not forgotten them completely despite their evil ways. This was the news they had waited for. God’s promise that after 70 years He would restore them and as verse 14 says, “restore their fortunes, gather them up from where He has driven them and bring them back to the place from which He sent them to exile”
For a prisoner to hear those words . . . . a promise from the Lord . . . can you imagine how much that meant to God’s people? When we know the rest of the story “the usual” becomes much more. “Looking under the hood’ and past the surface meaning gives the living word of God breath and life. It gives God’s story and promises a deeper meaning.
How about this one from Jeremiah?
Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and incomprehensible things you do not know. Jeremiah 33:3
It’s a wonderful reminder for us that all we need to do is ask God for help, wisdom, grace, forgiveness, patience. . . the list goes on and on. Ask and we will find, right?! But, consider that these words came to Jeremiah as he was still confined in the guard’s courtyard, still in trouble, still feeling isolated for prophesying the Lord’s words. The Lord arrives right on time and tells him about the restoration of Israel.
While he was still confined in the guard’s courtyard, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah a second time: “The Lord who made the earth, the Lord who forms it to establish it, Yahweh is His name, says this: Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and incomprehensible things you do not know. Jeremiah 33:1-3
Context and meaning are vital to understanding and giving life to God’s words. We can relate His words to our lives in a deeper way when we look under the hood and see how it all works and comes together.