Graduation season is upon us. In honor of our grads, Christian book store fliers are full of gifts that quote part or the entirety of the words found in Jeremiah chapter 29, verse 11. The gifts usually present an emphasis on God’s plan, but the verse in its entirety is presented this way, typified by what is quoted below from the New International Version:
Jeremiah 29:11 NIV — “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
So if asked, do I believe the promise of that verse, I would heartily and without hesitation say “Yes, I believe it 100%! I believe the Word of God, and I believe that He is faithful to fulfill all of His Word.”
I would, however, have to say that I also believe the surrounding verses, these first 14 in that chapter, as rendered in the King James Version:
Jeremiah 29:1–14 — “Now these are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem unto the residue of the elders which were carried away captives, and to the priests, and to the prophets, and to all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon;  (After that Jeconiah the king, and the queen, and the eunuchs, the princes of Judah and Jerusalem, and the carpenters, and the smiths, were departed from Jerusalem;)  By the hand of Elasah the son of Shaphan, and Gemariah the son of Hilkiah, (whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent unto Babylon to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon) saying,  Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, unto all that are carried away captives, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem unto Babylon;  Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them;  Take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; that ye may be increased there, and not diminished.  And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.  For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Let not your prophets and your diviners, that be in the midst of you, deceive you, neither hearken to your dreams which ye cause to be dreamed.  For they prophesy falsely unto you in my name: I have not sent them, saith the LORD.  For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.  For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.  Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.  And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.  And I will be found of you, saith the LORD: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the LORD; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive.”
So again, verse 11 on its own:
Jeremiah 29:11 — “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”
In choosing a graduation gift, please understand, that while this is the Word of God, and every promise of God is true, this is not a promise of God for or about your special graduate.
A brief view from 50,000 feet of the history leading up to this:
God called Abraham and promised him to be a great nation. His son Isaac inherited that blessing, then it passed on to Jacob, and to his twelve sons. One of those twelve, Joseph, was sold into slavery by the others and ended up in Egypt, but rose to a great position in the pharaoh’s government. Because of famine in the entire world at that time, the sons remaining in their own homeland went to Egypt to get food. They ended up having to buy food from Joseph, although at first they did not know it was him. He revealed himself to them and later Jacob and the entire clan came into Egypt and lived there.
Many years later, Jacob’s family multiplied greatly and the pharaoh (a different one) enslaved them. The Lord called Moses to deliver the people out of the slavery in Egypt, and into the land that He promised to their fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Before entering the land, at Sinai, God gave to Moses the Law that was to govern them. They were rebellious (as a people) from the beginning. When at the edge of the promised land, they disbelieved that God could bring them into it. Because of this disbelief, they were judged to wander in the wilderness for forty years so that none that left Egypt as adults, save Caleb and Joshua, would be alive to enter into that land. Moses himself, because of disobedience, did not enter into the promised land. He passed on his leadership of the people to Joshua, who did lead them in.
Under Joshua, the Israelites conquered the land, and were under the law of Moses as their government, administered by judges. Under the judges, the blessings of obedience and curses of disobedience were seen in action. The government could be described as theocratic, but the people did what was right in their own eyes. The last of the judges was a man named Samuel. The people demanded a king, so that they could be just like all of the other nations around them.
The Lord gave them their king, a man named Saul. Saul looked like a king, but did not act as God’s king. The Lord gave him His Spirit, but when Saul was rebellious, He took His spirit away and gave to Saul an evil spirit. The Lord then called David as the king who was a man after His own heart.
David, while his sin is well known, was faithful to the Lord and established a great kingdom. His son Solomon inherited that kingdom and was given great wisdom, and with it riches and the greatest kingdom on the earth at that time. Solomon was disobedient in that he married many foreign women who led him away from the Lord and the kingdom was divided under his son Rehoboam. The tribes of Judah and Benjamin remained loyal to the “Davidic” king, and the rest followed Jeroboam.
Jeroboam’s kingdom was rebellious to the Lord from the beginning, and his kingdom never followed the LORD. Judah, as the Davidic kingdom was called, had some good kings, like Hezekiah and Josiah, and some wicked kings like Manasseh and Ahaz. The LORD raised up prophets in both kingdoms. This could be summed up in the following verses from the end of 2 Chronicles:
2 Chronicles 36:15–16 — “And the LORD God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling place:  But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against his people, till there was no remedy.”
This is the context of Jeremiah 29. They were to be carried away captive to Babylon, but this was not to be a carrying away that would last forever. Because this was from the LORD, they were to be “good citizens” in Babylon, and not be rebellious. There was a promise that this would not be permanent, but that they would return to Jerusalem after seventy years. At the end of this seventy years, the young that were carried away captive would be old, and those that were adults at the beginning of the captivity would be “sleeping with their fathers”. Verse 11 is about a future and a hope for the coming generations of the children of Israel. It is not about a personal life hope, but a national hope.
And I believe that hope. The prophet Daniel also believed that hope:
Daniel 9:1–2 — “In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, which was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans;  In the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.”
Because Daniel brought up the seventy years, the Lord gave Gabriel a message about seventy weeks. These weeks should be understood as a group of seven years, or of 70 times 7 years¹. This can be proven by other Biblical usage, and by the time that the 69 weeks of the 70 week prophecy actually covered².
The LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of Israel, is faithful, and will still be faithful to His promise. The Israelites (now known as Jews) did return to the land but never returned from “the times of the Gentiles”. They were later scattered again because of unbelief, and the salvation of God was sent to the Gentiles³. They will be regathered again, in belief.
Romans 11:25–27 — “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.  And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:  For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.”
While I do believe that hope, I also know that it is not about or for me, nor is it about or for your favorite graduate. It is about the nation of Israel, and for them.
As a scriptural alternative, I would like to offer the following as a hope for the future:
Ephesians 1:3–14 — “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:  According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:  Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,  To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.
“ In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;  Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence;  Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:  That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:  In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:  That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.
“ In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,  Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.”
The above is something that we truly can grab onto and hold, if we can say that we have indeed believed on the Lord Jesus Christ and His finished work of redemption for us.
If you have not, the offer of salvation by grace through faith is available to you now in this day of salvation, and Christ’s accomplishments cover even the greatest of your sins. In Him, you too may be holy and without blame before Him. You may be predestined to the adoption of children. You too may be accepted in Him. You too may have redemption through His blood, and be forgiven of all of your sins according to the riches of His grace.
This is a wonderful hope, and wonderful future. Will you not take the faithful God at His word?
- See the following usage in Genesis: Genesis 29:26–28 — “ And Laban said, It must not be so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn.  Fulfil her week, and we will give thee this also for the service which thou shalt serve with me yet seven other years.  And Jacob did so, and fulfilled her week: and he gave him Rachel his daughter to wife also.”
- “The Coming Prince” by Sir Robert Anderson has much to say about this seventy weeks. It is a long read, but worth while.
- Acts 28:28. While (too) many think of the Acts of the Apostles as a way of showing what the “early church” was, and is an example of what the present church should be, it is not. It is a bridge, between that which came before (the Old Testament and the 4 Gospels), and that which comes after (Paul’s Epistles).
Husband, father, engineer...Enjoys fishing, archery, guitar, running, and lifting, but most of all reading and studying God's Word.