“And I will devise for you a device of peace, and not evil, to bestow upon you these good things.”
— Jeremiah 36:11 (LXX)
“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.”
— Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
Exegetes of perfection will denounce the use of national prophesies cast two-and-a-half millennia ago as we bring them forth as meaning for our hope today.
Well, tell that to the Compassion child who drew hope from such a Scripture in the midst of squalor in the Mathare slums of Nairobi. Tell that to the person who is within the throes of their existential finality. Tell that to the panoply of persons over the earth who cry out to God daily for a little relief from their veritable hell on earth. The literal exegesis of Jeremiah 29:11 — original context, alone — may appear to quench the spiritual appetite. But doesn’t all Scripture read us? Isn’t the Holy Spirit living and breathing through his Word?
Have we any right to despoil the person their experience of God’s grace?
God can, and does, work any way he pleases! He even works though bad exegesis to make as fools expert exegetes — if and as he wishes. (Now is the point of time to hear the echo of 1 Corinthians 1 and 2.)
God’s Word speaks to us in infinite ways.
Jeremiah 29:11 (36:11 in the Septuagint [LXX]) is the hope God is eternally wishing to communicate to all his exiles. We are all exiles at one point or other. When we face our very own exile, and we are hiding away in our deconstruction and reconstruction phases, for we don’t readily know who we are (again) yet, God seeks to buoy our hope. He wants us to know that the ‘70 years’ won’t last forever; that he is raising us even as we read his words. His plan is ever more being unveiled.
We ponder just what that could mean; being raised! A myriad of images are daubed over the screens of the eyes of our hearts. Each of these betokens the long sought after grace we, of our souls, cry out for.
For the person desperate for hope, should we disparage that hope? Never. Even if the person is incorrect (and how are we really to know?), would we be their disappointment? It cannot be.
We have a role when the ailing are before us; to encourage, not offend; to build-up, not criticise; to urge the person onward, not stop them in their tracks.
Jeremiah 29:11 means something very specific in the Bible, but it also provides millions hope every day. What is the greater application? What is the greater use of his Word?
God does have a plan for our lives. A plan to prosper us and to give us a future we hope for. Jeremiah 29:11 is a faithful beacon for all who lack hope, vision, and peace.
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.