Background Text: Jeremiah 29:4-10
Devotional Text: Jeremiah 29:11-12
Did you ever wonder if God really does have a plan for you?
Well, the answers to this question are found throughout the Bible. When reading Scripture about God’s plan for our lives, we find that his plans continue throughout our lives. Whereas God may lead us to a certain career, the plans of God truly follow us through childhood, our teen years, our work years, and into our retirement. God always nudges us with things to do that serve his kingdom and give us joy.
Today, we are starting with a familiar Scripture. It is one from the Old Testament known and memorized by many. It is Jeremiah 29:11. However, in today’s message we will not only be looking at 29:11, but also verse 12, as well as verses 4 through 10.
I’d like to begin with looking at the background of these verses. Jeremiah was a prophet in Israel, living in Jerusalem. His ministry covered the period of 627-586 B.C. Although we do not have the actual date of his letter found in chapter 29, we know from what it says that it was written to the Jerusalem exiles taken into captivity by the Babylonians.
This exile lasted 70 years, so we can assume by the tone of the letter that the exiles had been living in Babylon for some time before receiving this letter written by Jeremiah as received from God.
The letter (29:4-22) begins with God’s word telling the exiles to settle down, build houses, plant gardens, marry and raise children, increase their population. He also told them to seek peace and prosperity for the city in which they lived. Most importantly, God told the people not to forget to pray.
The letter also warned the people against false prophets who would lead them away from God’s true plans. Jeremiah follows these instructions with the well-known verse 29:11, “’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.’”
It is completed by verse 12, “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
Some people memorize only Jeremiah 29:11 and leave off the verse that follows it. These two verses are actually a part of the whole.
Let’s take a look at how the exiles were probably feeling. Just like we experience when tragedy or disaster strikes, there is depression, there is moaning, there is a feeling that life can never be the same. This was certainly true for the exiles. They needed to hear from God, and they did so through the prophet Jeremiah.
We have to read the back story to find out how life in Jerusalem was before the Babylonians took over their land. We have to go back to chapter 25 and read about how the people had turned away from their God.
They were not listening to Jeremiah’s warnings. Instead they wanted to kill him. They worshiped false idols, committed adultery, and so much more. Jeremiah kept warning them that disaster would take place if they did not return to God.
However, as we read chapter 29, we find that God had not given up on his people. Nor does he give up on us. No matter what they had done in the past, the Lord sought them out to return to him. But first, they needed to be ready for renewal.
The people needed to get through their depression and denials and begin to live normal everyday lives again. They needed to enjoy life where they were: settle down and build, marry and raise families, prosper and increase the population. And, they needed to remember to pray to their God.
This wisdom was as true then as it is today. Once we return to living a life of hope with commonplace things to keep us busy, we can then center on God. As we seek him, he is always there waiting for us.
As we pray to God, turning our lives over to his wisdom and plan for us, we can ask for those things that lift us up, as we turn from negative emotions that drain hope from us.
This is God’s word to all of us. If we are going through troubled times, unsure of what to do, feeling lost and forgotten, or just plain trying to figure out what God’s plan is for us, God is there. He is with us, waiting for our prayers, as we lay our lives before him.
In chapter 29:11, God talks about his plan. He spoke to the exiles just as he speaks to us. He has a plan for each of us, and these plans will not hurt us. They will instead help us to live a good life, for God’s plans are always based on hope and a future that is good.
God wanted the exiles to understand the same things he wants us to understand today. Stay away from those who lie and give bad advice. Live your day-to-day life doing the normal activities of living: work, marry, enjoy life with friends and relatives, do good toward one another, don’t forget to pray, and think positive thoughts about your life so you can see God’s plan for you.
The second part of Jeremiah 29 is verse 12. Here, God tells us that as we live the best way we can with what we’ve got, we should continually seek God, pray to God, and be ready for God-given opportunities.
When we seek God with all our hearts, that is when we find God. As we talk things over with God, he will answer us in various ways. It may be through what we read in Scripture. It may be a good friend’s advice. It may be a nudge inside of us through the Holy Spirit, or a whisper that will lead us toward God’s plan.
We often have to wait before God leads us to his plan for us. He asks us to wait patiently, until the right time comes along. Then we find ourselves excited and full of God’s joy as we discover the plan of God that fits each one of us so perfectly.