Plans For Your Well-Being
Jeremiah 29:10-23 reminds us that God's plans are for our well-being, not for disaster, but to make us thrive.
Have you ever wondered what God is up to? Maybe you’ve read in scripture how God is sovereign and good but then looked around at the world or at circumstances in your own life that just made you scratch your head.
The Israelites in Babylon were wondering, too. They were captives in the city of their enemies and God had just told them to be a blessing to their enemies. In so many words, God told them, “Don’t count the days until your return. Don’t live in the past or the future. Live in the present and try to help the pagan Babylonians thrive. Because the more they thrive, the more you will thrive.”
That’s a head-scratcher, but it’s none-the-less God’s plan so he reassures them in Jeremiah 29:11...
For I know the plans I have for you” — this is the Lord’s declaration — “plans for your well-being, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.
God’s words of reassurance tell us he knows what he’s doing, even if it doesn’t seem like he does. So, let’s look into verse eleven more deeply and examine the four points that need to be made—God’s plans are known, personal, good, and hopeful.
Verse eleven says, “For I know the plans I have for you.” The KJV has “thoughts” instead of “plans” and while it is true that God thinks of us, even when we don’t think of him, the better translation is “plans” because the meaning goes beyond God just thinking of us. God is also working out his plans for us.
Now the emphasis in verse eleven is on the fact God knows the plans he has for us. He says I know the plans I have for you. Repeating “I” twice is God’s way of saying, “I know what I’m doing.” We may not know what the plans are, but God does. Listen to some of God’s plans in verses 10-14. God says...
I will attend to you and confirm my promise (vs 10a)
I will restore you to this place (vs 10b)
I will listen to you (vs 12)
I will be found by you (vs 13)
I will gather you from all the nations (vs 14)
These are God’s plans for his people, and he will surely do all that he says. But it’s important to emphasize that when God says “you” he is referring to his people as a group, and not necessarily individuals. Of course, we are right to personalize his promises, but we don’t want to minimize the emphasis God has upon the community of believers.
God’s known plans aren’t all about us, but that doesn’t exclude them from being personal, too.
God cares about all the personal details of our lives. Every hair on our head is numbered and there isn’t any aspect of our lives that God isn’t involved with.
For example, a few days ago, our son lost his wallet and it had quite a bit of money in it. So of course, he was really worried. But after just a few minutes of searching, he remembered where he put it. Did he just “happen” to remember where he put it? Was that just a coincidence? I don’t think so, because God cares about even the relatively minor things in our lives. His plans are personal.
Jeremiah 29:12–13 says…
You will call to me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart.
God wants to have a personal relationship with us now. If we can’t see God at work in our lives, that’s not God's fault; it’s our fault because God is always at work. We don’t have to wait 70 years — or even 70 minutes — to talk with him, because when we call on Him, he listens.
It’s true that our relationship with God sometimes feels like a game of hide-and-seek. But it’s like a child playing hide-and-and seek with a parent. Our kids loved it when we would play hide-and-seek with them. And when it was my turn to hide, I tried to not make it too difficult for them and would even make little noises, to make it easier for them. God doesn’t want to frustrate us; he wants to be found!
Matthew 7:7–8 says…
“Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
So, God’s plans are known, and they are personal. Seek him. He wants to be found…by you.
Jeremiah 29: 11 says God has “plans for your well-being, not for disaster” and that’s just another way of saying God’s plans are good.
God had to remind Israel of this, because from their point of view, having to serve their enemies for 70 years didn’t sound very good. For most of them, that would have meant the rest of their lives!
Jeremiah 29:10 in the NIV says…
This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place.
The CSB for some reason doesn’t include the word “good” before the word “promise” even though it’s in the Hebrew, so I’m using the NIV here. Maybe it’s redundant to call God’s promises good, since God’s promises are always good, but it’s also important to emphasize it. And there’s nothing better than God's good promise of giving guilty sinners eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ. That’s the best promise of all!
But God’s plans aren’t just good in the future, they’re also good in the present. Remember what we read last week in verse 7?
Pursue the well-being of the city I have deported you to. Pray to the Lord on its behalf, for when it thrives, you will thrive.
See, God’s good plan was for his people to thrive, not just in the future but in the present. When Daniel and his friends served the kings of Babylon, they didn’t just barely survive, they thrived as they served others. Speaking of Daniel, Daniel 6:28 says “So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.”
Of course, prospering doesn’t always involve wealth, good health, and fame. Sometimes, God has more important things in mind for us in the present, but God’s plans for us are always good even when they involve difficulty.
Do we believe this? Sometimes I think we have difficulty believing it, which is one reason why we need to be here today—to be reminded. The truth is that if we love God and seek to obey Him, He will always work out everything for our good.
Romans 8:28 says…
We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.
Those that love God, and his purpose, will “pursue the well-being of the city” to whom we have been sent. This is a major part of our calling and purpose, and if we do it, then it is guaranteed that God’s plans for us will always be good.
Lastly, God’s plans are hopeful. God’s plans are known, personal, and good; but they are also filled with hope. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you...plans for your well-being, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
Literally, the words are “an end and a hope” or “a hopeful end.” In other words, our hope, guaranteed by God, is that, in the end, everything is going to be okay.
Israel had every reason to lose hope. They were in exile. So many had died. But God’s promise was for everything to turn out okay. In Jeremiah 29:14 God promises, “‘I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and places where I banished you’—this is the Lord’s declaration.” The word “fortunes” means “way of life.” In other words, God’s promise to the Jewish people was that their culture, even their uniquely Jewish way of life, would be preserved.
In verse 10, God said it would take 70 years before everything was restored. There is some debate over whether it was 70 years to the exact day or “about 70 years” that God had in mind. Either way, the point is that their exile wouldn’t last forever. And it didn’t because God’s good, personal plans lead to a hopeful reality, not just a pipe dream.
Jeremiah 29:14 says…
I will be found by you” — this is the Lord’s declaration — “and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and places where I banished you” — this is the Lord’s declaration. “I will restore you to the place from which I deported you.”
If that was God’s promise to his physical people, how much greater are his promises to his church? Much, much greater! So don’t lose hope. We can look back on God’s words and be comforted in the fact that God keeps his promises. When we go through hard times in the present, we don’t need to complain because we know the present difficulties and trials are a part of God’s good plan. It’s his way of preparing us for the future. And as we wait for God to complete his plan, we live by faith.
Hebrews 11:1 says…
Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen.
Without faith that God’s present plans are good, we won’t have hope. But we do have hope and faith. Having faith in God’s plans don’t just mean sitting idly by while we wait for everything to be accomplished. Instead, living by faith means doing what God tells us to do while we wait.
Which is what? For the Israelites in exile, living by faith meant building houses, planting gardens, and serving the people of Babylon. That was God’s plan for them while they waited for God to restore them to their land, and I think that’s primarily God’s plan for us as well. We are to pursue the well-being of the city God has put us in, because as those around us thrive, we will thrive.
God knows what he’s doing, and his plans are for our well-being, not for disaster, but to give us a future and a hope. So, let’s trust and obey him.