Summary: Jeremiah 29:11 is one of the most popular promises that Christians love. And yet there are theologians who reject the idea that Christians have any hope from that promise. Why do these theologians believe that, and are they right?
Down through the years, baseball has had some exciting players. One of the most colorful, was a St. Louis Cardinal pitcher by the name of Dizzy Dean. One teammate noted that "When ole Diz was out there pitching … it was a regular three-ring circus. Everybody was wide awake and enjoying being alive.” (Pepper Martin). For example, there was a game between the Cardinals and the New York Giants (yes, New York had a baseball team named the Giants at one time). The Giants put runners on 1st & 2nd with 2 out. Then Dizzy intentionally walked the next batter so that the bases were loaded. That seemed like a bad decision because the next man at bat was a power-hitter named Bill Terry - who was one of the few players to ever have .400 batting average (he got an average of 4 hits out of every 10 times at bat). So now, Dizzy Dean has the bases loaded and is facing a dangerous man at the plate. It was at that point in the game that Dizzy left the pitching mound and walked over to home plate and said… “Bill, I'm sorry to do this to you, but I promised a girl that I'd strike you out with the bases loaded.” With that, Dizzy turned around and went back to the pitcher’s mound… and struck out Bill Terry with just 3 pitches. (Reader’s Digest 8/79 p.111)
Dizzy Dean made a promise, and he made good on it… because he was THAT good! Throughout the Bible God has made various promises to His people. And God always good on His promises… because HE is that good.
One of the most loved promises in Scripture is found right here in Jeremiah 29:11 “I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” One person noted: I once wore (that verse) on a bracelet as a teenager. It was on a poster on our children’s ministry door at church. My wife had it on our fridge for years, written on an index card. It’s one of the most memorized and cross-stiched verses of all time! (https://www.noahfilipiak.com/correcting-jeremiah-2911-god-really-plans-prosper/)
But, despite its popularity… there are people who absolutely hate how this verse is used, and will strongly deny that the promise in Jeremiah 29:11 is something we Christians can claim.
Now, some of this rejection of Jeremiah 29 is a reaction to the Health & Wealth Gospel. There are a lot of false teachers out there who say that “this verse promises earthly prosperity. Health and wealth are the lot of Christians. We are not to settle for second best, for we are children of the King. In this view, suffering and deprivation signal a lack of faith” (https://www.ligonier.org/posts/jeremiah-2911)
Now I totally agree with that. This view of God is an absolute heresy. But as a result of that heresy, many theologians have rejected the idea that this verse has anything to do with us. It’s essentially a kind of knee-jerk reaction to false teaching.
ILLUS: One person wrote – if you look at the verse before Jeremiah 29:11, you read: “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.’ Verse 10 takes away the mushy gushy feeling I get that God wrote verse 11 just for me and my life. And that’s the point. Has God sentenced you to 70 years OF banishment in Babylon? Did God ever promise you that you and your people would live in the land of Israel, so long as you followed the commandments he laid out in Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy? If you can’t answer “Yes” to both of the above questions, then the promise of verse 11 does not apply to you. (https://www.noahfilipiak.com/correcting-jeremiah-2911-god-really-plans-prosper/)
Someone else said “Context matters —God speaks at a particular moment in time, to a particular people group, for a reason. What this means is that God has plans (not for individuals… but) for a whole group of people, namely the nation of Israel. (https://relevantmagazine.com/faith/stop-taking-jeremiah-2911-out-context/)
In other words, the promise in Jeremiah 29:11 was for Israel… NOT FOR US. That’s what many theologians tell us.
(PAUSE) Now I have great respect for theologians. They’re smart people. But there are times that they can be downright annoying because theologians tend to not be able to see the forest for the trees. They focus on the minutia and tend to miss the bigger picture.
ILLUS: For example, years ago I was talking to a smart man and I quoted Genesis 12:3 “I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse those who curse you.” Being a kind of “theologian” he said to me: “That is not a promise for us. That was only a promise for Abraham. That’s the context of the verse - the promise was made to Abraham, not to us.”