The prophet Jeremiah gives a beautiful prophecy of encouragement to God’s people who are in the midst of intense trials. He gives them a message of hope. It is there, in this foreign land with foreign gods, feeling abandoned and lost, that the prophet Jeremiah gives the Jewish exiles a message of hope, the hope of a great future. The Lord envisions a beautiful future as the ultimate purpose for His people.
Jeremiah 29:11 - Because I know the plans which I am planning concerning you, declares the LORD, plans for peace (shalom) and not evil, to give you a future and a hope.
Maybe you are a mess or in a messy situation. God can take your mess and turn it into His message. Your mess can become His message of hope and restoration. He knows how to make it all work. He is the ultimate craftsman. Do you believe it? Faith, which is the substance of all hope, is essential for this message to go forth. There is always hope.
Perhaps we are not in the physical exile and far away from Babylon; nonetheless, we can experience the reality of spiritual exile. If you belong to the Messiah, then you live in a world hostile to God. Being His disciples makes us not of this world, but the children of God who represent the kingdom of God. Exile did not define Jewish people; likewise our circumstances do not have to define us. We have an eternal destiny with God; we serve the King of Kings and the Ruler of all nations.
God Has a Plan for You
God wants to take your broken pieces and make a masterpiece. Interesting to note, when we are going through a time of adversity, our ability to receive comfort and encouragement is slightly diminished. We refuse to hear the words of hope; we want to have our problems solved now. We get caught up in the moment and lose sight of the big picture. God sees the transformation process that will ultimately be completed in eternity, and the end result will be stunning. C.S. Lewis grappled with similar thoughts as he wrote in his book, “The Problem of Pain” wrote this:
“We are, not metaphorically but in very truth, a Divine work of art, something that God is making, and therefore something with which He will not be satisfied until it has a certain character. Here again we come up against what I have called the “intolerable compliment.” Over a sketch made idly to amuse a child, an artist may not take much trouble: he may be content to let it go even though it is not exactly as he meant it to be. But over the great picture of his life—the work which he loves, though in a different fashion, as intensely as a man loves a woman or a mother a child—he will take endless trouble—and would doubtless, thereby give endless trouble to the picture if it were sentient. One can imagine a sentient picture, after being rubbed and scraped and re-commenced for the tenth time, wishing that it were only a thumbnail sketch whose making was over in a minute. In the same way, it is natural for us to wish that God had designed for us a less glorious and less arduous destiny; but then we are wishing not for more love but for less.”
We can become obsessed with our problems and consumed by our pain, we want to make our lives work above all else; and at times, we even equate the love of God to the size of our blessings. It is exactly when things are uncertain that God clearly says through the prophet Jeremiah, “I know the plans which I am planning for you.” The knowledge, conveyed by this verb, is not an abstract concept; rather, it is something, which the subject is aware of without question. God "knows" in the sense of having information or facts about reality ahead of the actual occurrence. He is aware of the way things are and are going to be. God has great loving concern and uses His knowledge for our good. When we humble ourselves before the Lord and listen to Him, we will experience a deeper revelation of who He is and what He desires, and testify back by acknowledging Him in all our ways.
Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”
God told Jewish exiles to make the most of their difficult circumstances. In the midst of the severest trial imaginable, after they had lost everything and been deported to a foreign land, they needed to be a strong testimony for the Lord and acknowledge Him in every way. If you are in the midst of struggles, be assured of the promise that God has a plan. You are on His mind, He is thinking about you. Let’s take a closer look at Jeremiah 29:11,"I know the plans, which I am planning for you." The word plan is khashav in Hebrew; and it means to regard, to invent, to think, and to consider. It primarily denotes "to think," which then results in a corresponding action. A person makes plans with the intent of carrying them out, or he regards something in a certain way, which then affects his actions toward that thing. God is fully aware of your difficulties and is in the process of creating plan of action for your good. In other words, when we find ourselves in adverse circumstances over which we have no control, we should wait on the Lord, trust his Word, and be patient.
God is Your Personal Redeemer
Furthermore, it's stated in Jeremiah 29:11, “declares the LORD.” Here we see that the personal name of the living God, YHWH (Yahweh) is used, which is found 6,823 times in the Tanakh (Old Testament). This is God's redemptive, covenant-keeping Name, sometimes called, HaShem in Hebrew, The Name (Leviticus. 24:11,16), as well as "glorious and awesome Name" in Deuteronomy 28:58. In the Scriptures, Elohim is often used in passages that speak of God's sovereignty, while the LORD is used in passages that speak of personal redemption. For example, Elohim gave commands to Noah, but the LORD shut the door of the ark (Genesis 7:16).
In Jeremiah 29:11, God is the personal Redeemer; He is the one who makes a promise, devises the plan and the One who executes His plan, personally. He continues to give assurance that the thoughts and plans He is planning for us are for peace, for shalom. What does word Shalom mean? In some instances Hebrew word, Shalom is translated as peace, welfare, safety. It is that and there is much more. In Genesis 15:15, Abraham is told he will go to his fathers (die) in peace and be buried at a good old age. Peace, here, refers to finishing one's life happy and with a sense of fulfillment. It would include contentment, prosperity, and freedom from oppression by others and a sense of completion.
The LORD has provided for all people to have peace and restored harmony with Him through Messiah bearing our punishment (Isaiah 53:5); and in the future, He will establish His kingdom where peace will be the hallmark of His reign on earth (Isaiah 9:7). Yeshua is our Shalom (peace), who removed walls between Jew and Gentile, rich and poor. He is our Bridge to the throne of grace. Yeshua the Messiah is our source of peace and grace.
Ephesians 2:14 - For He [Yeshua] is our peace, the one who made both groups into one and who destroyed the middle wall of partition, the hostility, when he nullified in His flesh the law of commandments in decrees. He did this to create in himself one new man out of two, thus making peace.
Shalom is used of harmony with God in which all a person's needs are met and the person experiences wholeness. It’s beautifully summed up in the priestly blessing for God's people:
"The LORD bless you, and keep you: The LORD make his face shine upon you, and be gracious unto you: The LORD lift up his countenance upon you, and give you Shalom (peace)" (Numbers 6:24).
God is planning for us plans that will result in Shalom and not in evil. When we go through trials, we often may feel like God is against us; everything is going toward destruction. God wants to make sure we understand that it is not so, and He is making it clear, “the plans which I am planning for you, declares the Lord, are plans for peace, and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).
The Hebrew word for evil is ra-ah, and it means disaster, evil. While English draws a fairly sharp distinction between moral evil and physical imperfection or calamity, the Hebrew vocabulary blends the two. Similarly, the term can apply both to misfortunes received passively and to evil performed actively. In many passages, the context must determine the emphasis. The foundational concept of the word group to which ra-ah belongs is a description of something that is the opposite of good. Indeed, it is often used in contrast to the Hebrew word, tov, good in English. The term can describe physical harm or spiritual and ethical departure from the ideal. Sometimes, we see our trial as evil, but actually they are part of God’s plan.
Struggling with Purpose
Consider each aspect and meditate on the Scriptures provided and then take time to apply them to your life.
- Trials turn you to God. "As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, 'Where is your God?' (Psalm 42:1-6)
- Trials bring God to you. "You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry." (Psalm 10:17)
- Trials motivate you to cry out to God. "I cry aloud to the Lord; I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy. I pour out my complaint before him; before him I tell my trouble. When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who know my way. In the path where I walk men have hidden a snare for me." (Psalm 142:1-3)
- Trials lead to personal examination. "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." (Psalm 139:23-24)
- Trials draw you back to God's will. "Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word." (Psalm 119:67)
- Trials draw you to God's Word. "It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees." (Psalm 119:71)
- Trials produce a hatred of sin. "Since Messiah suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin." (1 Peter 4:1)
- Trials produce a heart of humility. "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time." (1 Peter 5:6) "Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy." (Psalm 126:5)
Therefore, let’s keep in mind that all the trials in our lives are His blessings in disguise. God has a future and great destiny for each one of us and He is using even trials to chisel us into His masterpiece. Everything that happens to us has its purpose. As it is written, "God has made everything beautiful in its time. In the day of prosperity be happy, but in the day of adversity consider. God has made the one as well as the other" (Ecclesiastes 3:11; 7:14). I love how
Tony Evans poignantly said, “When the person is prepared for the purpose and the purpose is prepared for the person, God creates a hook-up called destiny.”
God is planning a future for you
“The plans which I am planning for you, declares the Lord, are plans for peace, and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).
Finally, let’s take a deeper look at the word future. The word future in the original language is akharit sometimes is used to denote time. Genesis 49:1 says that Jacob gathered together his sons to tell them what would happen to them in the last days (literally, the end of days). The phrase "last days" (or its equivalent) often has prophetic significance. In this verse, Jacob was foretelling what would happen to his descendants both in the conquest and settlement of Israel.
Secondly, the word akharit, is used in the Bible to denote the destiny or conclusion of something. In Numbers 23:10, Balaam wished his end would be like that of the righteous. In Deuteronomy 8:16, Moses explained to the Israelites that God had humbled and tested them so that it might go well with them in the end. God is not nearsighted, but He has the whole picture of our destiny in view. He has a destiny prepared for you, all people who trust in Him. In order to gain fuller understanding of the biblical meaning of destiny or future, let’s take a look at Greek translation of Hebrew Scriptures, called Septuagint.
The Hebrew word for future, akharit, is translated into Greek mello, and means purpose or intent. It indicates that something is about to be done with a strong probability in the present or the future. The Greek word, mello, became strongly deterministic in character. A strong example of this concept is found in the book of Job.
Job 19:25-26 - "As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth. 26 "Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God.”
In the context of Jeremiah 29:11, the Scriptures communicate a message that in spite of the present persecution and suppression that Israel was undergoing, it was inevitable that God would one day triumph over all His enemies and crush them.
Furthermore, this word, mello, was used in connection with the last time or end time or the age to come, in Hebrew, Olam Haba. In Jewish mindset, there has always been a dualistic view of history: this age, Olam Hazeh, and future age, Olam Haba with the future reign of the Messiah, the age to come, when God would vindicate His people.
This concept is taught through the New Testament, showing both deterministic aspect as well as dualistic view of the ages, and is used to amplify the glorious future as our inescapable destiny. Although the New Testament is not deterministic in a way that would violate an individual’s free will, the New Covenant uses mello in a way that the degree of probability of something happening is so great that it can be spoken of as inevitable, for example, in Romans 8:18, “ For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
We have a limited number of days on earth. We are here for a reason; therefore, we are to live purposefully. Each day presents us with an opportunity to live life well, for His glory. This life can shower us with many blessings, but the best of all is still and always will be knowing God and being His. I am with David, when he declares:
"The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You support my lot. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me. You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever " (Psalm 16).
No matter how difficult our journey may be, or how fierce is our battle, no matter how many mistakes you made, believe that God is making a masterpiece out of all your broken pieces. This is our hope, our future and our eternal destiny. It will be all worth it in the end.