The LORD of host, the God of Israel said in Scripture: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope,” Jeremiah 29:11. I recall this was the exact passage assigned to me to exegete in one of my seminary class. I must admit to have a slightly different take on the passage back then. Thanks be to God, my years outside the pastorate allowed me to focus solely on the study and teaching of the Word of God. So after I had studied the context and the narrative from where the passage was taken, I have a better understanding of the said passage and also it’s application.
A word of advice to anyone wanting to enter the pastorate ministry. Sharpen your skills in exegesis. Focus on the teaching of God’s word. For that is the biblical mandate for anyone wanting to become a pastor. See Ephesians 4:11-14.
And He Himself (Jesus Christ) gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, equipping the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit.
Pastors in Greek are shepherds, task to watch over the flock of God. Our primary duty was to defend the Scripture. Keep Christians, the flock of God, from false teachings. Pastors are task primary to keep the spiritual well being of Christian under his watch.
To “exegete” means to expound or interpret a text in Scripture from within its context. It is therefore reckless and irresponsible to simply pick out a passage in Scripture and expound on it while ignoring the original intent and message of the passage.
First, we have to know who Jeremiah was; also, the time and focus of his ministry. Jeremiah was an Old Testament prophet of God, who for close to four decades spoke the oracles of God against Israel. See Jeremiah 25:1-3.
“The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah (that was the first year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon), which Jeremiah the prophet spoke to all the people of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem: “For twenty-three years, from the thirteenth year of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, to this day, the word of the LORD has come to me, and I have spoken persistently to you, but you have not listened.”
An interesting insight from Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, non-verbatim said: Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry began in the 13th year of Josiah’s reign (king of Judah, see Jeremiah 1:1-2), about 627 B.C. His ministry lasted about 40 years – through the very last days of the nation of Judah when the capital city of Jerusalem was destroyed in 586 B.C. (see Jeremiah 37:4-8). Interesting because similar to the first destruction of Jerusalem, the second and final destruction of Jerusalem spoken by Jesus Christ Himself (see Matthew 24:2, 15-21) was 40 years after His death, resurrection and ascension.
Next, Jeremiah 29:11 concerns God’s promise to His people in the midst of His pronounced judgment against Judah. (Only Judah, the half of Israel remains after the split of Israel, with the Northern kingdom first falling into the hands of a foreign empire – the Assyrians, about 722 B.C.). We have to understand that God declared a Seventy Years captivity and exile against the Jews as a punishment for their sin before their return and rebuilding of the city and the temple (see Jeremiah 25:12; 29:10). In hindsight, we know after they have returned and rebuilt Jerusalem and its temple most of the Jews remained adamant and have not been faithful to the LORD God, breaking God’s Covenant. See Malachi 1:14.
“Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished. For I am a great King, says the LORD of hosts, and My name will be feared among the nations.”
See also Malachi 3:8-9.
“Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me (God). But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me (God), the whole nation of you.”
Tithes and unblemished animal offerings were part of the Mosaic Law, God’s Covenant with Israel, it does not apply to us Christians for we are called to be people of God on the basis of the New Covenant. See Hebrews 9:14-15.
“How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Therefore He (Jesus Christ) is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant (Mosaic Covenant).”
See also Luke 22:17-20.
“And He (Jesus Christ) took a cup, and when He had given thanks He said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves (disciples of Jesus Christ). For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And He took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.”
Note: The kingdom of God in its fullness was realized or became a reality only after the Return of Jesus Christ. See 1 Corinthians 15:22-26.
“For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at His coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”
Now see Leviticus 1:1-3 concerning offering of animal sacrifices.
“The LORD called Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When any one of you brings an offering to the LORD, you shall bring your offering of livestock from the herd or from the flock. “If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer a male without blemish. He shall bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before the LORD.”
Malachi, recognized as one of the last Old Testament prophets who spoke on behalf of God before the coming of Jesus Christ. The offering of unblemished animal sacrifices were part of the Mosaic Law. Incidentally, the Mosaic Law was spoken to Israel at Mount Sinai at the time of Exodus as a Covenant making Israel God’s people. The apostle Paul in Galatians explained the purpose of the Mosaic Law. see Galatians 3:19, 24.
“Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary.” (Galatians 3:19)
“So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.” (Galatians 3:24)
In other words, salvation was never by works of the law but by faith in Christ alone. Incidentally, it is important to know that is the exact meaning of Paul in Ephesians 2:8-9.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Let us now go back and consider the full statement of God’s promised, see Jeremiah 29:10-14.
““For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you My promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.”
What is that future and hope God had promised? See Acts 28:20, 23.
“For this reason, therefore, I (Paul) have asked to see you (Jews in Rome) and speak with you, since it is because of the hope of Israel that I am wearing this chain.” (Acts 28:20)
“When they (Jews from Rome) had appointed a day for him (Paul), they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets.” (Acts 28:23)
The hope of Israel was fulfilled with the coming of Jesus Christ, and it has to do with God’s kingdom. Jeremiah also spoke of a return to Jerusalem, see Jeremiah 29:11-14.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.”
But the return of Israel to the physical land of Jerusalem was just a shadow of things promised. See Hebrews 10:1.
“For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near.”
See also Hebrews 11:8-10.
“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.”
Also Hebrews 11:16.
“But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared for them a city.”
Now, see and compare, a parallel promised of God in Jeremiah 29:12 may be seen with Isaiah 65:24, Scripture said “Before they call I (God) will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear.” And Isaiah’s prophecy also concerns a heavenly Jerusalem of joy and gladness. See Isaiah 65:18-19.
“But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress.”
Isaiah made clear that the promised of a heavenly Jerusalem concerns God’s New Creation, see Isaiah 65:17, “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.”
Jesus Christ speaking about the final destruction of Jerusalem with certainty saying, “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (Matthew 24:34-35)
By “this generation” Jesus Christ meant the generation witnessing the destruction of Jerusalem, which was fulfilled in 70 A.D., forty years after the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. Thereby, the generation of Jesus’ living apostles – Peter, John and the rest. Obviously, not millennia after as has been traditional taught among Christian congregation.
“Heaven and earth” cannot be the physical heaven and earth simply because in Isaiah 66:1, the LORD declared “Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool …” Did Christians meant God would destroy His own throne? What is the justification for that?
Rather, “heaven and earth” in Matthew 24:34 refers to the first heaven and the first earth, which in turn had to do with God’s Old Covenant. Just as the New Heaven and the New Earth refers to God’s New Covenant; hence, Christians belongs to the New Creation.
“Heaven and earth” see Revelation 21:1-6.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.”
Next, Christians are God’s New Creation. See 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
Incidentally, Jeremiah also spoke of the New Covenant. See Jeremiah 31:31-33.
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
And we find Hebrews teaching us the fulfillment of Jeremiah 31:31, God’s New Covenant. See Hebrews 10:12-
“But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until His enemies should be made a footstool for His feet. For by a single offering He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,” then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”
Jeremiah 31:31 and Hebrews 10:16 has to do with salvation that comes by faith. See Romans 10:8-10.
“But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”
God indeed is faithful to all His promises. In Revelation 21:4-5, God announced the fulfillment of all His promises, saying “Behold, I am making all things new,” then He said “It is done”. All things are done after God’s final judgment. See Revelation 20:11-12.
“Then I saw a great white throne and Him (Jesus Christ) who was seated on it. From His presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.”
Revelation 20:11-12 was the fulfillment of Daniel 12:1-2.
“At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.”
The “time of trouble” of Daniel’s prophecy was spoken by Jesus Christ in Matthew 24:15-21 speaking of its impending fulfillment; of which, Jesus Christ connects to the final destruction of Jerusalem and its temple. And as I have mentioned earlier, the final destruction of the temple was completed in 70 A.D., therefore, indeed Revelation 21:1-6 has been fulfilled and now a reality for Christians. By “Christians”, Scripture speaks of true followers of Jesus Christ; not in the loosely sense as it has come to be used today.
“So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath.For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be.” (Matthew 24:15-21)
See also Matthew 23:37-24:2.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house (temple) is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see Me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” “Jesus left the temple and was going away, when His disciples came to point out to Him the buildings of the temple. But He answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.””
The future and hope that Jeremiah promised to Israel had been fulfilled. Worry not, we Christians are privileged to the same promised. See Galatians 3:29. “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.”
Are you feeling troubled today? Do you fear the future looks bleak? If you are a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, worry not. God had fulfilled the future that has to do with the eternal; why worry about the temporal? The New Covenant realities of God’s promise is now, since all Scripture have been fulfilled not after we have died physically. Even if there are troubles around us, God promises “Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear (Isaiah 65:24).” Truth of the matter is, God’s dwelling place is now with His people (Revelation 21:3). The curse of Adam or banishment from God’s garden has been reversed.
The apostle Paul said “Look not to things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2Corinthians 4:18)
Take note that Paul uttered these words before all things were fulfilled. Paul knew God will always be true to His word, hence his faith was demonstrated through his words. Again Scripture said, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)
Consequently, in the midst of trouble or perceived trouble fear not. It’s just a bump on the road and Jesus Christ will certainly carry us through. It could just be a lesson or two that we ought to learn. For the Word of God said “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
Jeremiah 29:11 then has to do with God’s eternal plan for salvation. Paul, in Romans 8:31-32 said, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?
Finally, Jesus Christ said “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it. (Matthew 13:44-46)
The “kingdom of heaven,” the future and hope promised by God in Jeremiah 29:11 is now a reality to possess for everyone who believes in Jesus Christ, would you wish to exchange it for the goods of the world? If not, then there should be nothing much to truly trouble us now that we are in Christ Jesus?
True enough, “godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. (1 Timothy 6:6-7)
If you want to follow our journey of unlearning tradition and relearning Scripture and stay updated, you can head to our Home page and subscribe directly to receive notifications in your inbox.