People have been deceived into thinking God has a prosperous plan for their life by distorting verses given to Israel about their captivity.
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” – Jeremiah 29:11
Do you recognize this verse? Perhaps you better recognize the NIV distortion from the bookmarks and t-shirts:
“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.” – Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
This NIV verse has been used to teach the mythical God-has-a-perfect-plan-for-your-life gospel. Unfortunately, unless you think you are Israel held against your will in Babylon for the past 70 years, there is no hope for you in Jer 29:11.
God’s Plan for Israel
Contrary to the Calvinistic predetermined (and evidently prosperous) plan that God has for each one of us, the Lord God is talking to his chosen people Israel.
Note Jeremiah 29:8: “For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel…”
The thoughts that God has toward Israel were not only known by him, but known by every covenant keeping Israelite. His purpose for Israel was promised to the fathers.
“And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:” – Genesis 12:3
As always God made his will known to mankind. God’s will is never something we must seek out like a riddle in God’s mind (Deut 30:14, Eph 1:9).
70 Years of Captivity
A lot of people do not live to 70. Most people want God’s “prosperous plan” for their life to be delivered before they retire.
Yet, in Jeremiah 29:10 God says that it will be 70 years before he will perform his good works to the nation.
“For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you…” – Jer 29:10
Not only so, but God clearly reveals his “expected end” to Israel:
“… I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.” – Jer 29:10
Unlike the distorted NIV, God had no plans to prosper Israel in the subsequent 70 years, although he had told them they could have peace as it says correctly in the KJV:
“And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.” – Jeremiah 29:7
God’s thoughts toward Israel were for “peace, and not of evil, to give [them] an expected end” (Jer 29:11).
Gathering Israel Together
After the 70 years of captivity, if God’s people humbled themselves, then he would perform his promised purpose for them:
“I will be found of you, saith the LORD: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the LORD; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive.” – Jer 29:14
He is not talking to all nations, and especially not anyone in your community, when God makes the statement of “thoughts I think toward you” or the distorted “plans I have for you”. These were his thoughts toward Israel according to the promises made to the fathers.
God’s thoughts for Israel became a reality when Daniel prayed for the nation according to Jeremiah 29:10-11 (Dan 9:2-4).
God’s Thoughts for the Church
God’s thoughts for the church today are not for 70 years of captivity, nor for gathering us into a land promised to the fathers of Israel.
God’s purpose for your life today is to be saved by the gospel of the grace of God and to learn what is the fellowship of the mystery of Christ (1 Tim 2:4, Eph 3:9-10). Neither of these things were known in Jeremiah 29 by anyone in Israel living under a covenant.
It’s time to stop twisting scripture to meet our own desired ends and let God think his own thoughts about whom he wants to think them.