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Misreading the most cross-stitched verse of all time

Series: Out of Context
Devotional: 4 of 4
Published: February 24, 2020

“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)

Over the past four weeks, we have been examining a few of the most popular Bible verses and how their meaning can only be properly understood when read in context. Today’s verse is no exception.

This just might be the most cross-stitched verse of all time, found on countless pillows, keychains, and coffee mugs. I mean, who doesn’t love the promise of prosperity and hope for our careers and families? The only problem is, these promises weren’t made to you and me.

These promises were made to a specific people, at a specific point in time, under a specific set of circumstances. The Lord delivered this promise to Israel in the midst of His punishment of His people. Just a few verses prior to this famous passage, we are told that God had “carried [Israel] into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon” for their disobedience (Jeremiah 29:4). Which makes the true meaning of this verse all the more beautiful—even though God was punishing His people for their sins, He was reminding the Israelites that He would still be faithful to the promise He made to Abraham. He still had plans to give them a “hope and a future.”

Like the rest of Scripture, this verse isn’t primarily about you and me. This is not a promise that God will choose to prosper us at work or at home. This is a verse to remind us of God’s faithfulness—even when we are unfaithful to Him.

And that truth is far greater than the promise of prosperity. So please, don’t throw out your Jeremiah 29:11 throw rugs. Take comfort in what the context of this verse says about God’s character—that even when you and I sin, through Christ we are not seen by God as “sinners”. We are seen as His children who have been promised adoption into His family for all eternity.

Let that “blessed assurance” make us all strive to work and live in a way that would reflect the character of our good, gracious, and faithful Father.

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