Jeremiah 29:11: Is it a promise for us to claim?
Let’s first note the promise.
Jeremiah 29:11 (KJV)
11 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.
I’ve noticed that believers usually quote this passage from other translations. I’ve found that the New International Version is probably the most popular.
Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
11 “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.”
We all need encouragement. There’s no question about that. Have people been encouraged by reading this verse and relating it to circumstances they’re experiencing? I’m sure there are those who have. But I’m also just as sure that there have been people who have “claimed” this promise for themselves who have focused on the word “prosper” and “hope and a future” and ended up being very disappointed and discouraged with how things have turned out. They were not counting on that at all. Why is that? The answer is quite simple. This promise was never given to them in the first place. In fact, encouraged or discouraged, the promise was given to Jabez and no one else. What we have in this passage is simply the record of it. But, even having said that, I know there are people who’ll stand by the verse, believing God has used it to encourage them in their circumstances. Well, I’m glad they were encouraged, but I know their “claiming” of this verse didn’t have anything to do with things working out as they did. Why would I say that? Answer: Simply because the statement in the promise was not given to them of God. If it is as they claim, what proof do they have of that?
As you know, the name of this ministry is 4Us2UsMinistries. That’s because while ALL the Bible is FOR us, it is not all TO us or ABOUT us. As with anything, context is extremely important. It is never to be ignored! While there are promises, commands, and prohibitions in Scripture that are clearly TO us, there are many others that are not. Here’s one of many examples of this. Do you suppose this next verse or portions of it have ever been taken out of context and misapplied?
3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. [Emphasis added]
I’m sure there’s someone somewhere who has taken this verse and read it, or maybe just the first part of it, concluding that it “spoke” to them personally about some situation of their own. Someone has rightfully called such activity taking “a lucky dip,” that being to randomly point to a verse of Scripture and conclude from what they read that God was “speaking” to them through it. Maybe you’ve never seen anyone do this, but I have. The reality to such a situation was only presumption on their part with no real substantive value to it at all. The message above in the Genesis 12 passage truly did have great meaning to Abram [later called Abraham] because it was God’s promise TO HIM about HIS future. But nothing about it is a promise to anyone here today. Here’s a more complete reading of that passage.
1 Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee:
2 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:
3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.
4 So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran. [Emphasis added]
You’ll also notice that his nephew Lot went with him to see if he could benefit from what God had promised TO ABRAM. But this promise was not to Lot or to anyone today. Again, it was given to Abram and to Abram alone. The same can be said about the promise to Jabez. It was given to him and to him alone.
What can we learn from all this? It all comes back to the principle I mentioned earlier. All Scripture is FOR us, but it is not all TO us or ABOUT us. To think otherwise is to set someone up for perhaps some major disappointments. It can even cause someone to question the truthfulness of Scripture. This is particularly true when people claim some of the prayer promises in the Bible. Here are some examples.
7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. [Emphasis added]
Is this a promise to us today? Some people think it is.
19 Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. [Emphasis added]
Other authors of Scripture bring up similar promises.
9 And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
10 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. [Emphasis added]
There are many believers who’ve been met head on with disappointment and frustration after believing these promises were addressed to them.
14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. [Emphasis added]
It is when dealing with subjects and passages like these that the principle of rightly dividing the Scriptures becomes especially important.
II Timothy 2:15
15 Study [SPOUDAZO = be diligent] to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. [Emphasis added]
Believers who don’t learn the meaning of this command and apply it end up totally confused and frustrated in many situations. They claimed a promise not given to them, but things didn’t go the way they wanted and asked. But that’s because God never gave them the promise in the first place. It was given to someone else or to another people. In the case of Jeremiah 29:11, the promise was given only to Jabez.
Many years ago, I found a small popular book on this subject. I, too, wasn’t as clear in my understanding of it as I am now. But it is amazing what you discover when you’re faithful in the study of God’s Word. It’s not a case of why God hides these truths from us. He just wants us to dig for these treasures of truth. In the end, we may have to drop things we formerly believed but we then have a far greater appreciation for our Lord and the Bible.
By no means should we only claim those promises in the Bible that suit us. They’re not all ours to claim. If we look at the context of Jeremiah 29:11, we have a clear example of this. Let’s look at the preceding verse in that passage. I doubt you’ve ever heard of anyone “claiming” the promise of this verse.
10 For thus saith the Lord, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place. [Emphasis added]
Here we see that all Israel is going to be affected by what’s stated in this verse, not just Jabez. Better yet, we could go to another passage in Jeremiah that has another twist to it.
10 For I have set my face against this city for evil, and not for good, saith the Lord: it shall be given into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire. [Emphasis added]
I can only imagine what someone could do with this one. As you should be able to see, all these passages have nothing to do with us. There are usually general principles that can be drawn from any text in the Bible for application. But we must be very careful about what some call “spiritualizing” a passage. A person’s imagination can create all kinds of things and draw all kind of conclusions that are totally wrong.
Again, we must learn to honestly interpret and rightly divide the Scriptures. By doing so we can learn what God would have us to know so we can make applications that’ll be pleasing to Him. The apostle Paul never once quotes this Jeremiah 29:11 passage or anything like it as something directed to us today. That was a wonderful promise, but in no way is it to anyone today. But people often pick up on God’s promises to Israel or certain people of Israel and try to relate them to themselves or to us today. This is a tremendous violation of Scripture. Some of it can also be what we might call “wrongly” dividing the Word of God. The reality is that there are many wonderful promises, commands, prohibitions and more in Scripture. Some are certainly directed at us, but many are not. Again, sorting all that out is called “rightly” dividing God’s Word.
The subject of Scripture that is most important concerning this principle is to do with the means to one’s salvation. For instance, the apostle Peter makes a statement about this. Upon being asked about what one must do for salvation, note what he said to the people of Israel.
37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?
38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. [Emphasis added]
So, what does all this mean? To “repent” would mean for them to change their mind about the identity of this Jesus of Nazareth and accept Him as their promised Messiah. The baptism was water baptism that is here required for salvation. Because the apostle Paul had not yet even been saved, the meaning of what Christ had accomplished for the forgiveness of sins had not yet even been revealed. They are, therefore, told that they must repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins. Then in verse thirty-nine we see that all this was first addressed to people of Israel living there and around the world. But is this “the gospel” given to us today? It is not! Where is there anything here in Peter’s gospel message about Christ dying for our sins and being raised for our justification? Not one word! But Paul clearly states that these things are essential parts of the gospel message to us today.
I Corinthians 15:3-4
3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: [Emphasis added]
It is this that is OUR gospel, not the one Peter proclaimed in Acts 2:38. Can you not see that they are not the same? They are different! Christendom has tried to blend them, making them one and the same. But that’s one big major distortion of truth. People today can only be saved by receiving Paul’s gospel, not Peter’s. It is Paul’s gospel that’s to us. Peter’s gospel was to Israel! This is so extremely important because it represents gaining or not gaining eternal salvation.
The subject of this study has been Jeremiah 29:11 but there are many other passages like it that need this same application. Deuteronomy 8:18, 2 Chronicles 7:14, Malachi 3:8-11, Matthew 16:18, Matthew 28:19-20, James 5:14-16, I John 1:9 and many more such passages were never addressed to us. None of them are ours to “claim” as though they were ours. These are all wonderful passages of Scripture and there are wonderful general principles that can be learned from all of them. But the fact of the matter is that none of them are specifically TO us today. And people are not to take them out of context and make them say things they are not saying to us or to anyone today. It is in Paul’s thirteen epistles that you’ll find the promises that are addressed to us all today. Here are few examples.
8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. [Emphasis added]
28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. [Emphasis added]
2 Corinthians 5:1
1 For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle [our earthly body] were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. [Emphasis added]
2 Corinthians 5:8
8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. [Emphasis added]
1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. [Emphasis added]
8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. [Emphasis added]
6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: [Emphasis added]
20 For our conversation [POLITEUO = citizenship] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:
21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. [Emphasis added]
13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:
14 In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: [Emphasis added]
5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;
6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; [Emphasis added]
We could go on and on with this list. All these and many more are ours to claim and enjoy as ours. What more could we ask? I hope you’ll become familiar with all these passages as you invest time every day in the study of God’s Word. Time and time again you’ll find encouragement through every situation. But always be careful about claiming promises that were not addressed to us. Only frustration and confusion can come from that.