Jeremiah 29:11 is an often-quoted verse. It says: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,” says the Lord, “thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (N.K.J.V.) The Hebrew word that is translated as “thoughts” carries with it the idea of planning, plotting, intending, devising, imagining, and purposing. That’s why every translation other than the King James and the New King James translate the word as “plans.” For example, the N.I.V. renders the verse: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” The point is, God doesn’t just think good thoughts; He also devises plans that will bring those good thoughts to pass.
Obviously, this is a beautiful verse that conveys a very pleasant idea. But we must be sure to take the verse’s context into account. This isn’t Paul writing to Christians. This is God speaking through the Jewish prophet Jeremiah to the Old Testament Jews. God is telling them what He is going to do for them once their seventy-year captivity in Babylon has ended. The previous verse, verse 10, makes this clear. It says: For thus says the Lord: “After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform my good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place (Jerusalem).” So, you see, there really isn’t anybody alive on Earth right now who can specifically claim verse 11 as their own.
This doesn’t mean, however, that the general principle of the verse can’t be carried over into our day. We shouldn’t think of God as creation’s mean-spirited policeman. We do Him an injustice when we depict Him as a cosmic killjoy who won’t let us have any fun. The truth is, He would much rather think good thoughts than bad ones toward people. He’d much rather devise plans for good than bad. He’d much rather bless than judge.
God didn’t enjoy allowing the Babylonians to conquer Judah and carry the Jews off to Babylon for seventy years of captivity. He only did that because those Jews needed chastening. For a 490-year period, they had ignored His command to let the land rest every seventh year (Exodus 23:11). This meant that they owed the land seventy individual years of rest. The land got each year of that rest during those seventy years the people were exiled in Babylon (Leviticus 26:27-35; 2 Chronicles 36:15-21).
Certainly that punishment conveys one side of God’s nature. But it isn’t the only side. As soon as the seventy years of whipping were finished, what was God’s word to those Jews? It was, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Do you see the perfect balance?
If there were ever any lingering doubts about God loving all people, they were dispelled when Jesus (God the Son) came into this world and became one of us. This was God giving to all humanity the absolute best He had: Himself. He did this even though He knew the gift would be ridiculed, misunderstood, mocked, rejected, arrested, whipped, and nailed to a cross to die. Why would God do such a thing? To save believers from their sins! As John 3:16 says: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (N.I.V.)
I don’t know how you are feeling right now. But I can tell you with all certainty that God loves you. He loves you so much that Jesus died for you so that God can spend all eternity with you. You’ve got to love someone a whole bunch to want to be around them forever!!! Jesus came to Earth so that you could go to Heaven. He lived and died so that you could die and live. He paid a debt He did not owe because you owed a debt you could not pay. So the next time you to start to doubt that God loves you, look to the cross. There you’ll find the indisputable measure of His love.