Friday, May 10, 2013

I Know the Plans I Have for You

I have a pet peeve about Jeremiah 29:11 being used as a celebratory text at graduation ceremonies. Here it is, from the NIV:

"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."

Image made freely available via
Thanks to dustytoes for sharing.
Now, don't get me wrong--that is a lovely verse, one from the inspired Word of God. It's actually a pretty amazing reminder that all things are in God's hands, after all. And that sort of blessing is probably very appropriate for graduates embarking on a new adventure, a new phase of life--especially when some are heading out into unknown territory.

The problem I have with people using this verse this way is that people are taking it completely out of context. Go and read the whole text of Jeremiah 29, and you'll see what I mean.

Yes, this is a lovely verse of blessing. But it's important to note that this lovely verse of blessing comes in the middle of a chapter explaining a brutal judgment. In this passage, Jeremiah is opening the eyes of the exiled people of Judah--people taken far from home as a means of punishment for their corporate, willful disobedience to the Lord--that this is God's plan for them. And notice that he's encouraging the people to settle in...they aren't going to be heading home any time soon. And yet, there is hope in the midst of judgment.

What a comfort that is! Even when we don't understand God's will for our lives, his purposes for how things are working out around us, we know that there is a sovereign God in control of all things. He knows us, He loves us, and He is watching over us. And even when we feel like everything is falling apart around us, He encourages us.

So when you hear this one being quoted at graduation season, remember this context. Unless your grad is headed out into exile (hmmm...), the full context might not be exactly the sentiment the well-intentioned scripture-quoter had in mind!


  1. And even better, read Jeremiah 21:11 in the (pre-industrial[planned-control-obcessed] age) King James Version, which makes use of the word "plan" on none of its pages: "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of eveil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you...."

    1. Thanks for the feedback, John! I'm inclined to agree--"plan" has a lot of modernist (industrial) connotations, doesn't it? Interesting to see this change in language and culture!

  2. One of my favorite verses... I read it this way, in times of deep trouble our Lord provides boundless hope.