Context always dictates interpretation, and interpretation determines application. Therefore, to correctly apply Jeremiah 29:11, "'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"," one must know the verse's context.
A few years earlier, 10,000 people from Jerusalem were taken captive to Babylon. False prophets accompanied them and gave the people false hope with their lies. Jeremiah wrote a letter to the exiles in Babylon in response. Jeremiah assured the exiles that God had good intentions toward the exiles" that they were in captivity for their preservation" and that at the end of seventy years He would bring them back to Judah. He urged the exiles to settle down, build houses, and expand their families. Evidently, the false prophets pointed to Jerusalem as the safest place on earth for the people of Judah and urged the exiles to return ASAP. The safest place, however, wasn"t Jerusalem, but Babylon! Those remaining in Jerusalem would be destroyed!
Many believers claim the Jeremiah 29:11 promise as their own to forecast good for themselves. Good, however, sometimes comes in captivity, in harsh circumstances, in a brand new beginnings. Had God not sent the remnant to Babylon, they would have been destroyed along with those who remained in Jerusalem. The providential hand of God led the remnant down an unknown, and unlikely in their own minds, path. For their good. It was then that He gave them the Jeremiah 29:11 verse-the verse that would sustain them for seventy years.
To understand God's promise, one must expand the context.
Jehoiachin, along with the scholars and the leading citizens of Jerusalem (including Daniel and his three friends), is exiled to Babylon in 597 BC. It is to these exiles that Jeremiah writes his letter (Jer. 29:4-28). List the instructions, warnings and promises given by Jeremiah to the exiles.
Review Exodus 23:10-16 and Leviticus 25:1-7; 26:34-35. God gives the exiles an expiry date for their captivity. What should this 70 year period teach them about disobedience? About God?
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