For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a future and a hope.
This is a very popular verse, and for good reason. It is an encouragement sent to a people in exile. Once your exile has been completed, once the point has been made, the lesson learned, you will be redeemed. You will be recovered. None of this is destroy you, but to heal you.
I really like the next verse, though: Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.
So many times when I hear Jeremiah 29:11 quoted, they leave off the end, the bit about the future and hope. I miss that bit. That bit is so important. Isn’t that what all this is about? Our future? Our hope? We suffer through a painful life in this broken world, finding joy and peace in Christ, in the promise of a future? An eternal hope?
And it’s followed by verse 12. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.
So much of Jeremiah’s message is that it is too late. Judah has fallen too low to be saved. There is no crying out in repentance to be saved. But in the future, when the people are brought back, they pray in good faith and they will be heard.
God isn’t abandoning his people. This isn’t the end, no matter how much it might feel like it to them. This is a period of consequences, a time out. God will retrieve them, and the relationship will be restored. The conversation will resume.
I love this passage of hope, of promise, in the middle of the condemnation. It just further proves that God is merciful and loving. He is not the vindictive, angry God who relishes in calling down damnation on any who displease him. If he enjoyed the judgment, he wouldn’t go out of his way to include messages of hope and redemption.