A Future and a Hope

“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 recognize Jeremiah 29:11. We use it to cheer those going through a difficult time. We offer it to new graduates as a sign that their future is bright. When our own circumstances seem bleak, we repeat it to ourselves. God wants me to prosper. This is just a temporary setback.

The problem is, we take this oh-so-encouraging verse out of context and apply it incorrectly. I don’t want to rain on your parade, but misapplying Scripture is never a good idea. When things don’t pan out the way we think they should, we blame God. I know people who have even abandoned their faith altogether because they had expectations that God failed to meet.

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Context

I used to think the Bible was pretty easy to read. That was when I was young and thought I knew it all. Now I’m older, and I realize I’m pretty clueless!

Take prophesy, for example. As I read through books such as Hosea, Micah and Amos, the prophesies seem pretty clear cut: the Israelites have history with God. They’re messing up. God is distraught. God is warning them to return to him before the bad guys get them. And then he warns the bad guys that he’s going to judge them, too.

Granted, other prophetic books—Daniel, Ezekiel, Revelation—are totally mystifying, but that’s because they haven’t all happened yet. When the time comes, it will all make sense. Isn’t that how prophesy works?

Apparently not.

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