“ ‘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.’ ”
Joel S. Heckendorf
POW! SHAZAM! KABOOM! ZING! Decades ago, such “exciting” words set the tone for an action-packed episode of the Batman TV series. Similarly, the favorite verse before us today is chock-full of exciting words: PLANS! PROSPER! HOPE! FUTURE!
While spontaneity provides excitement for our daily activities, it is rarely a welcome guest for the long term. We make career plans, retirement plans, and wedding plans. Yet, all too often, we realize the truth of the adage, “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” God’s plans are different. They never go awry. And his plans include you. Before he set his creation plan in motion, he planned for you. When sin entered the world, he revealed his plan to send a Savior. When the time had fully come, he executed that plan. Through that Savior, his eternal plans include you.
Who doesn’t get excited about the word prosper? Fancy cars. Luxurious homes. But what does God mean when he promises prosperity? As sinful human beings we lack something bigger than Porsches and mansions: peace. Until the relationship with our perfect God has been mended, we will always be searching. Through Jesus, the Prince of Peace, we gain what our sin lost. And we soon realize that only when we have peace, do we have prosperity.
A quick online search shows there is no shortage of “hope” quotes. It’s not a coincidence that the book of suffering Job employs the word hope more than any other book. Until we’re in heaven, we’ll always have reason to hope, because we’ll have reason to look for something better. In Jesus, that’s exactly what we get. Through Jesus, we can be assured that the best is yet to come.
Celebrations are short-lived. Within a day of hoisting the championship trophy, general managers are looking to re-sign contracts for next year’s championship run. We are future-driven people. While we may miss the present blessings in our lives, thank God that he has wired us to be future driven, for the future is with him.
PLANS! PROSPER! HOPE! FUTURE! Exciting words. Everything else in life may be relegated to yadayadayada. Yet it’s the yada in this verse that offers the greatest comfort and care. In the original language of the Bible, yada is the word for “know.” How awesome that your plans, your prosperity, your hope, and your future are not dependent on your feelings or experiences. They are known by God, and there’s no better place to be.
Questions to consider
1. Think of a time your plans went awry. How did God reveal the wisdom of his plans?
Answers will vary.
2. Jeremiah wrote to a wayward people of God, yet the Lord promises them prosperity, which literally is the Hebrew word shalom, or peace. How does the context affect your understanding of this promise?
While we may give up on God, he does not give up on us. He constantly seeks to restore the relationship, the shalom, that we have with him through Jesus.
3. “While I breathe, I hope.” Analyze the truth of that ancient proverb.
Perhaps it’s because we live in such a time-centered society, but it seems like we are constantly looking to the future. We wonder, How long will I live? What will I be when I grow up? But we soon learn that all our dreams for the future are not certain. The only thing that is certain is heaven, because “In Christ alone, my hope is found.”
4. Why can looking back be the best way to face the future?
The future will always be unknown. But when we look to the past, not just the past of our lives but the past history of the world as God reveals it in Scripture, we see his loving hand steering all things for our good. Thus, we can have confidence for the future.
Contributing editor Joel Heckendorf is pastor at Immanuel, Greenville, Wisconsin.
This is the eleventh article in a series on the 12 most popular Bible passages accessed in 2012 through Bible Gateway, an online Bible resource.
Scripture references in this study are taken from the New International Version 1984.
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Author: Joel S. Heckendorf
Volume 101, Number 9
Issue: September 2014
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