(The Faith Forum Series)
Maybe the most popular verse in the Bible which many people love to quote from the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible is this: “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.”
Whenever someone is going through a difficult patch in his or her life, this is the verse that friends and well-wishers are quick to remind them of. For all ills in life, this is the verse that people gravitate to, as a sort of remedy for every wrong.
To be quite frank, it is my view, that this verse is exploited and misused, as it was not meant to be a remedy for all situations. First of all, it was spoken by Jeremiah the Prophet to the Israelite elders, the Priests, the Prophets and all the people that Nebuchadnezzar had carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon. In Jeremiah 29: 1 it states:
- “Now these are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem unto the residue of the elders which were carried away captives, and to the priests, and to the prophets, and to all the people whom Nebuchadnezzer had carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon.”
Jeremiah was telling them about God’s thoughts toward them and what he would do, given their present state of captivity, not his plans for the whole world or even for Christians today. Simply put, many Christians recite this verse as if it were a promise that God made to them when in fact, God did not.
It can be said in all fairness though, that God’s love for his children in the Bible days and his love for the Church today is the same, so that his character remains the same. That is a reasonable perspective to have. In that regard, it can be said that if he had good thoughts towards the children of Israel back then, that, based on his unchanging character, he also has good thoughts for the Church (those that belong to him because they have accepted Jesus Christ into their hearts), today.
That point cannot be disputed. I agree with it. However, to say that Jeremiah 29:11 is a ‘promise’ God made to Christians and to you and me is not true.
Furthermore, what you are not told by those who love to quote this scripture as a panacea for all ills, is that God’s ‘promises’ in the Bible days and even today, were and always will be conditional. He always qualifies his promises with the word ‘If’. If you choose to obey, then he promises to do this and that.
THE TRUTH is, God is not a God that operates like a fictitious genie. He does not have plans to bless his children, irrespective of whether they obey him or not. Simply put, you cannot live your life how you please and then quote this verse as some sort of antidote for your problems. It does not work that way. God is not mocked.
THE TRUTH is, what people do not tell you, is that God has ‘promised’ both BLESSINGS and CURSES, dependent on how you live. We must learn to rightly divide the Word of God and not pick and choose portions of it to suit ourselves.
In fact, THE TRUTH is, we don’t need to focus so much on the PROMISES of God, as we need to focus on GETTING OUR LIVES RIGHT in his sight. We don’t need to focus so much on being BLESSED, as we need to focus on OBEYING God. If we obey God and walk uprightly in his sight, the blessings will automatically follow and even overtake us.
Since we love to quote the verse that was used in speaking to the Israelites in Jeremiah 29:11, we should also note that in Deuteronomy 28, God spoke at length about his plans for the Israelites. However, although I hear a portion of it which talks about being the head and not the tail mentioned often, I hardly ever hear people quoting the rest of the verses. These additional verses make it clear that God is a God that promises to bless obedience but also promises to punish sin and disobedience.
His plans to prosper are contingent on OBEDIENCE and so he qualifies his promises of blessing with an IF. IF you obey me, then you will be blessed. IF you do what my Word tells you to do, then you can think favourably on my plans to prosper my children. IF you submit to my authority and align yourself with what you read in my Word the Bible and how I want you to live, putting away sin and disobedience, then you can look forward to me giving you a hope and a future.
When people tell you to claim the PROMISES of God and to declare his PROMISES over your life therefore, be mindful of the fact that God has ‘PROMISED’ both blessings and curses, dependent on how you live.
His ‘promises’ are not all good things as you may be led to believe. He also promises punishment and curses for poor choices. This principle still applies today to the Church and if you are not living right, then the ‘promises’ over your life are those of curses.
If you open your Bible and read it, you will see that this is what the Israelites were told in Deuteronomy 28, which puts God’s plan to prosper his children into perspective. It reads:
- “And it shall come to pass, IF thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the Lord thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth: And all these BLESSINGS shall come on thee, and overtake thee, IF thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God. BLESSED shalt thou be in the city, and BLESSED shalt thou be in the field. BLESSED shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy ground, and the fruit of thy cattle, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep. BLESSED shall be thy basket and thy store. BLESSED shalt thou be when thou comest in, and BLESSED shalt thou be when thou goest out.
- The Lord shall cause thine enemies that rise up against thee to be smitten before thy face: they shall come out against thee one way, and flee before thee seven ways. The Lord shall command the BLESSING upon thee in thy storehouses, and in all that thou settest thine hand unto; and he shall BLESS thee in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. The Lord shall establish thee an holy people unto himself, as he hath sworn unto thee, IF thou shalt keep the commandments of the Lord thy God, and walk in his ways.
- And all people of the earth shall see that thou art called by the name of the Lord; and they shall be afraid of thee. And the Lord shall make thee plenteous in goods, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy ground, in the land which the Lord sware unto thy fathers to give thee. The Lord shall open unto thee his good treasure, the heaven to give the rain unto thy land in his season, and to BLESS all the work of thine hand: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, and thou shalt not borrow. AND THE LORD SHALL MAKE THEE THE HEAD, AND NOT THE TAIL; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath; IF that thou hearken unto the commandments of the Lord thy God, which I command thee this day, TO OBSERVE AND TO DO them: And thou shalt not go aside from any of the words which I command thee this day, to the right hand, or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them.
- But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these CURSES shall come upon thee, and overtake thee: CURSED shalt thou be in the city, and CURSED shalt thou be in the field. CURSED shall be thy basket and thy store. CURSED shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy land, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep. CURSED shalt thou be when thou comest in, and CURSED shalt thou be when thou goest out.
- The Lord shall send upon thee CURSING, vexation, and rebuke, in all that thou settest thine hand unto for to do, until thou be destroyed, and until thou perish quickly; because of the wickedness of thy doings, whereby thou hast forsaken me. The Lord shall make the pestilence cleave unto thee, until he have consumed thee from off the land, whither thou goest to possess it. The Lord shall smite thee with a consumption, and with a fever, and with an inflammation, and with an extreme burning, and with the sword, and with blasting, and with mildew; and they shall pursue thee until thou perish.
- And thy heaven that is over thy head shall be brass, and the earth that is under thee shall be iron. The Lord shall make the rain of thy land powder and dust: from heaven shall it come down upon thee, until thou be destroyed. The Lord shall cause thee to be smitten before thine enemies: thou shalt go out one way against them, and flee seven ways before them: and shalt be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth. And thy carcase shall be meat unto all fowls of the air, and unto the beasts of the earth, and no man shall fray them away.
- The Lord will smite thee with the botch of Egypt, and with the emerods, and with the scab, and with the itch, whereof thou canst not be healed. The Lord shall smite thee with madness, and blindness, and astonishment of heart: And thou shalt grope at noonday, as the blind gropeth in darkness, and thou shalt not prosper in thy ways: and thou shalt be only oppressed and spoiled evermore, and no man shall save thee.
- Thou shalt betroth a wife, and another man shall lie with her: thou shalt build an house, and thou shalt not dwell therein: thou shalt plant a vineyard, and shalt not gather the grapes thereof. Thine ox shall be slain before thine eyes, and thou shalt not eat thereof: thine ass shall be violently taken away from before thy face, and shall not be restored to thee: thy sheep shall be given unto thine enemies, and thou shalt have none to rescue them. Thy sons and thy daughters shall be given unto another people, and thine eyes shall look, and fail with longing for them all the day long; and there shall be no might in thine hand.
- The fruit of thy land, and all thy labours, shall a nation which thou knowest not eat up; and thou shalt be only oppressed and crushed alway: So that thou shalt be mad for the sight of thine eyes which thou shalt see. The Lord shall smite thee in the knees, and in the legs, with a sore botch that cannot be healed, from the sole of thy foot unto the top of thy head. The Lord shall bring thee, and thy king which thou shalt set over thee, unto a nation which neither thou nor thy fathers have known; and there shalt thou serve other gods, wood and stone. And thou shalt become an astonishment, a proverb, and a byword, among all nations whither the Lord shall lead thee. Thou shalt carry much seed out into the field, and shalt gather but little in; for the locust shall consume it.
- Thou shalt plant vineyards, and dress them, but shalt neither drink of the wine, nor gather the grapes; for the worms shall eat them. Thou shalt have olive trees throughout all thy coasts, but thou shalt not anoint thyself with the oil; for thine olive shall cast his fruit. Thou shalt beget sons and daughters, but thou shalt not enjoy them; for they shall go into captivity. All thy trees and fruit of thy land shall the locust consume.
- The stranger that is within thee shall get up above thee very high; and thou shalt come down very low. He shall lend to thee, and thou shalt not lend to him: HE SHALL BE THE HEAD, AND THOU SHALT BE THE TAIL. Moreover all these CURSES shall come upon thee, and shall pursue thee, and overtake thee, till thou be destroyed; because thou hearkenedst not unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which he commanded thee: And they shall be upon thee for a sign and for a wonder, and upon thy seed for ever. Because thou servedst not the Lord thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things.
- Therefore shalt thou serve thine enemies which the Lord shall send against thee, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things: and he shall put a yoke of iron upon thy neck, until he have destroyed thee.“
This is the whole truth. This is what Deuteronomy 28 says in its entirety. God promises BLESSINGS only IF there is obedience and CURSES if there is disobedience.
As it pertains to the popularly used phrase in many Church circles, of “I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”, which is quoted from the New International Version (NIV), it is interesting to note that the verse in the King James’ Version (KJV), mentions nothing about ‘prosperity’ but ‘peace’.
It reads: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of PEACE, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
The people who also love to quote the NIV version of the said verse, to make people feel that they are entitled as people who ‘claim’ to know God, to prosperity, in the form of riches, promotion, breakthrough and selfish advancement in life, withhold valuable information from you and they get away with it because you refuse to read and study the Bible for yourself to see what it says.
They handle the Word of God deceitfully, contrary to 2 Corinthians 4:2, as they take phrases from questionable versions of the Bible and twist it to suit their purpose. This is a characteristic of the devil and those that are his children will do the same as he did to Eve in the garden, where he deceived her with half-truths and endless lies and as he still does today.
They don’t tell you for starters and as indicated before, that the Lord stated what he stated to the people of Judah, of the seed of the Israelites, not Gentiles (which is everyone who is not an Israelite). Even if they were relying on the principle that God does not change and remains the same and therefore would do the same for his people today, the Church:
- 1. They do not tell you that the Lord said what he said to the people of Judah who had rebelled against him, who he hard warned to repent but they refused to listen and who he eventually sent into captivity into the strange and far off land of Babylon, as punishment;
- 2. They do not tell you that the Lord said what he said to them, after letting them know that he had decreed that, due to their sins, they would stay in that place of captivity for seventy (70) years and only then, after they had served that time, suffered in that land and had time to think, reflect on their wickedness, seek him with their whole heart and repent, would he release them from their captivity and bring them back into their own land (restoration);
- 3. They do not tell you that the Lord said what he said to them, not because of any importance or entitlement on their part or anything that they had earned and certainly not just because they were his people but because he was a merciful God, giving to them what they did not deserve;
- 4. They do not tell you that what the Lord promised to do was still contingent on their wholehearted repentance. He would only move after they had confessed their wrong to him, turned from their evil ways and genuinely sought him, not because they wanted to be released from captivity but because they realized the gravity of their sin and was deeply sorry for it because it displeased God.
This is the context in which the verse was given. Don’t let the so-called prosperity and breakthrough preachers, teachers and speakers who are false therefore, fool you. Get into the Word of God for yourself and read what it says.
I personally recommend that you begin with the King James’ Version or the New King James’ Version or the New American Standard Version. I personally do not believe and with good reasons, that the New International Vision (NIV) is a version that is approved of God, as it contains many omissions and twisting of scripture, which I do not believe is according to truth. While there are other versions which I believe are acceptable, I have therefore resolved not to have anything to do with this particular version of the Bible.
(Written on 24th March, 2018, added to on 11th May, 2022)
Dear Reader, if you found the above Article to be informative, eye-opening, edifying and beneficial, you may also be interested in reading the following under the ‘BIBLE-BELIEVING Daughters of God’ Page:
- Note 18 – ‘Riches, Abundance, Breakthrough and Promotion – Lies From The Pit Of Hell’
Additionally, under the ‘SINGLE DAUGHTERS Of God’ Page:
- Note 43 – ‘Claiming The Promises of God – Part 1’
- Note 44 – ‘Claiming The Promises of God – Part 2‘