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  • Writer's pictureKevin Feder

The Welfare of Seeking God (Jeremiah 29:11-14)


['For] I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. ¹²Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. ¹³You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. ¹⁴I will be found by you,' declares the LORD... —Jeremiah 29:11-14

The book of Jeremiah greatly develops the metaphor of idolatry as adultery and uses the language of prostitution and unfaithfulness to describe Israel’s rejection of their God. Metaphors like these are jarring but they draw attention to the personal nature of sin. Sin isn’t merely breaking God’s law, and idolatry isn’t only religious in nature. It is a personal rejection of the almighty God who longs to be in fellowship with His people, despite their sin.


To understand these famous verses in Jeremiah 29, we need to start with what they meant for their original audience. God is speaking to His people, Israel, having just affirmed that they would be facing 70 years of captivity under Babylonian rule. This means the Israelites were taken by force to live under the rule of their enemies in a foreign land. Israel had been warned and warned again to turn away from worshiping idols. God’s patience finally turned to the judgment signaled in Jeremiah 25. The wonderful promise in chapter 29 came in the midst of God’s punishing His people for their refusal to worship Him alone.

The Purpose of Enemies

This promise, however, wasn’t for Israel alone. There are a few amazing details in these verses that highlight God’s wisdom and character. First, God uses our enemies to accomplish His purposes. Jeremiah tells us the Babylonians are “the cup of the wine of wrath” that the Israelites would drink (Jeremiah 25:15). In other words, Israel would be guzzling God’s anger while being oppressed by the Babylonians. God does not condone the Babylonians, He condemns them (see Jeremiah 50-51). Yet he still uses His enemies as an instrument to accomplish His good purposes in the lives of His people.

God’s Heart for Restoration


Second, reading this passage as Christians, we understand the true meaning of welfare. God is really after the hearts of his people: “You will pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” It’s common to quote these verses because they provide the hope of a future marked by welfare. Digging deeper we see what God really means by welfare, namely, that the people’s hearts would be zealous for worshiping the true and living God. Just a few chapters later, God promises to provide a new heart for His people (31:33). We learn that the heart condition of sinners is so dire that only the death and resurrection of Jesus can offer the healing that is required for true, satisfying fellowship with God.


How Suffering Points to Glory

Finally, we see that God uses suffering to humble us and cause us to hunger again for Him. In grace, He allows His people to suffer consequences and, as a part of His covenant, He uses hardships to draw them closer to Himself. Suffering climaxed in the cross of Christ where Jesus took the penalty for our sin. His death and resurrection show believers just how committed Almighty God is to our welfare. Even now He is preparing His people to enjoy their glorious future in His presence forever.

 

For Reflection

  1. What do you think God means by welfare? Do you think of it in terms of enjoying His presence?

  2. As a Christian, how should these promises shape your prayers of thanksgiving and supplication?

  3. What encouragement do Christians have knowing God’s heart toward us in Christ?

 

Kevin Feder lives in St. Michael, MN. He and his wife, Karen, have been married for 21 years and have three children between ages 14-18. Kevin has served in various pastoral roles since 2007, and is currently serving as the Pastor of Discipleship at Northwest Bible Church in St. Michael. His favorite leisure activities include fishing, hiking, broom ball, and coaching his son in baseball.

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