Saturday, May 07, 2011

Speaking in Context

Jasper Speaks:

There seems to be much debate about the use of Jeremiah 29:11. There are many who say that the promises given there were limited to the Israelites. There are others who say that it is a universal truth. I fall on the universal truth side. Recently, a former student posted the verse on their Facebook page and was pretty much immediately scolded that she had taken the verse out of context. I say "hooey". That is a technical, theological word I learned in Seminary.:)

But seriously, I take exception to that argument. Here is why: Actually interpreting the verse in this more limited way is not great exegesis. You see the idea that the verse is meant only for the children of Israel is accepting a rather weak dispensational interpretation of the Old Testament. To assume that God's promises here are not given to the church of today as well is a bit short sighted as the verse also represents a theme that is constant in the Bible overall. The plans God has for us are good and lead to a hope and a future. Look at examples like Joseph and Job in the Old Testament and even Paul in the New Testament. To deny that there is an ultimate promise to those who love God found in this verse is not looking at the entire Bible in an exegetical, contextual way Dispensational theology although not all bad puts an undue emphasis on the role of Israel in eschatology. I believe this promise, in a proper whole Bible view, is for us today as much as it was for Israel at the time.

I think Warren Weirsbe does a good job of explaining the universal promise of Jeremiah 29 to us in his commentary entitled BE DECISIVE when he says:

" True hope is based on the revealed Word of God, not on the “dream messages” of self-appointed prophets (v. 10, NIV). God gave His people a “gracious promise” (v. 10, NIV) to deliver them, and He would keep His promise. God makes His plans for His people, and they are good plans that ultimately bring hope and peace. Therefore, there is no need to be afraid or discouraged."

Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Decisive, An Old testament study. (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1996), 123.  

I realize not everyone will agree with me on this point, however I completely believe that this verse is relevant to the people of God today. In my Hermeneutics class we were always challenged to see the meaning of Scripture for the people of the time and the meaning of the same passage for the people of today. I think that the meaning of this verse cannot be overlooked as God simply promising that He has a plan that it is good and it promises an ultimate prosperous outcome limited to the exiled Israelites. I think that at the time of course those promises were for them but those same promises can be trusted for the church today as well.

Thank you as I step off my soapbox. I would like to hear your thoughts.


jeff g said...

I am generally one of the ones that cringes when people apply that verse as a promise to today's church. I agree with you that the thrust of the verse is true and can be seen throughout scripture, but that is exactly why I don't think that verse should be used. Use the rest of scripture, that clearly speaks to all believers, to show God's care and provision and desire for our good. I say this because if people reverse this idea and say they can apply any OT promise to today they'll find themselves pretty confused. So that's my take.

Jasper said...

Thanks Jeff. I can appreciate that perspective.