Do we need to redeem Jeremiah 29:11 from misapplication and misunderstanding and misuse? We can; simply by enjoying this promise in its context as it was intended.
I have cheated myself of the enjoyment of this passage in reaction to constant misuse within the church. It isn’t and never was about prosperity for the enjoyment of our flesh… it’s focus is not and never was about the ‘gifts’ God offers us… even blesses us abundantly with. I’ve found the words translated in the ESV provide help to better consider what God is promising here.
“For thus says the LORD¨ When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you¸ and I will fulfill to you my promise and I will bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me. When you seek me with all your heart, I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.” Jer 29:10-14
Even before these verses, the LORD is warning his people about the lies and deceit that is and will come from those in spiritual roles of authority (prophets, diviners). They dream dreams that are not the Gospel, yet they offer them in Jesus’ name.
Prosperity, yes. ‘Prosperity gospel’? NO. If prosperity is understood as ‘plans for wholeness and not for evil’ within the context of being exiled as Israel was and suffering/sorrowing as we often are… then YES, believe in Yahweh’s plans to prosper you. But if prosperity is understood as ‘plans to prosper and not harm’ or plans to give you all your wants (riches, health and wealth) in this world and not let anything too bad happen to you or too discomforting happen to you, then NO.
God’s purpose in the exile and God’s purpose in our suffering is clear in verse 12, “Then you will call upon me… ME, YAHWEH… and come and pray to me, and I will hear you”. When you are exiled and hurting/suffering, that’s when you will seek me and find me because you cannot provide or find help in circumstances and you will seek Me, Yahweh, with all your heart.
And when you have learned that Yahweh is your fulfillment, your wholeness, your prosperity, your future and your Hope, He will be found by you and He will pour out his blessings and restore all that He desires you to have and know.
Now, that may be here, in part; but it will most certainly be our future, in fullness.
This song provoked my thoughts down this road today. Enjoy.