"'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.'" -Jeremiah
This is the verse that people always spout off when what they really mean to say is, "Don't worry about it. It'll all work out." I'm one of those people that hand out this verse like candy to a crying baby. After spending hours with this verse today, it seems there has to be more to it than just words you say to someone at a crossroads in his life. (How many graduation gifts did you receive with this verse on it??)
As I was drawn to this verse again this morning, the word hope suddenly jumped up from the tissue-thin pages of my Bible, begging for attention. So of course, this got me thinking. What new insight should I be getting from this one word?
My first thought was to see how exactly the dictionary defined the word hope: "the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best; to look forward to with desire and reasonable confidence; to believe, desire, or trust."
My next thought was to research translations of this same verse in order to gain a different perspective on the word. Here's what I found:
- "...to give you hope in your final outcome." -Amplified Bible
- "...to give you the future you hope for." -The Message
- "...to give you an expected end." -King James Version
Jeremiah 29:11 isn't just some string of conciliatory words to throw out when someone is pondering his future. These words are a call to be strong and faithful in our hope of the great and wonderful things to come--God reigning victorious over all (see Revelation 19). That is the end that Christians believe and expect. We know that Christ is the manifestation of this hope that we feel, the hope that keeps us persevering in a sometimes difficult world.
My final thought was to look up the Hebrew meaning of hope. The Hebrew word is mikvah, and I was a little surprised by its meaning. Its literal meaning is "a collection of water," and upon further reading I found that mikvah is a ritual bath to obtain purity; a cleansing. Think baptism. Very interesting. From the original translation and intent of this word choice, having hope, then, is to wash away everything that is impure.
So, boys and girls, with what we've learned here, let's try the old "find and replace" in this verse, shall we?
"'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 [cleansing] and a future.'"
Where does this cleansing come from? From Jesus. Where is our future? In Jesus.
Hope is Jesus. Jesus is hope. No wonder that word was shining brighter than all the others.