inconsolablesecrets asked: Unka! I hear a lot (especially on Tumblr) about verses being taken out of context. I understand when it comes to cultural laws and ways of the Old Testament, but I’ve also heard people say that verses like Jeremiah 29:11 are often quoted but out of context. Do these things apply to modern day Christians, or are they promises meant solely for the Israelites?
Unka Glen answered: Ah Christians, so good at telling you when you’ve got it wrong, so bad at telling you how to get it right. So let’s roll up our sleeves and figure this thing out. And to do that, we’ll need to visit… The Bible Nerdatorium!
Okay, first of all, you’re right, Jesus did establish a new covenant with us (a covenant is just an agreement with a promise). The old covenant was to live according to the Law of Moses. But when Jesus came, He said, (at the Passover meal just before He was arrested) “This cup is the NEW covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you” (Luke 22:20).
Later in the New Testament, Paul goes on to quote, of all things, a prophecy of Jeremiah (see what I did there?): “‘I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”, then Paul adds, “By calling this covenant ‘new’, God has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.”
So that’s the whole Old Testament versus New Testament thing, and now you’re saying “ah, I see, so I can just tear my Old Testament out of my Bible and disregard it, because that covenant is obsolete!”
Not so fast Moon Pie.
Context is about figuring out how to rightly apply the Word, not for dismissing it. So, in this case, the context is that you’ve got the people of Jerusalem who have been taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar. All this was happening because the people of Jerusalem had messed up, they had been told to stop messing up, and they just kept messing up anyway.
Then the passage in Jeremiah 29 reads: “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. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to 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 will bring you back from captivity”
You can’t throw that verse out just because you aren’t in danger of being kidnapped by the King of Babylon. But what we can do is ask ourselves: have I ever, or will I ever. ignore an instruction from the Lord and go my own way?
If so, this verse tells me that God’s heart will have the same attitude towards me, that He had towards those wayward Jerusalemites (Jerusalomians? Jerusaricans?): He desires to bless me despite my messing up, and that if I look for Him in the mess I’ve made for myself, I will find Him and His loving, forgiving, and restoring heart.