10 “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 bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me; when you seek me with all your heart, 14 I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.
I have been reading in Jeremiah lately and came across this passage. As I read verse 11, I recognized it as a "popular" verse that people like to quote and put on cups and pictures, etc. Don't get me wrong, I love the verse myself. I may even have a travel cup that has it written on it and I don't mind the reminder of the goodness of God at all!
What struck me is that so many times we become familiar with a particular verse and forget that there is a context, and by doing so lose some of its meaning. In this case, the children of Israel were in captivity because of their unfaithfulness and disobedience to God. But, God already had thoughts or plans for them. He didn't just randomly have a good thought or plan - He just keeps His word. Period. And in spite of their shortcomings, He was going to fulfill His promise and word.
And if you read past verse 11, you will see that the good thoughts and plans of God are not just a one sided deal. God wanted a relationship with Israel, He wanted them to seek Him, and turn to Him. I believe this is the same context we should be reading verse 11 today. God does have good thoughts and plans for us - but how will we know what those are or see them fulfilled in our lives until we call upon Him and seek Him with all our hearts?
Whether one is turning to God for the first time, or has been one of those who has read verse 11 with a little bit of spiritual smugness - we still need to call on, turn to, and seek God - so He can fulfill the promise of His word in our lives! It is a relationship.