I am so incredibly cool these days that when I’m in my car, if I don’t have my phone plugged in playing music, I listen to a Christian radio station. I know – could not be cooler. It’s called Premier Praise, and is a sister station of ‘Premier Christian Radio’. The reason I like premier praise is because it basically just consists of worship songs being played all of the time. There are very very few, if any, adverts, and minimal presenter talking. There is a short prayer on the hour, and intermittently there will be a 2/3 minute ‘thought’ by either a minister or someone from some sort of Christian organisation, and a bible reading thrown in every now and again. And that’s it. The majority of the music is stuff I’d probably have on shuffle on my phone anyway – it sounds like normal vocal/pop/rock/’singer-songwriter’ music (although there is the odd hymn or gospel track that’s just a bit much for me!), but with holy lyrics. Initially I’d roll my eyes or even mute it when it got to a ‘holy bit’ like the prayer or the thought, but I’ve grown to get used to it and actually find some of them quite challenging. It’s interesting hearing people from different denominations share short thoughts, and often it’s easier to take something from them – be it challenge or comfort or whatever else – than it is from a half hour church sermon. The original station, Premier Christian, is far too much for me – too much talking, and way too in depth and holy. I like premier praise because it’s light and not too ‘in your face’.
Anyway, the reason I’m sharing this cringey fact is because I got in the car the other day and a man from something called ‘the Grace project’ was just starting to give a short thought. He went on to speak about Jeremiah 29:11, a very well known and frequently quoted (and often misinterpreted!) verse. “For I know the plans I have for you”, declared the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future”. This is a popular ‘fridge magnet’ verse, that people use to reassure themselves and others that God is in control, and that he’s got your life all planned out. The man on the radio explained however, that the original Hebrew version of the verse actually translates the word ‘plans’ as ‘purpose’. So, it’s saying he has a purpose for us, rather than a concrete plan. He then said some people might be distraught by the thought of god not having a solid plan for us, whilst others would be freed by this knowledge. I’m certainly in the latter group, as wondering how to find out what that plan is or how to follow it is something that’s always bugged me and made me stress – if you’ve read any of my previous posts you’ll know that this is true!! I wasn’t sure whether I was convinced by his explanation or not though, given that everyone else so readily uses the word ‘plan’, so I did some googling. From what I could find, the original translation would actually read “For I know the thoughts that I think towards you”, which isn’t great English, but apparently ‘thoughts’ could be replaced by ‘purpose’.
I really like this concept – that God has a purpose for our life, rather than a solid plan. It seems to make more sense, fits in better with the whole free will thing, but keeps in line with the concept of him being in control. – side note, I do know that the context of the verse itself was of God speaking to a whole group of Israelites in Babylon, and not just one individual person, saying he’ll prosper them and their nation after 70 years in exile…
I find the bible super confusing, and struggle to understand when you’re supposed to look at context and take things literally and when you’re not. It’s a minefield. Someone quoted a verse tonight about God knowing us and knowing what we would do before we were even born, and this confuses me and creeps me out in equal measure I think. I don’t see how it can make sense. (And yes, I know we’re not supposed to be able to comprehend the full extend of God etc. etc., but still)
I’d be interested to hear opinions though. How does the ‘plan’ thing work? Is it really a plan? Or a rough guide or general direction? Or is it like the guy on the radio said, and it’s a purpose rather than a plan? Does anyone more wise and well read than me know what the proper translation/context/intended meaning is? Does anyone have a clue? Or are we all just meant to interpret it how we like? All opinions and answers welcome!!