The first half of that verse

" 'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.' "

For years, I have heard Jeremiah 29:11 repeatedly. I've got it memorized from hearing it, hearing about it, hearing sermons preached about it, and seeing it on plaques in people's bathrooms. And every time I hear someone start to refer to that verse, what I always think about is what the teachers always teach about: the 2nd half, about how God has plans to give us hope, and a future.

Yes, that's very important, but to focus on half a verse is to gain only half of the riches contained in it. The first part is just as worthy of noting: "For I know the plans that I have for you."

The Hebrew word for "plans" (it's H4284 if you are interested in looking it up in Strong's) can mean a lot of things. It can mean intentions, plans, imagination, purpose, or thought. In fact, many translations use the word "thought" for that verse. In the verse below, the word "thoughts" is the same Hebrew word:

"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts" --Isaiah 55:8,9

The reason God says what He says in the first part of the Jeremiah verse is to highlight a sin that many of us fall into all too often: we decide what God must think of us. He says that HE knows his thoughts toward us. We may think we know His thoughts, and if we try to guess without asking Him, we are likely to fall into a false belief of some kind. A wrong guess makes us susceptible to all sorts of problems.

James Ryle says it like this:
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Have you ever prayed something like this: "Lord, I know what you must be thinking about me right now," and then began to tell Him what you were actually thinking about yourself? We all do this. We condemn ourselves for the mistakes we have made and resolve within ourselves that it must be what the Lord thinks of us.

We must come to know the Lord as He is, and not as we assume Him to be. We must let Him put HIS words in our mouths.
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Let's read that Isaiah verse one more time:

"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts" --Isaiah 55:8,9

So what are His thoughts towards us?

"How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand." Psalm 139:17-18a

"He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy." Zephaniah 3:17

Follow-through: Next time you are alone with Him, ask Him to tell you what He is thinking about you. Then listen. If a thought comes into your head that you know is not from Him, read the verses above, or ones like them, audibly. Then listen some more.

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