In the #NewJerseyBible it says—
For I know the plans I have for #YouseGuys…
In the #SouthwesternPennsylvaniaBible, it says—
For I know the plans I have for #Youins…
In the #DowntownPittsburghBible it says—
For I know the plans I have for #YinzGuys…
In the #DownSouthBible it says—
For I know the plans I have for #Yall…
Plans to prosper “youse guys”
Not to harm “youins”
Plans to give “yinz guys” a future
Plans to give “y’all” hope
Jeremiah 29:11, the runaway winner of the June Bible Verse of the Month Award.
Now … I hope you notice that even though this Bible verse often appears on graduation cards—or “thinking about you” notes for people facing a life-changing decision— it’s actually not a Bible verse addressed to one person, but to an entire community.
The words are addressed to a specific nation at one particular time and place and not to one individual. It’s great to reuse it that way but I’m asking you to notice how Jeremiah 29:11 comes in the very near context of Jeremiah 28:5-9, our assigned reading from the Hebrew Bible today.
And … I am asking you to notice how the verses in chapter 28 tell the story of a rivalry between the “comfort food” prophet (Hananiah) and the unpopular, reality-based, God-centered “hard-truth-telling” prophet (Jeremiah).
They have been going back and forth, fiercely haggling over which of them was peddling propaganda and fake news.
I don’t know if you can visualize something like this.
And … it seems they have also been wrestling over the custody of a wooden yoke that both of them coveted for use as a children’s sermon prop.
Well, Hananiah eventually takes the wooden yoke and breaks it in two, smashes it to pieces—to deliver the message that the #BabylonianThreatVirus would soon be his-toe-ree (history).
Not to be outdone, Jeremiah went shopping and purchased a polished iron yoke from a yard sale to recycle and reuse as an unbreakable children’s sermon prop.
Jeremiah’s message was that the #BabylonianThreatVirus would remain until the nation faced their society-wide failure to practice covenantal neighborliness—to see and celebrate the image of God in “widows, orphans and immigrants”—the ones missing from the center of the community’s concern.
(Being-chosen-by-God means blessing the nations, not crushing your enemies—God is not your mascot!)
Hananiah poured gasoline on the rivalry fire—to pinky-promise-pinky-swear paraphrase his last words in Jeremiah 28, he vowed, “If the #BabylonianThreatVirus is not soon gone, then I cross my heart and hope to die.”
And in the 7th month of the Jewish calendar year, he did. Hananiah did die (28:17)
Now I am begging and pleading for you to notice that the greeting card Bible verse, “I know the plans I have for #YouseGuys” comes in this context.
That means that God is not out to harm us but to heal us.
God is not out to punish us or pour out wrath upon us but to pronounce blessing and love upon us.
We are the ones who condemn and crucify one another, beginning with the most vulnerable people like “widows, orphans and immigrants” in Jeremiah’s day—and we can see on TV who gets it in the neck in our time. There are often overlooked neighbors not far from where we live.
What a miracle it is that Jeremiah was included in the Hebrew Bible.
Most people prefer to erect statues to celebrate “comfort food” prophets like Hananiah—and most nations kick out or kill “hard-truth-telling” prophets like Jeremiah.
So, it is out of love that God continues to use Jeremiah’s words to speak a Living Word to use in 2020:
I know the plans I have for #YouseGuys because a new, more beautiful day is coming, she is on her way, on a quiet day you can hear her whisper.*
You are invited to preview that whispered day today by loving God, by loving your “widow, immigrant and orphan” neighbor as you love yourself—and as I love you!
*phrase adapted from Arundhati Roy