“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you saith the Lord…” (Jeremiah 29:11a)
Interesting play on words there. I know this is the King James Version but it’s almost like God is talking about His own mind in terms that are foreign to us. We think with our mind and were we to want to express the content of our thoughts to friends and loved ones, we would say something to the effect: “I’m thinking about you!” I told my friend the same the other day and he actually asked me what it was I’d been thinking about him. God answers the preface in the verse cited with “thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” (Jeremiah 29:11b) I told my friend something similar as he’s going through some difficult times. One of the reasons we were meeting for coffee, I might add. But think about it: when we say “I’m thinking about you.” it’s implied that the content of those thoughts is along the same lines as what God says. However, wrapped up in this enunciation, this expression of thoughtfulness, is the implication that we are wading around our mind, using the very thoughts and thinking apparatuses to express the contents therein instead of controlling it from a different standpoint.
Other versions express it the idea a little differently. The Message and the New International adopt the term “plans” to sum up the idea of “thoughts”. And the original Hebrew word (mahsebot) connotes “plans” as well. But if the “thoughts of our hearts” (another Hebrew connotation) transmute out into “plans”, what kind of being does that make us with reference to God? God says “I know the thoughts that I think…” I sense between these lines a separation from thoughts to a more personal and deep inner being.
My opinion is this verse came into the modern Christian vernacular and consciousness with Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life. And whether I can back that up with unassailable citation or not, the verse definitely deserves its day in the sun. The idea behind it is that God is thinking about you and that whatever it is you need, be it “peace”, assurance (“not of evil”), hope (“an expected end”) or any of various other things a loving Father provides, salvation, for instance, will be there when you need them. In fact, going so far as to weave in the circular and teleological understanding inherent to the Hebrew mind, these thoughts and plans were resident in God’s heart, and mind “towards you” from time immemorial.
But the point I’m trying to make is that it doesn’t look like God is His mind. We think, I think, that we are our mind and our words testify to this truth, however subconsciously. If the writer of Hebrews (4:12) says that the “Word of God is quick (alive), and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit…” then that means we have both and that we’re either one or the other. Going one further, Jesus said that “God is a Spirit” (John 4:24) and if we’re made “in His image and likeness” (Genesis 1:26-27), then this must mean that we are a spirit as well. And that “saving the soul” is a misnomer. The truism should read “saving the spirit” as that’s what Christ’s atoning death provides for us—something we couldn’t do ourselves.
And moving forward, what if we had the same ability to have a handle on our mind in much the same way it looks like God does His? It’s true. We can have, as David says, our soul “continually in [our] hand.” (Psalm 119:109a) The next part of the verse says “yet do I not forget Thy law.” God’s thoughts, taken into our heart and head, will make our mind into the tool it was designed to be. Here’s a good place to start:
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue and if there be any praise, think on these things." (Philippians 4:8)