21 Many are the plans in a person’s heart,
but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.
The Lord’s purpose (19:21). Human beings should plan for the future, but they should do so with the awareness that their plans may be overridden by God’s purpose. Such an attitude engenders humility. This is also well-attested in ancient Near Eastern wisdom:
God is ever in his perfection,
Man is ever in his failure.
The words men say are one thing,
The deeds of god are another. (Amenemope ch. 18)
People’s schemes do not prevail,
God’s command is what prevails. (Ptahhotep)
Put your affairs in the hand of the god.
5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
Read more from NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible
1:5 Before I formed you in the womb. Jeremiah was chosen and commissioned for prophetic office even before God formed him in his mother’s womb. Biblical prophets such as Moses and Samuel were marked for leadership functions from the time of their birth, so in a sense one can say that they were called while in the womb. The closest Biblical example to Jeremiah’s situation is the apostle Paul, who said that God had chosen and set him apart before he was born (Gal 1:15). There are writings from Egypt and Mesopotamia that exhibit similar ideas and concepts. The Egyptian god Amun said of Piankhy, a pharaoh in the eighth century BC, that he had been designated ruler when he was yet unborn; the same is said of other contemporary rulers, e.g., the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal and the Babylonian king Nabonidus. This demonstrates that this was a common sort of statement to make about important people in the ancient world. What is unique in Jeremiah’s case is that the choosing by God is said to have taken place even before being conceived in his mother’s womb. However, this may just be a matter of a slightly different nuance regarding the same theme, and one perhaps should not make too much out of the difference.
10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
10 This verse is the outcome of the whole process. It shows what salvation is intended for: to produce the good works that attest its reality. While works play no part at all in securing salvation, Christians will prove their faith by works. Here Paul shows himself at one with James (see Jas 2:14-26).
We are God's "workmanship"—his work of art, his new creation. "Created" (also in OT, ) is a verb used exclusively of God and denotes the creative energy he exerts. The creation takes place "in Christ Jesus" (cf. vv.6-7). The life of goodness that regeneration produces has been prepared for believers to "do" from all eternity. Here is a further reason why Christians have nothing left to boast about. Even the good they now do has its source in God, who has made it possible.