But to the house of the Rechabites Jeremiah said, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Because you have obeyed the command of Jonadab your father and kept all his precepts and done all that he commanded you, 19 therefore thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Jonadab the son of Rechab shall never lack a man to stand before me
The Rechabites are the children of Jonadab. The Rechabites were a puritan, nomadic group that advocated a nomadic way of life inside the people of Israel. In one sense it was a protest against the moral deterioration of Israel. The father had commanded them to keep this way of life and not to deviate from it. His children had been utterly faithful to the promise they had made to their father to live according to his command.
The interesting element of Jeremiah 35 is that the Lord tells Jeremiah to go to the Rechabites, bring them into the house of the Lord (v. 2) and tell them to drink wine (3-5). The Rechabites refused to do what Jeremiah (the prophet of the Lord) told them to do. Their reason was simple: we promised our father that we would be faithful to what he asked us to do and we agreed to do. Their refusal to disobey those promises, even when the prophet of the Lord asked them to break those promises, reveals a strong conviction that these are men who are committed to keep their word; in any other promises, to be faithful to follow through on what they said they would do.
God uses their faithfulness to expose Israel’s unfaithfulness. Jeremiah 35:14-15 capture God’s “frustration”:
The command that Jonadab the son of Rechab gave to his sons, to drink no wine, has been kept, and they drink none to this day, for they have obeyed their father’s command. I have spoken to you persistently, but you have not listened to me. 15 I have sent to you all my servants the prophets, sending them persistently, saying, ‘Turn now every one of you from his evil way, and amend your deeds, and do not go after other gods to serve them, and then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to you and your fathers.’ But you did not incline your ear or listen to me.
The irony is God’s people refuse to listen to their heavenly Father (the Lord), but the Rechabites truly demonstrate faithfulness to keep their commitment to their earthly father. God sent his messengers repeatedly, calling Israel to repent, abandon their evil ways, and return to the Lord, but they have not listened. In this case, the Rechabites do not do what the prophet told them to do and God commends them for not allowing even the prophet of the Lord to sway them from their conviction to obey their earthly father. This is a powerful lesson to paint the perfect picture of the spiritual hardness of Israel. God takes this small family unit and portrays what he desires of his own people. We are not explicitly told in the text, but this exclusive family culture becomes a mini example of what God desired for his people in the midst of a fallen world.
God’s people need to realize that we can find all kinds of excuses to not follow through on what we have said we will do. We can blame our circumstances, other people and we often plead ignorance of what we actually said we would do. God does not care what the world is doing. He commands us to live in a way that honors His word and His will. There are thousands of excuses we can conjure up to ‘let us off the hook”. Our rationalization is not what God desires and He is very patient in giving us multiple opportunities to change our ways.
God uses a human example in the Rechabites to demonstrate a clear spiritual priority. Notice that God honors them in verse 19. In the same way that we keep our promises to those that we care about here on earth ought to be the same love and conviction we have to listen to our Father in heaven and obey what He asks us to do.
In His grace,