But they said, We will drink no wine: for Jonadab the son of Rechab our father commanded us saying, Ye shall drink no wine, neither ye nor your sons for ever. — Jeremiah 35:6
Resolute commitment is admirable. Pauline Port, a godly woman from Memphis, Tennessee, had a great love for others, especially those who were down and out in life and also those who could not read. At eighty-eight years of age, she began working with a ministry that taught reading, and she was also active in sharing God’s love by visiting prisoners. After some time, Pauline was a recipient of the Point of Light Award, a program started by President George H. W. Bush’s administration to encourage and recognize volunteer service of people helping to solve community problems.
President Bush wanted to personally deliver Pauline’s award, and he invited the elderly woman to have lunch with him. However, she politely declined, saying she could not make the lunch appointment because that was the day she visited those at the state prison in Parchman, Mississippi, to “share God’s love with them.” She was resolutely committed to her opportunities for ministry, and she refused to be hindered even by the President of the United States.(1)
Today’s focus verse shows that the Rechabites were also resolutely committed to their way of living. They had purposed to follow the honorable teachings of their fathers, and were determined that nothing would stop or hinder them. Jeremiah, at the Lord’s command, brought the whole group of Rechabites into the House of the Lord and set pots of wine and cups before them. He said, “Drink ye wine,” but they refused. They were totally committed to following and obeying what their fathers had commanded them over two hundred years before. In contrast, the people of Judah had no commitment to following God’s instructions. Jeremiah was told to use the Rechabites as a contrasting illustration, showing how unheeding and rebellious the Jewish people had been.
We also will make choices about whether or not we are resolutely committed to serving God. There will be opportunities to be sidetracked or enticed away from that purpose. However, if we, like the Rechabites, will determine to obey God, we will be blessed ourselves and will be a blessing to others. Making our commitment to God our top priority will benefit in the end.
The Rechabites were a tribe of nomads who fed their flocks in the deserts of Judea and probably were descendants of Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses. They were very loyal to their ancestor, Jonadab, who commanded them not to live in houses, not to have farms, not to plant vineyards, and not to drink wine of any kind. For over two-hundred-fifty years they had followed these commands of their ancestors. The Rechabites’ whole religious and political institution consisted of obedience and commitment to the teachings of their fathers.
Verse 6 indicates that the Rechabites were instructed to drink no wine. Some commentators believe these instructions regarding temperance were given so nothing would deprive them of their sober reasoning, and thus cause them to hurt someone or show dishonor to God. They were also instructed not to build houses (verse 7). It is thought this was because if they became residents of a place, they would collect earthly possessions that might cause envy. Verse 10 states, “We have dwelt in tents . . .” showing how the Rechabites followed their ancestors who also lived in tents.
God did not ask Jeremiah to serve the Rechabites wine in order to tempt them, but to give Jeremiah the opportunity to show the leaders of Judah how unfaithful they had been to God. When the Rechabites refused to drink wine because they wanted to obey their fathers before them, God used it as an object lesson to Judah of their own disobedience to God.
The message to the nation of Judah was clear and repeated over and over by the prophets; yet this law of God was treated with much disrespect by the people. When Jeremiah talked to the leaders of Judah, he commented on how the tradition of the Rechabites was honored and preserved with such dedication. Because of Judah’s lack of commitment and disobedience to God, serious judgment would fall on the nation while the Rechabites would have an eternal relationship with God with continual protection and blessings.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II. The pronouncement of judgment against Judah
D. The circumstances of the prophet
1. Jeremiah’s experiences before Jerusalem’s fall
b. The message on the Rechabites (35:1-19)
(1) The observance of the Rechabites (35:1-11)
(2) The lesson from the Rechabites (35:12-17)
(3) The reward of the Rechabites (35:18-19)
Christians today, like the ancient Rechabites, can be totally committed to the Lord, not letting anything hinder them in their loyalty and service to God.
1. 21st Street Church of Christ, “Weekly Bulletin,” Volume 62 no. 26 (June 21, 2009).