The Way of the Rechabite

Jeremiah chapter 35. Jerusalem.

The threat of invading Chaldeans is heavy in the air, and ‘weeping prophet’ Jeremiah is pleading in vain with the people of Judah to abandon their idols and return to God.

God speaks to Jeremiah:

“Assemble all the men from the clan of the Rechabites in a room in the Temple. Bring wine, and tell them to drink it.”

Jeremiah obeys. He sets the jugs of wine and cups in front of them. He says, “Drink.”

“But we can’t.”

is the unanimous reply.

“Jonadab our ancestor instructed us never to drink wine, nor to build or own houses or vineyards, nor to sow seed, but to live in tents, that we may live long in the land in which we are aliens. We –with all our wives, sons, and daughters– have carefully obeyed these instructions.”

This clan of Rechabites were longtime sojourners in Canaan, descendants of the family of Jethro (Hobab), Moses’ father-in-law. They had lived among the Israelites from the days of Mount Sinai (Num10:29-32), and had entered the Promised Land with them. They feared the God of Israel, and it was due to the zeal of Jonadab their father that they were spared when Jehu went ‘cleaning house’ in Israel after the days of Ahab. (2 Kings 10:15-17)

God speaks again to Jeremiah:

“Speak to Judah and Jerusalem: will you never learn? These Rechabites have meticulously followed the commandment of their ancestor, a man, not to drink wine.

“But I have spoken to you urgently, untiringly, sending servants and prophets to say ‘Turn back, change your ways, do not serve other gods, and you will live long on the land I have given you.’ Yet you have not listened to me nor paid attention to me.

“Therefore, I will bring upon these people all the disaster I have decreed for them…but as for the sons of Jonadab the Rechabite, because they have obeyed their ancestor and observed all his rules, they will never lack a descendant to stand before me.” (Jeremiah 35:12-18, paraphrased)

A small group, the Rechabites were faithful for generations. They didn’t put down roots anywhere, but sojourned. When the need arose, they moved without being bound to property or possession. Though not of the stock of Jacob, they feared the God of Israel.

And when the time came to be tested of God, they passed.

No doubt they were subject to ridicule.

“You don’t have to do all that…the Torah doesn’t require that!”

Living ‘in and not of’ Israel, they were a different breed, walking to the beat of a different drum. The cares of the world around them did not draw them. They had no ‘continuing city.’

They weren’t required to follow the Torah to the letter, yet they bound themselves faithfully to the conservative guidelines of an ancestor who feared God…and their convictions, borne of zeal, proved more ‘strict’ than those of the Jews.

They were a people set apart in a nation set apart. And because of their sincere faithfulness and obedience, God made of them an example to His own people.

The question of ‘standards’ is so often raised by so many. Countless hours of study have gone into the task of ‘rightly dividing the word of truth’ as to how the church is to live in our day and age.

Perhaps the issue isn’t where exactly the lines are to be drawn for the church as a whole; perhaps we have lost focus of the goal in our attempts to clearly define ‘modesty’ and ‘holiness.’

What is my goal? To be faithful to the God I love, in every way possible, regardless of how it may change my lifestyle.

One might see me in my skirt and uncut hair, and say “you don’t have to do all that..”

Maybe what we do is over and above what is ‘required’ by the New Covenant. But what if God is using us to show faithfulness to His Word? Who else is watching?

Will we pass the test of faithfulness?

“Yahweh says this, ‘Stand at the crossroads and look, ask for the ancient paths: which was the good way? Take it and you will find rest for yourselves..” (Jeremiah 6:16, NJB)

8 thoughts on “The Way of the Rechabite

  1. Love your post! Great study. I think of the morasses people place themselves in when they have the conversation with themselves, “Can I get away with this? The Bible doesn’t specify!” I think that’s a flawed approach. When I got married, there was never anything in my wedding vows that said I MUST to wear the color purple, but my husband likes it, so I’m trying to find some cute purple clothes (even though I don’t really care for purple on me.) If we’re the bride of Christ, it would be healthy for our relationship with Him to seek out what pleases Him on our body (which is not our own) and in our soul (our dreams, our ambitions, which He also purchased.)

  2. I think Christians stumble when they don’t have a desire to be obedient to the Word of God, when their attitude is “what can I get by with” or “what is the least that is required of me” rather than “what would be most pleasing to the Lord” in our thoughts and actions. NONE of us HAS to do ANYTHING the Word tells us to do. We each choose “how far to go” in our obedience. One of my dear friends once said, “If there is any little thing I can do to please my Lord (not to “earn my way to heaven,” but to PLEASE HIM because He is my LORD), then I want to do it.” It always disturbs me to hear people (especially other Christians) say things like, “You don’t have to do that…” or “Why do you have to do that…” (or the worst, “You’re not allowed to…)as if they think we’re being forced. The example of Rechabites you have given here shows us there are examples in the Bible of a godly people that chose obedience over convenience or what was popular at the time. Thank you for sharing what the Lord shows us through these Biblical examples!

  3. Indeed.. I had never picked up on this parallel before, and it so struck me that I had to write. There is so much wisdom tucked away in the Word.. It’s a treasure to find ‘nuggets’ like this!

  4. I love this story!! What a perfect example of righteousness-by-choice. I’ll bet those Rechabites never saw that pop quiz coming. Maybe — like Job — they never even KNEW they were being tested by the LORD or with His consent. Imagine if every time someone challenges US on “Why?” we do this or that for righteousness’ sake, that someone, somewhere – some celestial scribe in the LORD’s employ – has a pen hovering over the parchment, ready to record our response – our steadfast resolve to remain pure and holy for as long as we live. I wonder: how many times HAVE we already been tested and didn’t know it?

    Great blog! Great thoughts!

    “I have CHOSEN the way of truth; Thy judgments have I laid before me.” Psa. 119:30

  5. @Mana, Yes! Undoubtedly many lived and died faithful to these commandments… something like 300 years had passed since Jonadab (per JFB commentary). They were certainly not cramming for the test, but wholeheartedly obedient.
    Obedience…such a powerful force! It puts us on the same level with Abraham, Moses…all the ‘cloud of witnesses.’ Just discussed that with the kids today.

    Thank you for taking the time to read. 🙂

  6. YES, YES, YES, you did it again. May I quote you? This explains it so much better than I ever can when people ask me “Why do you _____?” “Doesn’t your Church allow_____?” (which was a great question when I wasn’t attending Church) 😉 You have wrapped it up so nice and neat. I need to include this in a study I am doing right now on “obedience”. This is another quote in my study that I have always loved when accused of being “legalistic”

    “Legalism is a person’s attempt to gain salvation through his or her own works. The Scriptures make it clear that we cannot gain salvation through our own works. (Act4:12). Salvation is bought only through the shed blood of Christ, the Messiah.
    Obedience is the grateful heart’s RESPONSE to salvation. Humble servants of the Lord who want to obey are not trying to earn anything. Their hearts’ desire is to look to Scripture, not for how much liberty they have or how much they can get away with, but to search it for that thing that is most pleasing to God. Many Scriptures emphasize obedience as a fit and proper response to so great a salvation. “He who loves me keeps my commandments” John 14:23. ”

    Your post goes right along with study I am doing. THANK YOU!!

  7. Quote as needed, my friend.
    I am sure I have more to learn about this subject…the study is never over! Glad to walk with you as we walk with Jesus! 🙂

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