OUR HIGHEST PRIORITY MUST ALWAYS BE TO OBEY GOD
Scriptures frequently use the type of argument fleshed out in this passage: arguing from the lesser to the greater. If you are careful to keep your word and commitments made to human authorities, how much more critical is your faithfulness to God? Jeremiah is instructed by God to stage a specific scenario that would help to drive home this lesson to the unrepentant and unfaithful nation. Certainly we have such abundant access to God’s revelation and to good teaching that we have a high degree of accountability when it comes to listening to and obeying the truth of the Word.
OUR HIGHEST PRIORITY MUST ALWAYS BE TO OBEY GOD
I. (:2-11) CASE STUDY OF THE FAITHFULNESS OF THE RECHABITES
“The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, saying,”
A. (:2-5) Test Case Scenario
1. (:2) Engage the Rechabites
“Go to the house of the Rechabites and speak to them, and bring them into the house of the LORD, into one of the chambers, and give them wine to drink.”
Adam Clarke: The Rechabites were not descendants of Jacob; they were Kenites, 1 Chronicles 2:55, a people originally settled in that part of Arabia Petroea, called the land of Midian; and most probably the descendants of Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses. Compare Numbers 10:29-32, with Judges 1:16; Judges 4:11.
Those mentioned here seem to have been a tribe of Nomades or Scenite Arabs, who fed their flocks in the deserts of Judea; they preserved the simple manners of their ancestors, considering the life of the inhabitants of cities and large towns as the death of liberty; believing that they would dishonor themselves by using that sort of food that would oblige them to live a sedentary life. Jonadab, one of their ancestors, had required his children and descendants to abide faithful to the customs of their forefathers; to continue to live in tents, and to nourish themselves on the produce of their flocks; to abstain from the cultivation of the ground, and from that particularly of the vine and its produce. His descendants religiously observed this rule, till the time when the armies of the Chaldeans had entered Judea; when, to preserve their lives, they retired within the walls of Jerusalem. But even there we find, from the account in this chapter, they did not quit their frugal manner of life: but most scrupulously observed the law of Jonadab their ancestor, and probably of this family.
Longman: The Rechabites seem to consider the lifestyle of the nomad as appropriate to their religious expression. It may be that they equated the settled agricultural lifestyle too close to that of Baal worshiping Canaanites.
Walkwiththeword.org — Why do you suppose God commanded Jeremiah to bring them into the Temple? In order for their example to be witnessed by the priests, leaders, and people most closely associated with the temple. In other words, to provide a right spiritual example to those who thought of themselves as the right spiritual example but were not.
2. (:3-5) Entice Them to Drink Wine
a. (:3-4) Gathering the Key Players
“Then I took Jaazaniah the son of Jeremiah, son of Habazziniah, and his brothers and all his sons and the whole house of the Rechabites, and I brought them into the house of the LORD, into the chamber of the sons of Hanan the son of Igdaliah, the man of God, which was near the chamber of the officials, which was above the chamber of Maaseiah the son of Shallum, the doorkeeper.”
The name Jaazaniah means “the Lord hearkens”.
The name Habazziniah may mean “lamp of the Lord”.
The name Hanan means gracious or merciful; Maaseiah means “work of the Lord”.
Constable: Jaazaniah was evidently the leader of the clan at this time. The reference to Hanan ben Igdaliah as “the man of God” probably identifies him as a prophet, though it could simply mean that he was a godly man. His “sons” may have been his disciples. He appears to have been an ally of Jeremiah. Maaseiah was probably the father of Zephaniah the priest (cf. Jeremiah 21:1; Jeremiah 29:25; Jeremiah 37:3). His position as doorkeeper of the temple, of which there were three, was an important one; those who held it received special punishment when the Babylonians took Jerusalem (cf. Jeremiah 52:24-27; 2 Kings 25:18-21).
b. (:5) Giving Them Wine to Drink
“Then I set before the men of the house of the Rechabites pitchers full of wine and cups; and I said to them, ‘Drink wine!’”
Parunak: Consider how strong Jer’s invitation to drink wine in vv. 1-5 must have seemed. Jer is a true prophet. He can tell them truthfully that God sent him to offer them wine. The offer takes place in the temple in the residence of the priests, and in particular a family known as stemming from a “man of God” (v. 4). Probably, the wine itself was that offered by the people for the maintenance of the priests. Surely, if ever there were a set of circumstances calculated to lead them away from their commitment, this was it. Yet they trust their own judgment over that of priest and prophet. They are individually responsible for their conduct.
Mackay: The bowls were large containers from which the individual drinking cups would be filled. Jeremiah in his own name invites them to drink so that it is not just a matter of refusing wine set before them, but of spurning the hospitality extended to them by the prophet in such a fine setting. The Rechabites were being put on the spot as regards where their loyalties lay.
B. (:6-11) Testimony of Faithfulness
1. (:6-7) Commitment to Obedience
“But they said, ‘We will not drink wine, for Jonadab the son of Rechab, our father, commanded us, saying, You shall not drink wine, you or your sons, forever. You shall not build a house, and you shall not sow seed and you shall not plant a vineyard or own one; but in tents you shall dwell all your days, that you may live many days in the land where you sojourn.’”
Parunak: Jonadab lived in the time of Jehu (2 Kings 10), some 250 years before. That’s longer than the entire history of the US. Most of us can’t even name an ancestor that far back, let alone pretend to be following his instructions.
2. (:8-10) Consistent Track Record of Obedience
“We have obeyed the voice of Jonadab the son of Rechab, our father, in all that he commanded us, not to drink wine all our days, we, our wives, our sons or our daughters, nor to build ourselves houses to dwell in; and we do not have vineyard or field or seed. We have only dwelt in tents, and have obeyed and have done according to all that Jonadab our father commanded us.”
Guzik: The sons of Jonadab passed the test and refused the wine. The public nature of the ceremony, the presence of their entire clan, and prominence of the prophet, the proximity of the temple all added pressure to drink the wine. They also had the prior exception of coming into the city and leaving their nomadic life for a period; if that was an exception, it would be easy to make more. Yet they did not and were faithful.
3. (:11) Crisis Relocation to Jerusalem
“But when Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up against the land, we said, ‘Come and let us go to Jerusalem before the army of the Chaldeans and before the army of the Arameans.’ So we have dwelt in Jerusalem.”
Adam Clarke: If at present we appear to be acting contrary in any respect to our institutions, in being found in the city, necessity alone has induced us to take this temporary step. We have sought the shelter of the city for the preservation of our lives; so now we dwell at Jerusalem.
Constable: The only time they lived in a city was when Nebuchadnezzar’s vassals invaded the Judean countryside. Then they moved into the city for protection out of necessity, for survival, not because they had abandoned their principles. Jerusalem was not under siege at this time, but the surrounding countryside was being invaded.
II. (:12-19) CONTRASTING UNFAITHFULNESS OF JERUSALEM AND JUDAH
“Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah, saying,”
A. (:13-16) Priority of Obeying the Lord
“Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘Go and say to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem,’”
1. (:13b-14) Priority Based on the Commanding Authority –
Why Do You Obey Jonadab and Not the Lord?
“’Will you not receive instruction by listening to My words?’ declares the LORD. The words of Jonadab the son of Rechab, which he commanded his sons not to drink wine, are observed. So they do not drink wine to this day, for they have obeyed their father’s command. But I have spoken to you again and again; yet you have not listened to Me.”
Wiersbe: How often God’s people are put to shame by the devotion and discipline of people who don’t even know the Lord but who are intensely loyal to their family, their religion, or their personal pursuits. Even people who want nothing to do with the Word of God can be loyal to traditions and man-made codes. If Christians were putting into their spiritual walk the kind of discipline that athletes put into their chosen sport, the church would be pulsating with revival life.
2. (:15) Priority Based on the Persistent Sending of Prophets –
Why Do You Not Respond to Repeated Warnings?
“Also I have sent to you all My servants the prophets, sending them again and again, saying: ‘Turn now every man from his evil way and amend your deeds, and do not go after other gods to worship them. Then you will dwell in the land which I have given to you and to your forefathers; but you have not inclined your ear or listened to Me.’”
Walkwiththeword.org — What is different about HOW instructions were given to each of these opposing examples? In v.14 the clear implication is that Jonadab only needed to speak his commands once and they were faithfully obeyed; God spoke over and over and over again the same things to His people through a variety of means and was repeatedly ignored.
3. (:16) Conclusion: You Have Your Priorities Mixed Up
“Indeed, the sons of Jonadab the son of Rechab have observed the command of their father which he commanded them, but this people has not listened to Me.”
B. (:17) Pronouncement of Judgment on Judah for Unfaithfulness
“Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘Behold, I am bringing on Judah and on all the inhabitants of Jerusalem all the disaster that I have pronounced against them; because I spoke to them but they did not listen, and I have called them but they did not answer.’”
Mackay: Disaster is the inevitable consequence of continued disobedience in the face of direct divine instructions as to how they should live, and also in the face of repeated divine remonstrance and entreaty that they had go things wrong and should repent before it became too late.
C. (:18-19) Promise of Permanent Relationship with Descendants of Jonadab for Their Faithfulness
“Then Jeremiah said to the house of the Rechabites, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, Because you have obeyed the command of Jonadab your father, kept all his commands and done according to all that he commanded you; therefore thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not lack a man to stand before Me always.’”
The issue is not the Lord advocating abstinence from alcoholic beverages but rather the faithfulness of this particular family clan to obey the commands of their patriarch.
Thompson: The phrase “stand before Yahweh” is frequently used of men who serve Yahweh in some way but particularly in the priestly service in the temple (7:10; 15:19; Deut. 4:10; 10:8; 1 K. 17:1; 18:15; 2 K. 3:14).