The Recabites were an interesting tribe. Jeremiah 35 suddenly segues from prophecy into a family history of the Recabites, a nomadic tribe from the lineage of the Midianites. We see a funny account of Jeremiah offering a cup of wine to the Recabite families. They refused to drink it. Why not? Upon the command of one of their forefathers, Jonadab, his descendants have refrained from drinking wine, building houses and sowing seed. (Jer 35:6-7) The text does not explain Jonadab’s reasoning behind these seemingly arbitrary commands other than that they will live a long time where they are nomads. Even the Nazirite vow to abstain from alcohol was only temporary.
It echoes the Ten Commandments to honour your father and mother so that you will live long in the land (Exod 20:12). This is the only command linked to a promise. The Recabites were honouring their forefather. God often used symbolic acts like this to demonstrate deep truths.
God used the Recabite’s obedience to contrast with Judah’s disobedience to God. While the Recabites obeyed their forefather’s commands, Judah disobeyed God who is like a father to them. Because of the Recabite’s obedience, God assured them that they “will never fail to have a man to serve me.” (Jer 35:19) Various traditions in the Jewish Mishnah claim that the Recabites were later given special duties to perform in connection with the Jerusalem temple built after the return from Babylonian exile.
There are two lessons here for us.
1. Are you obeying your parent’s commands?
Just as the Recabites obeyed their ancestor’s commands, are you obedient to your parents too? God wants us to honour our parents and to obey them unless it directly contradicts God’s commands. When you obey your parents, there is a special promise that God will bless you where you are. Even though some commands may seem arbitrary to you, God wants us to obey them. In obedience, there is blessing and longevity.
2. Are you obeying God’s commands?
Are you disobedient to your Father in heaven just like Judah? Has God sent you clear commands that you chose not to listen to? Are there wicked actions you have not repented from? Do you have idols (money, sex, power) other than God? If you do, you need to repent of your sins and serve God wholeheartedly. Don’t wait for God to strike you with disaster or disease so that you will learn your lesson. Turn to God in obedience right now!
When we honour our parents and God in our families, God promises that a special place will be prepared for us to serve him. Only when we are faithful in our own household will God allow us to serve in His household (church). May the Lord help us today to be obedient.