Jeremiah 35-37 The Gentiles obey when Israel does not

From Jeremiah 35-37

JeremiahEver been compared to someone else? In what manner? In today’s passage the LORD calls Jeremiah to perform a compare and contrast between Israel and the house of Rechabites. The Rechabites are the descendants of Rechab through Jonadab or Jehonadab. They belonged to the Kenites who accompanied the children of Israel into the holy land, and dwelt among them (Jdg 1.16; 4.17; 1 Sam 15.6; 30.29; Neh 3.14; 1 Chr 2.55).

This post is part of my bible in a year series.

Passage and Comment

He does this to highlight Israel’s particular failure to observe the law he has given them.

35 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah: 2 “Go to the house of the Rechabites and speak with them and bring them to the house of the LORD, into one of the chambers; then offer them wine to drink.” 3 So I took Jaazaniah the son of Jeremiah, son of Habazziniah and his brothers and all his sons and the whole house of the Rechabites. 4 I brought them to 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, above the chamber of Maaseiah the son of Shallum, keeper of the threshold. 5 Then I set before the Rechabites pitchers full of wine, and cups, and I said to them, “Drink wine.” (Jer 35:1–5)

Jeremiah brings the Rechabites to the house of the LORD and asks them to dink wine. What a strange request. He goes to them and asks they go to the house of the LORD (temple). They do as he asks not knowing what he wants of them. When they get to the house, he lays out before then lots of wine. Then he asks them to drink some wine. I can’t imagine in the first place the temple being a place where people drunk wine. I imagine many Australians would not require Jeremiah to ask.

6 But they answered, “We will drink no wine, for Jonadab the son of Rechab, our father, commanded us,

‘You shall not drink wine, neither you nor your sons forever.

7 You shall not build a house;

you shall not sow seed;

you shall not plant or have a vineyard;

but you shall live in tents all your days,

that you may live many days in the land where you sojourn.’ 8 We have obeyed the voice of Jonadab the son of Rechab, our father, in all that he commanded us, to drink no wine all our days, ourselves, our wives, our sons, or our daughters, 9 and not to build houses to dwell in. We have no vineyard or field or seed, 10 but we have lived in tents and have obeyed and done all that Jonadab our father commanded us.

11 But when Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up against the land, we said, ‘Come, and let us go to Jerusalem for fear of the army of the Chaldeans and the army of the Syrians.’ So we are living in Jerusalem.” (Jer 35:6–11)

The Rechabites were given commands by their father (his voice) and they have obeyed. They fear the Babylonians, so they have come to Jerusalem seeking protection.

12 Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah: 13 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Go and say to the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, Will you not receive instruction and listen to my words? declares the LORD. 14 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. (Jer 35:12–14)

The Rechabites keep their fathers commands, but Israel has not listened to the LORD. The suggestion is Israel could have keep the commands the LORD gave them but they did not. They are therefore culpable for not doing so. Jeremiah uses the Rechabites to shame Israel and help them to understand the judgment and punishment the LORD is about to bring on them.

18 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.”  (Jer 35:18–19)

The LORD then turns to Israel. One may expect they would do the same. But they have failed to obey as the Rechabites have. Israel is shamed and the Rechabites are blessed.

Story of Israel

Click to enlarge.

The LORD promises to rectify the problem of Israel’s lack of obedience in Ezekiel.

24 I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleanness, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (Eze 36.24-27)

But any reading of the remainder of the Old Testament should demonstrate the LORD has yet to fulfill this particular promise. Israel still fails to obey the law the LORD gave them. Presumably the LORD has continued to bless the Rechabites by maintaining their family line.

Story of Jesus

There were times when contrast between disobedient Jews and obedient Gentiles still manifested itself. But first the Gentiles had to hear the gospel of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection and him being Lord.

14 I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another. 15 But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God 16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. 17 In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God. 18 For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience —by word and deed, 19 wby the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; (Rom 15.14-19; cf Rom 6.17)

Sadly, many Jews in the New Testament refused to obey the gospel (Rom 10.16). On the other hand the obedience of the Rechabites seems to anticipate the response of the Gentiles who hear and believe the gospel. Not only does God want the Jews believe and obey. God wants all nations.

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