In Jeremiah 35, we read about a group of people called the Recabites, whom God uses as an example of obedience and a rebuke to the people of Judah.
Who are the Recabites?
They were a nomadic group of people related to the Kenites (1 Ch 2:55), some of whom lived among and near the Israelites. Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, also known as Reuel, was ‘the priest of Midian’ and a Kenite (Judges 1:16). Moses lived among the Kenites for many years before God called him as the one to deliver the Israelites from their enslavement in Egypt. Some Kenites, including Jethro moved along with Moses and the people of God (https://www.gotquestions.org/Kenites.html).
Jeremiah 35 details the command their forefather Jonadab gave them to follow.
What was the command?
They were not to drink wine, never to build houses, sow seed or plant vineyards; never have any of these things, but must always live in tents. And the resulting blessing was that they would live a long time in the land as nomads (Jer 35:6-7).
This command was given by Jonadab (also spelled as Jehonadab), the son of Rekab. This was the Jehonadab who we read about in 2 Kings 10, who helped King Jehu destroy Baal worship temporarily at the time. This would be over 200 years prior to Jeremiah’s time.
God tells Jeremiah to go to the Recabite family, bring them to the temple of the Lord and offer them some wine to drink. Jeremiah follows the Lord’s instruction, but the Recabites do not touch the wine and explain the reason behind it. In verse 8 they say “We have obeyed everything our forefather Jehonadab son of Rekab commanded us.”
Taking note of the time Jehonadab lived, makes the command he gave to His descendants over 200 years old. God says to Jeremiah in verse 14 ‘Jehonadab son of Rekab ordered his descendants not to drink wine and this command has been kept. To this day they do not drink wine, because they obey their forefather’s command. But I have spoken to you again and again, yet you have not obeyed me.”
When we read the command the Recabites lived by, we can tend to focus on the type of command and the blessing connected to it.
When we focus on the practices, we miss the principle behind it. When God points to the Recabites as an example, he does not intend for them to follow the Recabite ways. God points to the principle behind it and that here is Obedience.
The Recabites, did not try to fit in and mould themselves to how others around them lived. They stayed true and loyal to what they were commanded to do. Their lifestyle/choices stayed true to what they believed in and it was not up for compromise. When they were offered wine, they did not imbibe a little just to appease anyone, they did not bend their rules for acceptance, benefit or anything else. They most definitely would not have been perfect in how they led their lives (as all men are sinners and fall short of the glory of God), but their heart of obedience was noteworthy for God to mention it.
Obedience matters to God.
Their obedience contrasts Judah’s disobedience towards God. The Recabites lives were shaped around the word and authority of their forefather Jehonadab.
For us: Is God’s word the ultimate authority in your life? And if so
How is your life being shaped by the word and authority of God?
What is Obedience in a biblical sense?
According to Holman’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, a definition of biblical obedience is “to hear God’s Word and act accordingly.”
Eerdman’s Bible Dictionary states, “True ‘hearing,’ or obedience, involves the physical hearing that inspires the hearer, and a belief or trust that in turn motivates the hearer to act in accordance with the speaker’s desires.”
Obedience comes not out of compulsion but comes from faith.
God calls us to a life of obedience to Him
Romans 1:5 says “Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake.”
1 Peter 1:1-2 says “To God’s elect chosen to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with His blood.”
Obedience to God and a life lived as a follower of Jesus go hand in hand. As it says in Romans 1, it is an obedience that comes out of faith. It should come as a natural outpouring from the desire within to submit to Him and do His will.
God delights in our obedience.
1 Samuel 15:22 “What is more pleasing to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.”
Psalm 128:1 says “Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to him.”
Obedience reflects our hearts posture
John 14:23 says “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching.”
2 John 6 says “And this is love that we walk in obedience to His commands.”
John 15:14 “You are my friends if you do what I command.”
Obedience leads to Righteousness
Romans 6:16 says “Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness”
God’s word calls us to live a life of obedience to Him. Each of us need the grace of God to be able to live a life surrendered to Him. Under His grace we obey not to gain His approval or because He commanded it but because God desires it. We are to set our mind on things above (Colossians 3:2), and living a life of obedience aligns our heart with God.
An obedient heart is a worshipful heart, it is an outpouring of our faith and trust in Him, of His presence and the evidence of His Lordship in our life.
As James 1:22 says, may we not just be listeners of the word but do what it says.