Jeremiah 35


What do you know about the Rekabites?

‘This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD during the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah: ‘Go to the Rekabite family and invite them to come to one of the side rooms of the house of the LORD and give them wine to drink.’ So, I went to get Jaazaniah son of Jeremiah, the son of Habazziniah, and his brothers and all his sons—the whole family of the Rekabites. I brought them into the house of the LORD, into the room of the sons of Hanan son of Igdaliah the man of God. It was next to the room of the officials, which was over that of Maaseiah son of Shallum the doorkeeper. Then I set bowls full of wine and some cups before the Rekabites and said to them, ‘Drink some wine.’ Jeremiah 35:1-5

This event took place during the reign of Jehoiakim, a short time after the Babylonians defeated the Assyrians at Carchemish in 606 B.C. The Rekabites were a nomadic people among the Israelites who were probably descendants of the Kenites, 1 Chronicles 2:55 / Judges 1:16. Jonadab is mentioned in 2 Kings 10:15-28.

The influence of their spiritual father had a great impact on the customs of these people. He had made a proclamation concerning their behaviour, which proclamation became one of the cultural identification marks of the people.

In order to confirm the stand of the Rekabites for the customs of their fathers, Jeremiah took them to a public place in the temple courtyard. He did this in order that all witness their commitment to the beliefs of their fathers.

‘But they replied, ‘We do not drink wine, because our forefather Jehonadab son of Rekab gave us this command: ‘Neither you nor your descendants must ever drink wine. Also, you must never build houses, sow seed or plant vineyards; you must never have any of these things, but must always live in tents. Then you will live a long time in the land where you are nomads.’ We have obeyed everything our forefather Jehonadab son of Rekab commanded us. Neither we nor our wives nor our sons and daughters have ever drunk wine or built houses to live in or had vineyards, fields or crops. We have lived in tents and have fully obeyed everything our forefather Jehonadab commanded us. But when Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon invaded this land, we said, ‘Come, we must go to Jerusalem to escape the Babylonian and Aramean armies.’ So, we have remained in Jerusalem.’ Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah, saying: ‘This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Go and tell the people of Judah and those living in Jerusalem, ‘Will you not learn a lesson and obey my words?’ declares the LORD. ‘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. Again, and again I sent all my servants the prophets to you. They said, ‘Each of you must turn from your wicked ways and reform your actions; do not follow other gods to serve them. Then you will live in the land I have given to you and your ancestors.’ But you have not paid attention or listened to me. The descendants of Jehonadab son of Rekab have carried out the command their forefather gave them, but these people have not obeyed me.’ Jeremiah 35:5-16

There will be times, again and again, when we will be in a crowd, that we will be part of the crowd. But the crowd will seek to ‘depersonalise’ us, in other words, deprive us of our personality. It is difficult to be an individual in a crowd. Jeremiah was a man in the crowd.

After all, he walked among the people, he walked the streets of Jerusalem, and he preached in the temple. But, he did not allow the crowd to depersonalise him. And being a part of the crowd is always the danger.

We need to rise above the crowd. The story of Jeremiah had a bearing on the people of his time. So, when was that?

That was about 600 years before Jesus came. But Jesus came 2,000 years ago, so Jeremiah lived about 2,600 years ago, how could that have an application to us, in our time?

It’s true that we are hundreds of years this side of Jeremiah’s life, but all Scripture can have an application to our lives today. And one of the things that Jeremiah teaches us is this, we need to live above the crowd. Jeremiah was himself a great example.

God sent him to the city. God sent him to the temple. And God sent Jeremiah to the crowds. True, the crowds didn’t accept him. They didn’t accept his mission. And they quickly didn’t accept his message. Why not?

Because his message was a cutting message of judgment. It wasn’t a pleasant message to deliver and it certainly wasn’t a pleasant message to receive. Maybe that is the reason that so many in Jerusalem didn’t accept it. It was difficult. It wasn’t easy for him. And, added to that, he not only had a difficult message, which many of God’s people wouldn’t accept but, more than that, they openly opposed it.

Jeremiah was sometimes beaten, sometimes imprisoned, but always he was trying to carry out the mission and ministry that God had given him. He never delivered his message based on the latest opinion! We know that there are people in politics that won’t do anything until they have an opinion poll. But Jeremiah wasn’t interested in public opinion polls. So, when God said to him, ‘Jeremiah, I want you to go to the temple, and I want you to deliver a message that will be my message to the people’,

then Jeremiah went. He went to the temple and delivered God’s message to God’s people.

Why is it that Jeremiah could say, as he does throughout the book, ‘This is what the Lord says’?

Because, even though he was in the crowd, he was a God-shaped man. He wasn’t a crowd-shaped man. He was aware of the people around him, but he was a God-shaped man. So, his message would continually be, ‘This is what the Lord says.’

He was also a God-directed man. He moved in the ways that God wanted him to move. God-shaped, God directed, can we claim to be the same?

But Jeremiah was more than that. He was also a God-trained man, bemuse he is consumed by a message. You will remember that, in Jeremiah 20, he was so discouraged that he decided to quit. He was going to down tools. But he said, ‘There is this fire in my bones, and I cannot quit.’

He wasn’t shaped by the crowd, he was shaped by God. He wasn’t directed by the crowd, he was directed by God. He wasn’t trained by the crowd, he was trained by God. And he is a great example of one who would live, and stand, above the crowd.

In Jeremiah 35 we have a second example of men who stood above the crowd. You may never have heard of them until now or forgot they existed. They are called Rekabites. Let me tell you something about them. They tracts their lineage back to the time that the children of Israel came into the promised land, back to the times of Joshua, about 1400 years B.C.

As a matter of fact, they even became friends with the Israelites. They joined the Israelites in some of their endeavours. Jeremiah is now going to tell us about something that happened with the Rekabites about 200 years earlier. Their ancestors had said to them, ‘Do not plant fields. Do not harvest crops. Do not live in cities. Do not drink wine, Be nomads.’

And for 200 years that is exactly what they did, or didn’t do! They didn’t own any property, they didn’t build any cities, they just travelled here and there.

Ancient tradition tells us that they worked in metal. If you had a metal implement that needed to be fixed, a spear that was broken, or a wheel that didn’t work, just wait a while. The Rekabites would come along and fix it for you. We are not certain of that, that is just tradition. But we do know this for sure, they just wandered about, they had no homes to call their own.

We see from the text that they had come to Jerusalem. Why Jerusalem? Because Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian armies were approaching. There was no place for them to go. It would be dangerous to remain in the fields. So, they come to Jerusalem for protection. And the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah.

‘Jeremiah, I want you to go to the house of the Rekabites. I want you to invite all of them to come to the temple. I want you to set aside a special room in the temple, to fix a feast for them. I want you to provide plenty of wine for them, and when you bring them together, I want you to offer them this wine to drink.’

So, the Rekabites were invited, and they came to this special room, this room set aside in the temple. The feast is being served, and the wine is brought in. The Rekabites said, ‘We will drink no wine because our fathers said, do not plant fields, do not build cities, do not drink wine.’

Why is all this happening with Jeremiah?

Because God wanted to teach an important lesson to all the people of Jerusalem. At the same time, God teaches an important lesson to us, if we will learn from it. And the lesson has nothing to do with building cities, planting fields, or drinking wine. The lesson has to do with people. A people who lived under a commandment. A people who lived under a discipline.

Why did the Rekabites do this, live this way?

Because their fathers said, this is what you need to do. They were living under a commandment. They were living under a discipline. A commandment and a discipline that said, ‘we have to obey’.

So, God came to Jeremiah and said, ‘I want you to announce to the people of Jerusalem that the Rekabites have lived under a commandment and under a discipline that comes to them. from a man. Shouldn’t MY people live under MY commands and be disciplined by MY law, because I am God’?

That was the message of the Rekabites.

Is a man’s law important? Well, it was to the Rekabites.

So, what is the point of all this?

The point is that loyalty to God is more important. We may all have certain family traditions. I hope we do because family traditions help to hold a family together. In the fulfilment of those family traditions, I hope that we would not forget that, we have a higher calling than family traditions. We are called by God. And we are called by God to be His commanded and His disciplined people.

‘Therefore, this is what the LORD God Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘Listen! I am going to bring on Judah and on everyone living in Jerusalem every disaster I pronounced against them. I spoke to them, but they did not listen; I called to them, but they did not answer.’ Then Jeremiah said to the family of the Rekabites, “This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘You have obeyed the command of your forefather Jehonadab and have followed all his instructions and have done everything he ordered.’ Therefore, this is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘Jehonadab son of Rekab will never fail to have a descendant to serve me.’ Jeremiah 35:17-19

God held up the Rekabites and said, because of the loyalty in their families, they shall never fail to have a man to serve them. In other words, God is saying, I am just going to bless this people. And they are blessed because they are loyal to their family leader.

This was a strong message that God sent, through Jeremiah, to Jerusalem, to the men of Judah. The message was this if people who are loyal to a family tradition can be blessed, how much more can you be blessed, when you are loyal to me?

You see, the Rekabites lived above the crowd.

Let me add a little bit more about the Rekabites before we move on to the next chapter. We need to see the contrast between this group and the Jews. The Rekabites were related to the Kenites, Judges 1: 16 / 1 Chronicles 2:55. They lived amongst the Amalekites in the days of Saul, 1 Samuel 15:5. The founder of this group was a man called Jonadab son of Recab, Jeremiah 35:6, who was a militant helper of Jehu in getting rid of Ahab’s family of idolatry, 2 Kings 10:15ff.

Jonadab had commanded his nomadic descendants never to touch wine. Some 200 years after this command was made the Rekabites were still honouring this. Jeremiah tries to tempt them into breaking the oath offering them wine, but he failed. The rest is obvious.

The contrast between the Rekabites obeying their father and the Jews not obeying their father, God, is the purpose of this story. The Rekabites are to be rewarded in that they will never lack a man to stand before God.

Even today there are groups that follow the Recabite rule. You can join a Rekabite insurance group if you sign to say that you will not take a drink.

Go To Jeremiah 36



"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us."