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Jeremiah 35:119comment (0)

August 4, 2011

By Douglas K. Wilson

Related Scripture: Jeremiah 35:119

Explore the Bible
Professor of Christian Studies, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile

Jeremiah 35:1–19

Faithfulness is fruit born by the Holy Spirit in believers’ lives (Gal. 5:22). As a later lesson demonstrates (see Lamentations 3), God remains faithful in the midst of our worst circumstances.

The Rechabite clan is held up by Jeremiah as a model of faithfulness to an ancient standard of holiness, while the Judahites repeatedly ignore judgment oracles against Jerusalem.  Living faith is demonstrated by behavior that reflects the Spirit’s transforming work and the Father’s faithfulness.

Example of Faithfulness (1–11)
The Rechabites, whom God highlighted as models of faithfulness, found prominence during the reign of Jehu, king of Israel. Jehu annihilated Ahab’s descendants as righteous judgment for introducing Phoenician Baal worship. Jehu also had the royal entourage from Judah struck down. One of the men involved in this execution was Jehonadab of the clan of Rechab (2 Kings 10).

Jonadab (Jehonadab) instructed his fellow clansmen to abstain from drinking wine, abstain from planting and harvesting crops and remain nomadic in tents from generation to generation. These practices ensured their faithfulness to reflect God’s character.

We must understand that these trials are for the characters’ benefit. God already knows the results. As Jeremiah invited the Rechabites to drink wine, it was an opportunity for them to rely on the Lord and remain faithful to their separated and consecrated way of life. Unfortunately not everyone remained faithful.

Example of Unfaithfulness (12–16)
Judah’s inhabitants ignored Jeremiah’s warnings. Over and over again, they heard him call them to repentance for their idolatry yet they rejected his pronouncements.

In the eighth century, Isaiah and Micah warned Judah. In the centuries that followed, Joel, Habakkuk and Zephaniah called for repentance, warned of the impending Babylonian onslaught and spoke of terrible judgment. Jerusalem did not listen. God remained faithful to His people, but they simply paid Him lip service. Judah’s population showed little faithfulness to its covenant relationship with God.

Consequences of Unfaithfulness (17)
A faulty, yet pervasive, theology persists today that obedience does not matter. Since God forgives sin, some surmise, living a holy life before Him and the world is inconsequential. The truth is that obedience has always been the fruit of a healthy relationship with God. Jesus said those who love Him obey Him.

Earlier in the compilation of Jeremiah’s prophecies, God invited His people to call upon Him and He will answer (33:3). Verse 17 ends in direct contrast to that invitation to prayer: “I have called to them but they would not answer” (HCSB). When God spoke to them, however, they refused to listen or answer Him. As a result of its arrogance, Jerusalem would face God’s judgment at the hands of the Babylonian army.

Most of Jerusalem’s inhabitants were too busy occupying themselves by consulting the stars, sacrificing their infants to ensure good crops and believing that their economic difficulties were temporary. They had no time to listen to a fanatic prophet who called for a radical life transformation to avoid calamity. How is their response any different from those who identify with Christ today yet live in conformity to the world?

Rewards of Faithfulness (18–19)
Blessings for Rechab’s descendants came as a direct result of their obedience to a family tradition to honor Yahweh. Jonadab’s commitment to simple, consecrated living made this clan stand out from the materialistic, syncretistic city-dwellers who failed to see that God’s glory had departed from Jerusalem.

One must not assume that obedience reaps all our worldly desires. Faithfulness to Christ does not guarantee a big house. God uses the Rechabites as an object lesson of faithfulness. The simplicity of their lives makes the Amish seem industrialized. Yet they were satisfied with God’s provision. That is the greatest reward. 

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