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The third member of this group of short prophecies. In it, Jeremiah points to the faithful obedience of the Rechabites, as putting to shame the infidelity of Judahites. It belongs obviously to the time before the arrival of Nebuchadnezzar, perhaps to the summer of B.C. 606. (See Dr. Plumptre's poem, "The House of the Rechabites," part 2, in 'Lazarus and other Poems.')
The house of the Rechabites ("house" equivalent to "family"). From a notice in 1 Chronicles 2:55 it appears that the Rechabites were a subdivision of the Kenites, the nomad tribe so closely connected with the Israelites (Judges 1:16; Judges 4:18-22; comp. Numbers 10:29), especially with the tribe of Judah (1 Samuel 27:10; 1 Samuel 30:29). The names of Jonadab and of Jaazaniah and his progenitors (which include the sacred Name), together with the zeal of Jonadab for the worship of Jehovah (2 Kings 10:15, 2 Kings 10:23), seem to indicate that the religion of the Rechabites approximated closely to that of the Israelites. There seem, in fact, to have been two branches of the Kenites—one having Edomitish, the other Israelitish, affinities. Records of the former still exist in the Sinaitic inscriptions, and in the Arabian histories; indeed, there is still a tribe called Benu-l-Qain (often contracted into Belqein) in the Belqa (the ancient land of Ammon); and it would seem that there is an Arab tribe in Arabia Petraea, eastward of Kerak, which traces itself to Heber the Kenite. and goes by the name of Yehud Chebr, though it now denies any connection with Jews. There were also Jews of Khaibar, near Mecca, who played an important part in the early history of Islam. Into one of the chambers. There were many "chambers" of different sizes attached to the temple, and employed partly for stores, partly for councils and assemblies, partly for guard chambers, and other official purposes. In Jeremiah 36:10 we even find a private person occupying one of the "chambers." That into which Jeremiah conducted the Rechabites was, no doubt, one of the largest size; it was appropriated to the use of a single priestly family—the "sons of Hanan" (verse 4).
A man of God. The title, according to Hebrew usage, belongs to Hanan, not to his father, and means "prophet" (see e.g. 1 Kings 12:22); comp. Plumptre—
"There the chamber stands
Where Hanan's followers gather up the words
Their master speaks."
The chamber of the princes; i.e. the room "where the princes," i.e. the most distinguished laymen, especially the "elders of the people," assembled before the temple services. Maaseiah the son of Shallum. Probably the father of Zephaniah, "the second [or, 'deputy'] priest" (Jeremiah 52:24), himself a functionary of high rank, as he is called a keeper of the door (or rather, threshold). There were three of these "keepers," corresponding to the number of the gates of the temple, and they ranked immediately after the high priest and his deputy (Jeremiah 52:24); comp." I had rather be a doorkeeper," etc; in one of the Korahite psalms (Psalms 84:10).
Pots full of wine; rather, bowls, large round vessels (crateres), out of which the drinking cups were filled.
Jonadab the son of Rechab our father. Jonadab (the contemporary of King John) is here called the "father" of the Rechabites (comp. Jeremiah 35:14, Jeremiah 35:16), in the same sense in which the disciples of the prophets are called the "sons of the prophets;" he was a teacher, if not (in some sense) a prophet. This illustrates the uncompromising zeal of Jonadab in 2 Kings 10:23; the religion of Baal was probably at the opposite pole in the matter of luxury to that of Jehovah as practised by Jonadab.
"Not for you the life
Of sloth and ease within the city's gates,
Where idol feasts are held, and incense smokes
To Baalim and Ashtaroth; where man
Loses his manhood, and the scoffers sit
Perverting judgment, selfish, soft, impure."
Ye shall drink no wine, etc. The Rechabites were, in fact, typical Arabs. The Wahhabee movement, in our own century, may be taken as partly parallel, though, of course, a settled life is not one of the abominations of the neo-orthodox Islam. A still more complete parallel is given by Diodorus Siculus (19.94), who states it to be the law of the Nabataeans, "neither to sow corn, nor to plant any fruit-bearing herb, nor to drink wine, nor to prepare houses," and gives as the motive of this the preservation of their independence.
And for fear of the army of the Syrians. We are expressly told in 2 Kings 24:2 that, after the rebellion of Jehoiakim, "bands of Syrians" made incursions into Judah.
Then came the word of the Lord, etc. The substance of the severe address which follows must have been delivered in one of the outer courts of the temple, when Jeremiah had left the Rechabites.
Because, etc. This rendering is against Hebrew usage, and any reader will see that the obedience of the Rechabites stands in no inner connection with the sentence pronounced upon Judah. Jeremiah 35:16 is rather an emphatic recapitulation of what has preceded. It runs literally, (I say) that the sons of Jonadab have performed, etc; but (that) this people hath not hearkened unto me; or, in more English phraseology, "Yea, the sons of Jonadab," etc.
Jeremiah 35:18, Jeremiah 35:19
A promise to the Rechabites (perhaps removed from its original connection). The form of the promise is remarkable; it runs, Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not want a man to stand before me forever. The phrase is, as Dr. Plumptre remarks, "all but essentially liturgical. It is used of the Levites (Deuteronomy 10:8; Deuteronomy 18:5, Deuteronomy 18:7), of the worship of the patriarchs (Genesis 19:27), of the priests (1 Kings 8:11; 2 Chronicles 29:11; Nehemiah 7:65), of prophets (1 Kings 18:15), of priests and Levites together (Psalms 134:1; Psalms 135:2)." It is, however, rash, perhaps, to maintain, with the same acute scholar, that the Rechabites were adopted into the tribe of Levi. The phrase may be simply chosen to indicate the singular favour with which Jehovah regarded the Rechabites—a favour only to be compared to that accorded to his most honoured servants among the Israelites—the patriarchs, the priests, and the prophets.
A curious interest attaches to these singular people, whose relation to the settled life of the Jews may be compared to that of the gipsies in modern Europe. They were nomads in the midst of cities, preserving the habits of the desert among all the scenes of civilization. But they were in some respects strikingly superior to their more civilized neighbours—a people whose simplicity and abstemiousness was a living rebuke to the debased luxury of the times. Three leading characteristics of the Rechabites are worthy of special note.
I. THEIR NOMADIC HABITS. It is refreshing to meet these quiet, simple people after wearying ourselves with sickening sights of the vice and hyprocrisy of the court and city life of Jerusalem. We are inclined to think too much of external civilization. Making allowance for exaggerations and eccentricities, we may find some much needed lessons in the protest of Mr. Ruskin against the industrial ideal of the age. Inventions, commerce, wealth,—these are but means to an end. What is the use of the working of wonderful machinery if the outcome is poor and profitless? Many a man's business is a Frankenstein which becomes a tyrant to him. By others the science and resources of the age are only used as ministers to selfish pleasures. Thus the men and women may be none the better for all the advance that is made in the material appliances of the most complex civilization. Yet the personal condition of these men and women, and not that of the machinery of life, is the one matter of final importance. The quieter, simpler life of the Rechabites had many points which it would be instructive for us to consider. It was out of all the rush and worry of town life. It was calm and comparatively free from care. With few wants, the Rechabites had few anxieties. Are we so much better off than they in this respect? Then, as a wandering life, it was a reminder of the truth, so often forgotten to our serious harm, that all men who live a life higher than the earthly must be pilgrims and strangers here, and must "seek" a better country, that is, a "heavenly." The man of the world is rooted to the earth; and is there not a danger lest many of us should be so absorbed in the busy pursuits of the world as to neglect greater interests, or so satisfied with earthly possessions as to forget that this is not our rest?
II. THEIR ABSTEMIOUSNESS. These Rechabites were the prototypes of the modern teetotalers. They were no ascetics. They made no pretence to the peculiar holiness of the "self-imposed worship" of "dealing hardly with the body" (Colossians 2:23). On the contrary, they were probably a cheerful and unpretentious people, finding more human happiness in a simple abstemious life than the citizens of Jerusalem could ever discover in the unwholesome luxuries of a corrupt civilization. They teach a lesson which our age greatly needs. We may differ as to the necessity or desirability of total abstinence from wine and such things. But all of us should feel the terrible danger that comes from the enervating influence of luxury. In the present day we see little of "plain living and high thinking." Life is both eager and materialistic. It would be well if we could deny ourselves more, that there should be less grossness about our habits, dragging us down from the calm heights of spirituality.
III. THEIR CHANGELESSNESS. The Rechabites are like the Arabs of the desert who were contemporaries of the Pharaohs, and who live now just as they lived in the days of Abraham. Where shall we find such staunch conservatives? Now, of course, we Western Christians believe in a principle of progress, and rightly set ourselves to realize it. But in the pursuit we may lose something that the Rechabites retained. Mere change is not progress, and a restless love of change endangers the fruitfulness of measures which take time to ripen. On the other hand, there is a true loyalty to the past, a just fidelity to our forefathers. At all events, it is grand to see a people independent of passing fashions, bold to resist the spirit of the age when they think that wrong for them, and firm in their own convictions and determinations. Such conduct is bracing to witness; unhappily it is not common.
The filial obedience of the Rechabites is here adduced as a rebuke to the people of Israel for their disobedience to their Father in heaven.
I. WE OWE A DUTY OF FILIAL OBEDIENCE TO GOD. Obligation corresponds to privilege; peculiar relationship involves peculiar duties. If God is our Father, we owe special obedience to God on account of our relationship with him. The doctrine of the fatherhood of God is no excuse for the relaxation of the fidelity which we felt to be obligatory so long as he was regarded only as our supreme Ruler. Instead of making us more careless, this doctrine should increase the assiduity of our devotion. Strict religionists who dread the moral effects of the modern broad enunciation of this great truth, and lax self-indulgent people who fancy it will allow them to defy the Law of God at pleasure, both fall into a grievous mistake. The father has rights over his children possessed by no one else, and they owe obedience to him as to no other person. This was recognized and carried out much further in the ancient world than it is among us.
1. It is based on nature; the child naturally belongs to the parent.
2. It is increased by experience. For years the child is wholly dependent on his parents. Helpless, and needing constant attention, he finds in them sustenance, protection, and happiness. Parental anxiety, labour, and sacrifice should bind the children by ties of deepest gratitude. Repayment is impossible, nor is it expected; but the least that can be done is to offer, obedience.
3. It is recognized by law. The old Roman law gave the father absolute power over the life of his child. Modem law, though it interferes more with the relations of the family, sanctions wide parental fights. Now, if God is our Father, similar obligations bind us to filial obedience to him over and above the obligation we may feel to his Law, his holiness, and his supremacy (Malachi 1:6).
II. THE NEGLECT OF FILIAL OBEDIENCE TO GOD IS REBUKED BY THE NEGLECT OF FILIAL OBEDIENCE TO MEN. The Rechabites were a rebuke to the Israelites. Yet the Israelites had less excuse for disobeying their heavenly Father than the Rechabites would have had for neglecting the ordinances of their ancestor. Matthew Henry clearly indicates the points of contrast somewhat as follows. I give his thoughts with abridgment:—
1. The Rechabites were obedient to one who was but a man; but the Jews were disobedient to an infinite and eternal God.
2. Jonadab was long since dead, and could neither take cognizance of their disobedience nor give correction for it; but God lives forever to see how his laws are observed, and to punish disobedience.
3. The Rechabites were never put in mind of their obligations to their father; but God often sent his prophets to his people, "rising early and speaking," etc.
4. Jonadab never did that for his seed which God had done for his people; he left them a charge, out left them no estate to bear the charge; but God had given his people a good land, etc.
5. God did not tie up his people to so much hardship as Jonadab required of his descendants; and yet Jonadab's orders were obeyed, and God's were not.
HOMILIES BY A.F. MUIR
Termination by Divine command.
I. SO FAR AS IT WENT IT WAS REAL. The scene and the circumstances of authority and religious sanction given to the invitation were calculated to influence the mind. The "pots full of wine" were also an appeal to the eye. God has tried his servants often, but with no intention of making them fall. He tried Job, Abraham, David, etc. He often does this by his providence, the withholding of his grace, etc.
II. IT WAS DONE WITH THE CERTAINTY THAT THE TEMPTATION WOULD BE RESISTED. The same wisdom that devised the incident knew what would be its issue. We are assured of God that he tempteth no man (James 1:13), and that he will not suffer men to be tempted beyond their ability to resist (1 Corinthians 10:13). Yet God is continually testing and trying his people, that they may discover their own weaknesses and apply to him for succour.
III. A GREAT END WAS TO BE SERVED. The scene is dramatic and carefully arranged, that it may be publicly impressive. The lesson to be learnt on this occasion is not that of temperance, but simply of filial obedience in one of its most singular and emphatic illustrations. To Israel the lesson was a comparative one. They were put to shame by the steadfastness of men who had no such exalted Person to obey in the matter of their peculiar customs, but who yet had unswervingly adhered to it. Israel, with all the reasons for a similar fidelity, had been weak and fickle, and finally apostate. Men are tried, not only for their own sakes, but for the sake of others. The patience of the saints is a potent reason for our patience and obedience. Christ himself is the Example and Inspiration for all mankind. He was faithful when he was tempted by. circumstances infinitely more trying than any that can assail us; and his power is at our disposal when we ask for it.—M.
The filial obedience of the Rechabites.
There is something very remarkable in this simple history. Originally aliens in race (1 Chronicles 2:55), they gained a place in the land of Israel (Judges 1:16). Jonadab the son of Rechab, the ancestor of the race, was the true founder of the family. His character was so high that Jehu affected his company in order to gain esteem from the people (2 Kings 10:15, 2 Kings 10:16). From him their ascetic rule of life was received, and they had continued to observe it with unswerving strictness. We have here an illustration of—
I. AN EXAGGERATED VIRTUE.
1. Their asceticism was a real virtue. In its various elements of temperance, simplicity, and hardihood, it presents a most exemplary and attractive aspect. It must have tended to holiness and happiness. It would be well for the men of our own day were they to imitate this race in these respects. Most of our social evils are easily traceable to the influence of intemperance, luxury, etc. It was a noble ideal nobly realized; yet:
2. It was exaggerated beyond natural limits. This is the penalty of those who rigidly observe one mode of life. Excellent as that may be at the first, and, as a whole, may still continue to be, it gets out of joint with the advancing customs of the age, isolates its votaries from the general current of the national life, and stereotypes the degree of civilization or barbarism which gave it birth. In its rigid observance it leads to anachronisms, inconveniences, etc. Its accidental features become more noticeable than its essential ones. Unless grounded on sufficient reasons and continually referred to these, unless adapted in its accidental features to the changing circumstances of the world,—it tends to become unreal, and to produce unreal moral distinctions. There is something of weakness to be detected in the explanation of their presence in Jerusalem (Jeremiah 35:11). They were out of place.
3. The secret of this was float it was founded upon an exaggerated sentiment. Asceticism is in itself neither good nor bad. It receives its real moral importance from the motives and aims that underlie it. In this instance the motive was excellent so far as it was legitimate, but it was clothed with a factitious sacredness and obligation. Consistently carried out, such a principle would stay all progress and sanction the most horrible crimes. That their ancestor had enjoined their mode of life was hardly a sufficient reason for it, and the motive of policy with which he had commanded it was not an exalted one. The true justification for a peculiar mode of life, especially when of this trying description, must be found in the great human and spiritual aims which religion—especially in its later evangelical phase—presents for our achievement. To guard the weakness of a brother, to further the moral and religious welfare of men, and to glorify God by holiness and unselfishness of conduct, are aims that may be ours if we will
II. A MAGNIFIED PERSONAL INFLUENCE. The hold this man obtained over the conduct of his descendants through so many generations was most remarkable. A man or marked character, great reputation for sanctity, wisdom, and power of impressing others with his peculiar views, forms a conception of what life ought to be, especially for those who, like his own family, are strangers living on sufferance in the midst of another people. The Eastern feeling of respect for parents and reverence for ancestors and of the sacredness of tradition and custom associates itself with his teaching and example, and soon his rule of life becomes a fixed, ineradicable principle amongst his descendants far more potent than any law of the statute-book. This shows:
1. The power of personal influence. "Influence is the best kind of power." It belongs more or less to all of us; and we shall be held responsible for its legitimate increase and direction. The influence of any one of us is probably both greater and less than he suspects. It is a natural and proper instinct for man to seek this moral power, and the relations of life afford many opportunities for acquiring and exercising it. Parents.
2. The importance of securing that our influence shall be of the right kind. Ultimate results and effects must be left to God; but we have to do with our own character and aims, and with the known tendency of the means at our disposal. We should seek that our influence should be of the very highest kind. It is better to discover moral principles and' communicate spiritual inspirations than merely to initiate a custom. Jonadab's influence was on the whole very salutary, but it was not of the highest kind, because he did not famish his imitators with a morally sufficient motive. So fixed and mechanical, indeed, had their obedience become that they appeared to have more regard to his precept than for the direct command of God (Jeremiah 35:5). In this respect Jesus Christ is immeasurably his superior. His precepts are self-evident, and commended by his own personal example. He did not appeal to mere self-preservation, but to the noblest moral instincts and principles of our nature. We are not coerced by the personality of Jesus, but persuaded by the sweet reasonableness of his doctrine and Spirit. Influence like this may be slower in making its way, but in the end it is sure to be more lasting and universal.—M.
Jeremiah 35:18, Jeremiah 35:19
The blessing of the Rechabites.
I. WHAT IT INCLUDED. It is very startling to find that their blessing is precisely that which is pronounced upon the spiritual Israel of the future. There are two factors in the blessing.
1. Continuity of the fatally.
2. Perpetuation of its religious standing and moral character: "To stand before me forever. It is said that descendants of the Rechabites have been discovered in Yocan, and that they still observe the strict regimen of their forefathers.
II. WHY IT WAS BESTOWED. The reason given is simple enough, viz. their filial obedience; hut it hardly seems to account for the character of the blessing. It is manifest that the bestowal of such a blessing is not to be taken as implying that their conduct had attained to the highest moral standard. But it is significant that the fifth commandment, enjoining this very duty, should be the first with promise. Why is emphasis laid upon filial obedience in the Old and New Testaments? Is it not because the sentiment of filial affection and respect is a necessary antecedent and preparative for the love of God, which is the supreme and universal law of life? Of the latter it is the shadow and type. Secondary occasions for the solemn utterance of the blessing on this occasion were probably found in
(1) the fact that their conduct had furnished a signal reproof of the apostasy of the nation from its true, eternal Father;
(2) that they acted up to the light which they had; and
(3) that the principle of filial obedience, and the habits of temperance which in their case it had enjoined, were thereby more powerfully commended to the observance of men.—M.
Jeremiah 35:5, Jeremiah 35:6
Fathers of temperance
"Intertwined with the history of Israel is that of a wild and independent tribe of Kenites. When the western Israelites abandoned the roving Arab life to settle in the cities of Canaan, the Kenites still retained their pastoral habits. One of the characteristics which we trace in their history was a fierce resentment against oppression and idolatry. It was a Kenite woman, Jael, who smote Sisera, even in her own tent. It was a Kenite sheik, Jonadab, the son of Rechab, who washed his fierce hands in the blood of Baal's worshippers and Ahab's house (1 Kings 16:1-34.)." The free and eager air of the desert had passed into their lives, and they loved it dearly, and determined never to abandon it, especially when they saw the rum wrought by the oppression and luxury which were overspreading the inhabitants of the cities they knew most of. Hence the Rechabite vow. But the triumphant march of the vast squadrons of Nebuchadnezzar swept the deserts as well as the cities which lay in his way. And for the time even the hardy Kenites were compelled to set up their tents within the walls of Jerusalem. To them God sent Jeremiah, that he might test and behold and then declare their fidelity to their ancient vow. Amid a population given to excess and gluttony, their total abstinence from wine and their temperate habits could not but excite attention, as much as the strange sight of their black tents pitched in the open spaces and squares of the city. intimation was given to Jeremiah to teach from their obedience a lesson on the disobedience of the people amid whom they were sojourning. "Inviting these rude and faithful Bedouins into a chamber of the temple, he gave them the invitation which the revellers of Jerusalem would only have been too eager to accept, 'Drink ye wine.' But the Rechabites were not to be tempted. They had adopted their law of temperance at the bidding of a mighty ancestor, as a protection against the temptation of cities. They continued it because conscience approved and health rewarded a noble choice. Broken once—even to please a prophet of the Lord—it might be broken again, and soon the glory of their race would have fled. Therefore they at once replied, plainly, even bluntly, 'We will drink no wine; for,' etc." Now, learn from this—
I. GOD SANCTIONS THE TEMPERANCE VOW. (Cf. verse 18,) How many and manifold are these sanctions! By the rewards of obedience thereto; by the doom which follows disobedience to the laws of temperance; by his providence and his Spirit speaking within; by the laws of health, of thrift, of social well being, of conscience; by sanctions negative and positive alike; by the example of some of the foremost and best of men, and by his Word;—by all, he witnesses in favour of the temperance vow.
II. AND THERE IS SORE NEED FOR IT. "If I were to tell you," says one, "that there is in the British Isles a being into whose treasuries are annually poured in unproductive consumption more than one hundred and forty millions of our national wealth; whose actions crush year by year more victims than have been crushed for centuries together by the car of Juggernaut; whose unchecked power causes year by year horrors incomparably more multitudinous than those which the carnage of any battlefields can present; if I were to say that the services wrought by this being were, if any at all, which is an open question, yet almost valueless in kind, infinitesimal in extent, while, on the other hand, the direct admitted indisputable miseries he inflicts were terrible in virulence and vast in ramification; if I were to say that at his right hand and at his left, as eager and ever active ministers, stood Idiocy and Pauperism, Degradation and Brutality; and at that point you were all to rise up at once and cry aloud, 'Tell us the name of this being, that we may drive him with execration from the midst of us, and that every one of us may strive to extirpate his power and expel his polluting footsteps from our soil;' and if I were to say that, far from doing this, we all as a nation, and nearly all of us as individuals, crown him with garlands, honour him with social customs, introduce him into gladdest gatherings, sing songs in his glory, build myriads of temples to his service, familiarize our very children with his fame and praise;—were I to say this, then sentence by sentence, clause by clause, word by word, it would be literally true, not of a man, but of a thing, and that thing intoxicating drink."
III. HOW MAY WE FURTHER THE TEMPERANCE CAUSE? Certainly there is no help equal to that of taking this vow ourselves. If, wherever we are, we will touch not, taste not, handle not, on the ground that we regard it as the curse of this land, that entire abstinence will speak more eloquently than aught beside. And besides this, train your children as Jonadab trained his; command them, saying, "Ye shall drink no wine." A generation so trained, what a difference they would make on the side of temperance and all that is good! Never allow a sneer at those who have taken the temperance vow. Strike at the aids and abettors of intemperance, such as badly drained, ill-lighted, comfortless, unventilated houses; lack of means of reasonable recreation and amusement; want of education and leisure, etc. Never treat drunkenness, however grotesque and absurd its forms, as a thing to be laughed at. We never really hate that at which we laugh. And let each one be sure that he does something in this great cause, that he comes "to the help of the Lord against the mighty."—C.
The children put to shame by the stranger.
The men of Judah were the children, inmates of God's house, members especially of his family. These Rechabites, a wandering tribe of the desert, were the stranger. But their fidelity to the command laid upon them by their ancestor Jonadab is contrasted with and rebukes the shameful disregard of the laws of God, of which the men of Judah were so guilty. For near three hundred years the Rechabites had, out of regard for their father's ordinance, adhered to their self-denying customs, and were adhering to them still, whilst God's own people had set at nought all his counsel and would none of his Law.
I. OBSERVE THIS CONTRAST.
1. In the motives for obedience which existed on either side. The one was an earthly father, the other Divine; the one man, the other God. The one, long dead, and whose right to control the actions of his descendants had therefore lapsed; the other, the ever-living God, whose right is as eternal as himself. The one had given an arbitrary command against which much might have been urged; the other had given commands which reason, conscience, and experience alike consented to as wise and good.
2. In the nature of the obedience rendered. The one was full of self-denial—a hard, stern law; the other contemplated life in a land flowing with milk and honey, and its ways were ways of pleasantness, and all its paths peace.
3. In the results of obedience. In the one, obedience had kept together a small, hardy tribe of half-barbarian herdsmen, without home, friends, religion, wealth, or any marked earthly good. In the other, obedience had been crowned with every blessing, so that all men confessed," Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord." And yet, notwithstanding the service of the Lord was every way better, that service was disregarded by his people, whilst the ill-requited obedience to a long deceased ancestor had been so faithfully maintained.
II. AND SUCH CONTRAST STILL EXISTS. Look at the obedience rendered to the laws of the Koran by the followers of Mahomet; to the laws of honour, of trade, of human masters; everywhere we may see human law obeyed, whilst. Divine are set at nought. The world can Command the prompt, implicit obedience of her votaries; but God calls, and no man answers.
III. EXPLAIN SUCH CONTRASTS. It is because to those who faithfully obey human laws the transient and inferior are as if they were eternal and supreme, whilst to those who profess to be bound by Divine laws the eternal and supreme are as if they were transient and inferior.
IV. WHAT DO SUCH FACTS SAY TO US? Seek the purged vision, that we may clearly see the relative values of things, that our estimates may be corrected, and so we may come to regard as "first" the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and "all other things" as secondary thereto.—C.
Jeremiah 35:18, Jeremiah 35:19
Rewards of filial piety.
We have an instance here. Literally, the promise annexed to the commandment, "Honour thy father," etc; was fulfilled; for their "days were long in the land which the Lord their God gave them." Now—
I. THERE ARE SUCH REWARDS.
1. Promised in God's Word (cf. passim).
2. Visible in happy home life.
3. Perpetuated in prosperous communities, nations, etc.
4. Sanctioned by the laws of nature, of man, and of God.
II. THEY ARE THE PRODUCTS AND PROOFS OF THE LOVE OF GOD TO MAN. Hence:
1. The heart of the parent is filled with love to his children.
2. This love leads to desire earnestly the child's well being.
3. To secure this, God has given
(1) a responsive love in the heart of the child towards its parent;
(2) the instinct of trust;
(3) the direct sanctions of his Word, his Spirit, his providence, to strengthen and maintain that filial piety which so ministers to the good of all.
III. THE GREAT EXEMPLAR OF SUCH PIETY. Our Lord Jesus Christ. "I do always," he said, "those things which please my Father." As God is the realization of perfect fatherhood, so is the Lord Jesus Christ the embodiment of perfect sonship. That sonship was tested and tried as no human sonship ever can be, and it never failed, even under the pressure of the agony, the cross, the seeming abandonment. In him, therefore, we see our Model, and in his exaltation now our reward.—C.
HOMILIES BY D. YOUNG
The power of a fathers command.
The Rechabite habit is, of course, brought forward here to contrast obedience to an earthly and arbitrary demand with the disobedience of Israel to heavenly and essentially righteous laws. But it is worth while to look into this Rechabite habit altogether, in its origin, its causes, its results, its power.
I. THE ORIGIN OF THIS HABIT. The only information we have here is that the habit originated in a command of Jonadab. But, of course, Jonadab must have had some reason seeming weighty to him; and on looking at 2 Kings 10:1-36. we can make a shrewd guess as to the ends he had in view. He sees the sanguinary and extirpating zeal of Jehu against the scions of Ahab and the worshippers of Baal, and is it not fair to presume that he wished to guard his kinsfolk and posterity against falling into idolatry such as would involve a like terrible fate? Then it occurs to him that he can best do this by separating his people from the dwellers in Israel This can best be done by urging on them to live a wandering and pastoral life; and still again, the tent life is to be secured by separating the Rechabites from the Israelites in their pleasures. The Rechabite has his plain rule of conduct: "I drink no wine." "Very well," says the indulgent, idolatrous Israelite, "I care not for your company." Idolatry was always connected with debauchery, sensuality, and indulgence of animal passions, and to all these things wine might come to be a minister. Unquestionably Jonadab was a shrewd man, and something of what he aimed at he seems to have gained.
II. THE TEST OF THIS HABIT. No doubt the habit had often been tested, and presumably the same answer would ever be given: "Our father has commanded us to drink no wine." Was it a sufficient reason, one may ask? To which it may be replied that, generally speaking, a father's command would not be enough. We must always ask—What is the thing commanded? Here the question is simply one of positive precept. No one could say that drinking wine was a moral duty, or that the Rechabites injured any one by refusing to drink it. And, indeed, they might have enlarged on the advantages that had come to them through their strict compliance with Jonadab's command, But, in doing so, they entered on debatable ground, and might have been forced into argument. They did the best thing in their position—they fell back on a simple, unreasoning assertion of ancestral custom. Notice, too, the circumstances in which this habit was tested. They are divinely prepared circumstances. It is not a band of revellers in the house of feasting who ask them to drink wine. God commands it to be put before them in the house of the Lord, and in the chamber of a man of God. God wishes his people to see for themselves the power of a paternal request; for never before surely had the reasons seemed so great for departing from the rule.
III. THE DISADVANTAGES OF THIS HABIT. The habit did secure what Jonadab meant it to secure. The Rechabites had been kept apart from Israel. But now notice that an advantage gained from some purely external practice is very likely to have some accompanying disvantage. The Rechabites become tent dwellers, and then, on the approach of the Chaldeans, having no continuing city, no place of defence, they flee to Jerusalem. After all, the principle of Rechabitism, the principle of separation and isolation, has its limits. If we would fairly claim the advantages of human society in times of peril, we must not play the hermit and ascetic at other times. To be in the world and yet not of it, that is both the problem and the possibility.—Y.
Rechabites unconsciously reproving Israelites.
I. HOW FAR THE MEN OF JUDAH WERE REALLY CONDEMNED; i.e. How far were the cases really parallel? The first question to be asked is—Were the men of Judah as able to obey the commandments of Jehovah as the Rechabites were to obey the precept of Jonadab? and, of course, the answer is that for many reasons they were not. But passing this over for the present, let us notice the one respect in which Israelites were lamentably different from Rechabites. The Rechabites gloried in their attachment to the precept of their ancestor; it was a sort of point of honour with them; whereas the Israelites were in no way grieved, humiliated, or ashamed because of their disobedience. If only it had been a continual and sore trouble of heart that there was not in them strength to obey God, why, this very trouble would have been a measure of obedience. But they both disobeyed and disobeyed in the most heedless and audacious way. Instead of receiving prophets with contrition and as messengers of God, they laughed them to scorn, abused them, and even put them to death. And similarly the Rechabites reprove us. In the midst of all our natural inability to give a true obedience to Divine requirements, we should be incessantly troubled by this; then would the way be made open for revealing to us how obedience becomes possible.
II. HOW FAR THE RECHABITES WERE REALLY PRAISED. After all, Rechabite and Israelite were really the same sort of beings. If they had exchanged places, they would have exchanged conduct. The Israelite was quite capable of sticking, with utmost tenacity, to some external rule. And the Rechabite, we may be quite sure, was equally incapable, with the Israelite, of obeying the commandments of God. But the Rechabite was to be praised in this that he recognized an authority outside of his own wishes. The law under which he lived might not go very far; but it operated with certainty so far as it did go. The Rechabite would have died rather than violate the ancestral prohibition. God ever recognizes conformity to law as a good thing. We must, therefore, not go seeking in these Rechabites more than God has appointed us to find. The one good thing in them was singled out to point a most humiliating lesson and vindicate the need of a severe chastisement. Compared with the benefits of Jehovah toward Israel, what had Jonadab done for the Rechabites?—Y.
Jeremiah 35:18, Jeremiah 35:19
God's recognition of the Rechabite obedience.
This is just in accordance with what we might expect. The Rechabites, when they have been used to put Israel to shame, are not allowed to go away without a sufficient stamp on their noble conduct. The Divine estimate of that conduct is sufficiently shown by the words Jeremiah is authorized to speak.
I. GOD WILL ALWAYS RECOGNIZE A SPIRIT OF OBEDIENCE. Here we lay emphasis, not so much on actual obedience, as on a spirit of obedience. As to actual obedience, there may be dispute of claim and conflict as to authorities. But the spirit of obedience is one running through the whole of life. And God must have seen the spirit of obedience very strong in these Rechabites. Perhaps it is not too much to say that, if they had been in the place of Israel, it would have been a sore grief to them that they were not able properly to obey the commandments of Jehovah. Their obedience was tried, it must be remembered, not in the ordinary associations of life, but in extraordinary and difficult circumstances. They showed the stuff that martyrs are made of, and if God specially recognized their obedience in what was only a matter of external conduct, how sure we may be that he will recognize all obedience that goes deeper! The thing he would have us do is to find out the right Master, right Teacher, right Leader, and then follow him to the death.
II. THE PARTICULAR PROMISE WHICH GOD MAKES HERE. Very likely, in a certain sense, it was literally fulfilled. We must take "forever" in the limited meaning so often found in the Scriptures, and then we shall have no difficulty in believing that the Rechabites for many generations had a special providence surrounding them. But recollecting the spiritual significance of prophecy, we may take "forever" in its largest sense. The essence of the promise is not fulfilled to sons of Jonadab according to the flesh. Promises to natural succession were only to serve a temporary purpose. As all who have a spirit of trust in them are reckoned children of Abraham, so all who have in them the spirit of obedience may be reckoned children of Jonadab. Where the spirit of obedience is, knowledge of God's will becomes easy. Where the spirit of obedience is, actual obedience becomes easier and easier and more a matter of satisfaction.—Y.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Jeremiah 35". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany