corner graphic   Hi,    
ver. 2.0.19.09.22
Finding the new version too difficult to understand? Go to classic.studylight.org/

Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator
Jeremiah 35

 

 

Verses 1-19

Jeremiah 35:1-19

Go unto the house of the Rechabites, and speak unto them, and bring them into the house of the Lord, into one of the chambers, and give them wine to drink.

The Rechabites

Did the Lord make a proposal to total abstainers to drink wine? Did he send for them to a kind of wine festival? Is this the meaning of the Lord’s Prayer, “Load us not into temptation”? Is not the Lord always thus leading men into temptation?--not in the patent and vulgar sense in which that term is generally understood, but in a sense which signifies drill, the application of discipline, the testing of principles and purposes and character? Is not all life a temptation? The Lord tries every man. There need be no hesitation in offering the prayer, “Lead us not into temptation.” People have tried to soften the words. They have said instead of “lead” “leave us not in temptation”; but these are the annotations of inexperience and folly, or superficiality. We are not men until we have been thus moulded, tried, qualified. We can do little for one another in that pit of temptation. We must be left with God. There is one Refiner; He sits over the furnace, and when the fire has done enough He quenches the cruel, flame. Think it no strange thin that temptation hath befallen you; yea, think it not strange that God Himself has given you opportunities by which you may be burned. He never gives such an opportunity without giving something else. Alas, how often we see the opportunity and not the sustaining grace! The drinking of wine in this case was to be done in “the house of the Lord.” Now light begins to dawn. Mark the limitations of our temptation. The Lord is never absent from His house. Let God tempt me, and He will also save me; let Him invite me into His own house, that there, under a roof beautiful as heaven, He may work His will upon me, and afterwards I shall stand up, higher in nature, broader in manhood, truer in the metal of the Spirit. Observe the details of this mysterious operation. The men who were taken were proved men (verse 3). When the Lord calls for giants to fight His battle and show the strength of His grace, they are chosen men. All these men were conspicuous witnesses for the truth: they were identified with the faith of Israel; they were the trustees of the morality of society. It is so in all ages. There are certain men whom we may denominate our stewards, trustees, representatives; as for ourselves, we say, it is not safe to trust us; we are weaker than a bruised reed; we cannot stand great public ordeals; we were not meant to be illustrations of moral fortitude: spare us from the agony of such trial! There are other men in society whom God Himself can trust. What did the sons of Rechab say? Herein is a strange thing, that children should obey the voice of a dead father. Yet this is a most pleasing contention; this is an argument softened by pathos. The men stood up, and did not speak in their own name; they said, We be the sons of a certain man, who gave a certain law, and by that law we will live, and ever will live. The trial took place in the chamber of the sons of Hanan, the son of Igdaliah, a man of God, which was above the chamber of Maaseiah. The father of Maaseiah was Shallum, who was the husband of Huldah the prophetess, who had taken an active part in the reformation wrought in the reign of Josiah. So all these were so many guarantees of probity, and strength, and success. There will be no evil wrought in that chamber I Not only are the Rechabites there, but their fathers are with them in spirit. Though our fathers, physical and spiritual, be dead, yet they may live with us in the spirit, and may go with us and sustain us in all the trials and difficulties of life. “We will drink no wine.” Note the definiteness of the answer. No inquiry is made about the kind of wine. Men are saved by their definiteness. A strong, proud, decisive answer is the true reply to all temptation. An oath that strikes as with a fist of iron, a denial that is like a long, sharp two-edged sword,--these must be our policies and watchwords in the time of danger. The reason is given (verse 6). It is a filial argument. Good advice is not always thrown away; and men should remember that though exhortation may be rejected for a long time, yet there are periods when it may recur to the memory and come upon the whole life like a blessing sent from God. The argument is a fortiori. The Lord has shown how the sons of Jonadab can refuse wine: now He will take this example and apply it to the whole host of Judah, and He will say, See what one section of your country can do; if they can do this, why cannot you be equally loyal and true? why cannot you be equally obedient to the spirit of righteousness? for three hundred years this bond has been kept in this family; never once has it been violated: if one family can do this, why not a thousand families? if one section of the country, why not the whole nation? This was God’s method of applying truth to those who needed it. Thus we teach one another. One boy can be obedient; why not all boys? One soul can be faithful; why not all souls? God in His providence says: See what others can do, and as they toil and climb and succeed in reaching the highest point, so do ye follow them: the grace that made them succeed will not fail you in the hour of your trial and difficulty. (J. Parker, D. D.)

We will drink no wine: for Jonadab the son of Rechab, our father, commanded us.

The Rechabites

St. Austin says of the Syrophenician woman, who was both hardly spoken of by our Saviour at first, and anon commended highly before her face; she that took not her reproach in scorn, would not wax arrogant upon her commendation; so these Rechabites who lived with good content in a life full of neglect, may the better endure to have their good deeds scanned, without fear of begetting ostentation. And therefore I will branch out my text into four parts, in every of which they will justly deserve our praise, and in some our imitation. First, when the prophet Jeremiah did try them with this temptation, whether they would feast it and-drink wine, they make him a resolute denial, a prophet could., draw them to no inconvenient act. Some are good men of themselves, but easily drawn aside by allurements; such are not the Rechabites. He that will sin to please another, makes his friend either to be a God that shall rule him, or a devil that shall tempt him. Three things, says Aristotle, do preserve the life of friendship.

1. To answer love with like affection.

2. Some similitude and likeness of condition.

3. But above either, neither to sin ourselves, nor for our sakes to lay the charge of sin upon our familiars.

No, he is too prodigal of his kindness, that giveth his friend both his heart and his conscience. I may not forget how Agesilaus’ son behaved himself in this point toward his own father: the cause was corrupt wherein his father did solicit; the son answers him with this modesty: Your education taught me from a child to keep the laws, and my youth is so inured to your former discipline, that I cannot skill the latter. Here let rhetoricians declaim Whether this were duty or disobedience. But let us examine the case by philosophy. I am sure that no man s reason is so nearly conjoined to my soul as my own appetite, although my appetite be merely sensitive. And must I oftentimes resist my own appetite, and enthral it as a civil rebel: and have I not power much more to oppose any man’s reason that Persuades me unto evil, his reason being but a stranger unto me, and not of the secret council of my soul! Yes, out of question. How it pities me to hear some men say, that they could live as soberly, as chastely, as saintlike as the best, if it were not for company! Fie upon such weakness: says St. Austin, If thy mother speak thee fair, if the wife of thy bosom tempt thy heart, beware of Eve, and think of Adam. The serpent was a wise creature (Genesis 3:1-24), and Eve could not but take his word in good manners. Fond mother of mankind, so ready to believe the devil, that her posterity ever since nave Dean slow to believe God. Never can there be a better season for nolumus, for every Christian to be a Rechabite, than when any man reacheth out a cup of intemperance unto us, to say boldly, We will not drink it. Now I proceed to the second part of my text, which hath a strong connection with the former; for why did they resist these enticements, and disavow the prophet (verse 8)? Their obedience is the second part of their encomium, they will obey the voice of Jonadab their father. The name of father was that wherewith God was pleased to mollify our stony hearts, and bring them into the subjection of the fifth commandment. Surely as a parricide, that killed his father, was to have no burial upon the earth, but sewed in an ox hide and east headlong into the sea; so he that despiseth his father deserves not to hold any place of dignity above others, but to be a slave to all men. For what are we but coin that hath our fathers’ image stamped upon it? and we receive our current value from them to be called sons of men. And yet the more commendable was the obedience of the Rechabites, that their father Jonadab being dead, his law was in as good force as if he had been living. Concerning this virtue of obedience, let us extend our discourse a little further, and yet tread upon our own ground. Obedience is used in a large sense, for a condition, or modus, annexed unto all virtues. As the magistrate may execute justice dutifully under his prince, the soldier may perform a valiant exploit dutifully under his captain; but strictly, and according to the pattern of the Rechabites, says Aquinas. It is one peculiar and entire virtue, whereby we oblige ourselves, for authority’s sake, to do things indifferent to be done, or omitted; for sometimes that which is evil may be hurtful prohibito to the party forbidden: as the laws forbid a man to murder himself: sometimes a thing is evil prohibenti, so treasons, adulteries, and thefts are interdicted: but sometimes the thing is no way in itself pernicious to any, but only propounded to make trial of our duty and allegiance, as when Adam was forbid to eat the apple; and this is true obedience, not to obey for the necessity of the thing commanded, but out of conscience and subjection to just authority. Such obedience, and nothing else, is that which hath made the little commonwealth of bees so famous: for are they not at appointment who should dispose the work at home, and who should gather honey in the fields? they flinch not from their task, and no creature under the sun hath so brave an instinct of sagacity. Let us gather up this second part of my text into one closure: we commend the Rechabites for their obedience, and by their example we owe duty to our parents, natural and civil, those that begot us, those that govern us. We owe duty to the dead, after our rulers have left us in the way of a good life, and changed their own for a better. We owe duty to our rulers in all things honest and lawful; in obeying rites and ceremonies indifferent, in laws civil and ecclesiastical. But where God controls, or wherein our liberty cannot be enthralled, we are bound ad patiendum, and happy if we suffer for righteousness’ sake. Now that the obedience of the Rechabites was lawful and religious, and a thing wherein they might profitably dispense with freedom and liberty, the third part of my text, that is their temperance, will make it manifest, for in this they obeyed Jonadab. To spare somewhat which God hath given us for our sustenance, is to restore a part of the plenty back again; if we lay hands upon all that is set before us, it is suspicious that we expected more, and accused nature of frugality. And though the vine did boast in Jotham’s parable, that it cheered up the heart of God and man, though it be so useful a creature for our preservation, that no Carthusian or Caelestine monk of the strictest order did put this into their vow to drink no wine, yet the Rechabites are contented to be more sober than any, and lap the water of the brook, like Gideon’s soldiers. Which moderation of diet did enable them to avoid luxury and swinish drunkenness, into which sin whosoever falls makes himself subject to a fourfold punishment. First, The heat of too liberal a proportion kindles the lust of the flesh. Lot, who was not consumed in Sodom with the fire of brimstone, drunkenness set him on fire with incestuous lust in Zoar. What St. Paul hath coupled (2 Corinthians 6:1-18.), let us not divide; lastings go first, then follows pureness and chastity. Secondly, How many brawls and unmanly combats have we seen? Thirdly, Superfluity of drink is the draught of foolishness. Such a misery, in my opinion, that I would think men had rather lose their right arm than the government of their reason, if they knew the royalty thereof. Lastly, Whereas sobriety is the sustentation of that which decays in man, drunkenness is the utter decay of the body. The Rechabites had encouragement to take this vow upon them for three reasons:

1. As being but strangers to the true commonwealth of Israel.

2. To make the better preparation for the captivity of Babylon.

3. To draw their affections to the content of a little, and the contempt of the world.

Now I follow my own method to handle the second consideration of this vow, that these circumstances were not only well foreseen, but that the conditions of the thing vowed are just and lawful. Not to tumble over all the distinctions of the schoolmen, which are as multiplicious in this cause as in any; of vows, some are singular, which concern one man and no more, as when David vowed to build an house unto the Lord, this was not a vow of many associated in that pious work, but of David only. Some are public when there is a unity of consent in divers persons to obtest the same thing before the presence of God. And such was this vow in my text, it concerned the whole family of the Rechabites. That this vow was of some moment in the practice of piety, appears by God’s benediction upon them. For as it was said of Socrates’ goodness, that it stood the common wealth of Athens in more stead than all their warlike prowess by sea and land, so that religious life of the Rechabites was the best wall and fortress to keep Judah in peace and safety. And almost who doth not follow Christ rather to be a gainer by Him than a loser. Behold, we have left all and followed Thee; that was the perfection of the apostles, that was the state of the Rechabites; not simply all, everything that belonged to the maintenance of a man, and so to live upon beggary, they have learned to ask nothing but a gourd to cover their head, a few flocks of sheep to employ their hands, the spring water to quench their thirst. They that must have no more, have cut off superfluous desires, that they can never ask more. And so piety and a godly life were chiefly aimed at in the vow of the Rechabites. The end and last part of all is this: That forasmuch as God was well pleased with these abstemious people that would drink no wine, therefore promise unto the Lord, and do the deed; for that is my final conclusion, that a vow justly conceived is to be solemnly performed. When we have breathed out a resolved protestation before God, it is like the hour we spake it in, past and gone, and can never be recalled. Says David, “I have poured out my soul in prayer,” as if upon his supplication it were no longer his, but God s for ever. Surely if our soul be gone from us in our prayers, then much more in our vows they are flown up to Heaven, like Lazarus to the bosom of Abraham, they cannot, they should not return to earth again. He that changed his sex in the fable is not so great a wonder, as he that changeth any covenant which is drawn between God and his conscience. He that hath consecrated himself to God, doth, as it were, carry heaven upon his shoulders. Support your burdens in God’s name, lest if you shrink the wrath of God press you down to the nethermost pit. I will give a brief answer to one question. Is Christ so austere that He doth reclaim against all dispensation? no, says Aquinas, you are loose again, if the thing in vow be sinful, nay if it be unuseful, nay if it cross the accomplishment of a greater good. This is good allowance, and well spoken. The careful pilot sets his adventure to a certain haven, and would turn neither to the right hand nor to the left, if the winds were as constant as the loadstone, but they blow contrary to his expectation. Suppose a Rechabite protesting to drink no wine, had lived after the institution of our Saviour’s Supper, when He consecrated the fruit of the grape, and said, Drink ye all of this, would it pass for an answer at the Holy Communion to say, We will drink no wine? No more than if he had sworn before not to eat a paschal lamb, or any sour herbs, quite against the institution of the passover. There is enough in this chapter to stride over this doubt if you mark it. Jonadab indented with God, that he and his seed should live in tabernacles for ever; and in tabernacles they did live for three hundred years. Then comes the king of Babylon with an army into the country to invade the land. It was dangerous now to live in tabernacles; there was no high priest, I assure you, to absolve them; no money given to the publicans of the Church for a dispensation: but they said, “Come and let us go to Jerusalem for fear of the army of the Chaldeans and Syrians, and let us dwell at Jerusalem.” The vow was unprofitable, tabernacles dangerous, and so the bond is cancelled. Yet, do not take all the liberty due unto you, if I may advise you: there are two things which you may choose to untie the knot of a vow. The peremptory rejecting of a bad vow, and that is lawful, and the changing thereof into some other vow, and that is more expedient, that God may have some service done unto Him, by way of a vow. (Bishop Hacket.)

Obedience to parental authority

The first and principal commandment of the moral law, Honour thy father and thy mother, begins with obedience to parents; but must of course be interpreted in a wider sense so as to apply to all who have a right to obedience--the persons to be honoured in that famous and excellent summary of the Catechism are the King, and all in authority under him, my governors, teachers, spiritual pastors and masters, and last of all “my betters”; the falling into disuse of such an instructive word is a fact of very great significance and needs no comment. But duty to parents comes clearly first, which an old writer has called “the band and firmament of Commonwealths”; for society is near its dissolution when this obligation is loosened or weakened in any way. The stability of an empire like that of China is an illustration in point, and I was struck some time ago by hearing a missionary of long experience select this one virtue of reverence for parents as that which has for so many centuries preserved the cohesion of that people. Affection may indeed be missing, but obedience and respect for authority are, I believe, universal. So it has come to pass that a nation that we despise outdoes us in the discharge of one of the most elementary moral duties; not that Confucius is a better teacher than Moses, or made any advance upon him, but that we are somehow drifting from a commandment of God, and seem powerless to enforce it. To arrest the widespread mischief we must go back to first principles, and seek to re-establish authority in the family, in the elementary schools, in places of higher education, and perhaps in the university itself. Authority must be taught to be a trust delegated by God to some for the good of the whole body, and the applications of the Christian precept: “All of you be subject one to another,” in its several relations, must be laid down fearlessly and with distinctness by teachers and preachers as the safeguard of society. To revert to filial reverence. It was once, I believe, a characteristic of Englishmen, for even as late as the last century sons would address their fathers by the reverential title of “sir.” The virtue is not exotic, it can stand our rude climate, and it must not be thought for a moment to be a poor sickly plant, that has no root in strong and masculine natures. On the contrary, take a specimen of it from the most robust of our own countrymen. To most of us is known the compunction of Dr. Johnson which has formed the subject of an historical picture. He has related of himself, how when a young man he refused to stand at his father’s stall to sell books; it was, he says, through pride he disobeyed, a trivial circumstance to a less sensitive man, but it was a burden to him for fifty years, until on the very day he went to the very spot where his father’s stall used formerly to be, and on a day of business stood in Uttoxeter market, bareheaded, for an hour exposed to the gibes of the passers-by, and the inclemency of the weather. “This was a penance by which I trust I have propitiated heaven for the only instance I believe of contumacy to my father.” Upon which Mr. Leslie Stephen, by no means a sentimental writer, remarks: “The anecdote cannot be read without emotion, and if it illustrates a touch of superstition in Johnson’s mind, it reveals too that sacred depth of tenderness which ennobled his character.” To both parents we are debtors. Mothers are to be esteemed as highly as fathers, and dutiful obedience rendered to them. Take care you despise them not in their old age or in lonely widowhood. Value them all the more if they are alone. Do not think that you have outgrown their wisdom, for in his mature years Solomon could stamp his own maxims with the authority of his mother’s mint, and give them currency as the words which his mother had taught him. The wishes of parents are also to be attended to, for wise fathers dealing with grown-up children will not burden them with commands, but will leave them to act upon what their sons know they would wish done. In a book that furnished my vacation reading I lighted upon a passage in the undergraduate life of Dr. Corrie that will interest some of us. “When he first came up, his father, knowing his son’s great love for horses, and fearing the scenes of temptation into which this taste might lead him, expressed a strong desire that he would not go to Newmarket. This injunction was faithfully respected. Though he was fully aware that his father would never ask him whether his wish had been observed, his loyalty would not permit him to trifle with the confidence thus placed in him.” A characteristic anecdote of a man who was known as the soul of honour, who if he lacked sons of his own, was looked up to and reverenced by hundreds of pupils and others, who felt their own principles of duty strengthened by his unswerving fidelity to old traditions. Obedience to a father’s law is the whole idea of the incarnation. Not to please Himself at all, but to surrender Himself wholly to the Divine will, runs through all Christ’s life. When He cometh into the world He saith, “I am come to do Thy will, O God,” and when He is about to leave the world in that great fight of conflicting emotions the thought of submission alone rules His prayer, “Not My will, but Thine be done.” Not only as a son, but as a citizen, as a member of the Jewish synagogue and nation, He is obedient to the law, to every ordinance of man, for His Father’s sake. Conscious of His Divinity, of His real relation to God at twelve years old, He goes meekly home to be subject to earthly parents and to learn His trade. When the time of His manifestation has come, He allows John to baptize Him, to fulfil an ordinance of God, and by His obedience He approves John’s commission in the eyes of the people. Though, as Son of God, He is free from the temple tax, yet He works a miracle to pay the due, that He might give no offence to the rulers who sat in Moses’ seat. He even acknowledges that the civil power of the Roman Governor is of God. Under the terms of the new covenant we are no mere slaves but sons, and can claim the spirit of adoption, the will to wish all things in conformity with God’s will, and the power to perform the same. I have heard myself from the lips of those whose whole life has been most wilful and contrary such a confession as this, “I love now as much to do things for God as at one time I did everything against God,” for the love of Christ converts and subdues a stubborn temper, which to its harm would kick against the pricks into a service where there is no heavy burden, no galling yoke, but all is perfect freedom. (C. E. Searle, D. D.)

The obedient Rechabites

I. The authority of the family. The power of human descent and family tradition in moulding a career is well illustrated in the case of the Rechabites.

1. It controlled the natural tastes. Its members must renounce pleasure, comfort, and fixed habitation; their inheritance was the loss of those very things which sons expect, and parents delight to bequeath. But with the loss came a better gain,--health of body, purity of morals, loyalty of conscience. They had that best possession,--noble character.

2. The authority of the family also controlled their external alliances; those entering it by marriage must accept its obligations. A man may leave father and mother to cleave unto his wife, but may not leave truth and virtue.

3. In the same way the family tradition proved superior to surrounding influences. They were as faithful in the city as in the country, as loyal among strangers as where well known. So from lonely farmhouses among the hills, young men and young women have gone to seek an easier fortune in the great city, or in the lawless West, and been delivered from evil by the abiding influence of their sanctified homes.

4. The faithfulness of the Rechabites displays the normal influence of the family in transmitting a tendency to virtue, and confirming that inherited disposition by congenial surroundings and careful training. This is what God means the family to be,--His surest and mightiest agency for spreading righteousness on the earth.

II. This higher authority of God. If human descent and family tradition exert authority over the individual, the Divine Creator and Governor holds a far higher claim upon him. Whatever depravity sin may breed into the race, virtue is always its normal life, holiness its ideal. The Scriptures describe man as directly connected with God in his origin. “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” When the clay was shaped, He “breathed into his nostrils thy breath of life, and man became a living soul.” The characteristics of our Divine origin are as discernible as the marks of our human descent. Our intellect is made after the likeness of the Divine mind, else the universe would be to us an insoluble mystery. In our tastes we can trace kinship with Him who has adorned the earth with beauty. Pure human affection gives us our worthiest conception of the Divine love. Misfortune cannot turn it, ingratitude cannot chill it, death itself cannot overcome it, The Heavenly Father uses this earthly tie to symbolise His own regard; the Saviour describes His fostering care and close union with the Church by naming it His “bride.” Our moral nature is plainly Divine in origin. Conscience is the voice of God in man. He who obeys it is lifted to the plane of Divine action, is made a co-worker with God. Over this lordly realm, crowned its regent by the Creator Himself, is the Personal Soul, the “Self,” the “I.” Self-consciousness is its throne, self-determination its sceptre. By this solemn conviction “I am,” “I will,” man separates himself from all the universe around him; through this he balances his soul against the whole world and weighs it down; with it he faces eternity. He is his own, something for which the Infinite asks, and he may give. It is here that man’s Divine origin finds its explanation; for the glad choice of God, all the dignity of human nature was given; to this end converge the constant teachings of the revealing universe, the open instructions of the inspired Word, the solemn persuasions of the Holy Spirit. Lessons--

1. The responsibility of parents. One writer on heredity declares that the dispositions of Bacon and Goethe were formed by the simple addition of the dispositions of their ancestors. We know that passionate temper, fretfulness, and despondency may be inherited. Let a parent beware how he sins.

2. The responsibility resting upon the child of godly parents. When one who has had a virtuous ancestry seeks out vice and courts godlessness, he has not long to wait before every red drop in his veins will turn against him and curse him traitor. There is something back of his own will,--an authority he knows not how to resist and cannot defy.

3. The ultimate responsibility of each soul to God. When Samuel J. Mills was struggling against the convictions of the Spirit, he exclaimed, “I wish I had never been born!” His mother replied, “But you are born, my son, and can never escape your accountability to God.” The glad choice of the holy God is the highest exercise of the created will. (C. M. Southgate.)

The obedience of the Rechabites

I. Wherein it resembles christian obedience.

1. It was total. They did not consult their preferences or their “affinities.” They did not proceed upon any law of “natural selection.” They did not show punctilious fidelity with reference to one commandment, and great laxity concerning another. This is one essential characteristic of Christian obedience. It is total. If we can make choice of such commands as we feel like obeying and disregard the rest, what are we but masters instead of subjects, dictating terms instead of receiving orders?

2. It was constant. It kept an unbroken path. It bore the stress of storms and tests. And herein it was marked by another essential characteristic of Christian obedience--a beautiful constancy. Enlistment in the Lord’s army is for life, and there is no discharge in that war.

II. Wherein this Rechabite obedience was unlike Christian obedience.

1. The Rechabites obeyed Jonadab: Christians obey God. This is a substantive difference. And we must not confound things that radically differ. The source of a command has a great deal to do with the value of obedience to it. The lower relation must give way to the higher when the two conflict.

2. Jonadab’s commands, so far as we know, were for temporal and material ends, in the interests of a rugged manhood and a sturdy independence. God’s commands are for spiritual ends, for good of soul, and they stand vitally connected with those higher interests that relate not only to the life that now is, but to that which is to come. Rechabite obedience, therefore, conserves temporal good; Christian obedience conserves eternal good.

3. Rechabite obedience was not necessary to salvation; Christian obedience is indispensable.

III. Wherein it shames Christian disobedience.

1. These Rechabites are obedient to their father Jonadab, a mere man who had been dead nearly three hundred years, while Judah is in open and flagrant disobedience to the Most High God.

2. Jonadab commanded but once, and he had instant and constant heed, generation upon generation, for centuries. “But I,” saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel--“I have spoken unto you, rising early and speaking. I have also sent unto you,” &c.

3. Obedience to Jonadab was at a cost, and it brought at the best only power to endure and the spirit of independence. It left the Rechabites poor and homeless. Obedience to God was also at a cost, but it gave His people assured possessions, peace of conscience, protection from their enemies, and all the exceeding riches of an eternal inheritance in God’s kingdom of grace and glory. Yet the Rechabites obeyed Jonadab with a beautiful constancy, while Judah hearkened not to the voice of the Lord.

Practical suggestions--

1. The very essence of Christian fidelity is obedience.

2. A true obedience has two infallible signs. It will have no reservations, and it will never cry “Halt!”

3. See the shame and guilt of disobedience under the Gospel.

4. In respect to one particular in this Rechabite obedience, namely, abstinence from wine--three things are clear.

Wine-drinking is a sin “for that man who drinks with offence” (Romans 14:20). Wine-drinking is a sin for that man who by it “puts a stumbling-block or an occasion to fall in a brother s way (Romans 14:15). When wine-drinking wounds a weak conscience” it is “as in against Christ” (1 Corinthians 8:12). (H. Johnson, D. D.)

The obedience of the Rechabites

Jonadab saw that his people were but a handful among a more powerful people, and likely soon to be swallowed up by their neighbours, and he hit upon a happy method of preserving their independent existence. He enjoined them “not to drink wine”; this was to save them from luxury and intemperance, which would prey upon them from within, and make them ripe for destruction; and he also commanded them “not to till the ground, nor to have any houses, nor to dwell in cities”; this was in order that they might have no riches to tempt others to make war upon them; and thus, to use his own words, “they might live many days in the land wherein they were strangers.” Luxury and wealth are the bane of nations, and by keeping his tribe a simple, pastoral people, pure in their habits, and destitute of property, he accomplished his wishes for them.

I. The obedience of the Rechabites contrasted with the disobedience of Israel to God. An ancestor of that family, who had been dead nearly three hundred years, had issued his commands, and they were still obeyed; but the living God had spoken repeatedly to Israel, by His prophets, yet they would not hear. The commands of Jonadab, too, were very arbitrary. There could be no sin in cultivating the fields, or in living in houses, whatever moral worth there may have been in the precept to drink no wine: but still, because Jonadab commanded it they obeyed. The complaint of God has still an application. It is a fact, that among sinners, any and every law, precept, or tradition, of mere human authority, is better obeyed than the laws of God Himself. See, in a few instances, how this has been verified. Mahomet arose, a sensualist, an adulterer, a breaker of treaties, and a robber, and issued his commands, which for centuries have been religiously obeyed. At the cry of the muezzin, and the hour of prayer, every follower of his, whether in the desert, on board the ship, in the city, or the field, suspends his labour, his pleasures, and even his griefs, and casts himself upon his knees in prayer. But the blessed Jesus, pure, peaceful, and glorious, speaks, and even those who acknowledge Him as Lord over all, and own the goodness of His commands, can listen to such words as, “This do in remembrance of Me,” and obey them not. The founder of some monkish order, again, has enjoined upon all his fraternity certain rules and austerities, and he is obeyed. Day after day, and year after year, the same tedious round of ceremonies is gone through with, as though salvation depended upon it, and the deluded ones will rise at the midnight hour to inflict stripes upon themselves or to offer prayer. But Christ may enjoin the reasonable duty of praying to our Father in spirit and in truth, and multitudes can suffer days and years to pass, and pray not. The commander of the order of Jesuits can place his inferior priests in any country of the world, and whether the mandate be to act as father confessor in some palace, or to Penetrate to China or Paraguay, there is no more resistance for apparent regard for the sacrifices to be made than in the machinery which is moved by mechanic power. Christ commands His disciples to “go preach the Gospel to every creature,” but only here and there one goes forth. The heathen priest bids the worshippers of idols to cast their children rote the fire or the water, and it is done. Jesus says, “Suffer little children to come to Me,” and has appointed a sacrament in which they may be received, but men will admit the duty, and yet neglect the baptism of their children. The Rechabites of modern times, and Sons of Temperance, may institute a vow of temperance, and it is kept; or command one of their number to minister to the sick, and it is done; or provide well for their poor; but Christ says, that “no drunkard shall enter heaven,” and enjoins charity to the sick and the destitute, while many heed Him not.

II. The rewards of obedience. Modern travellers, moreover, state that the Rechabites are still in existence. Mr. Wolf, the famous Jewish missionary, asserts this as his belief. “And another traveller who visited a tract to the south of Judea, which has been unexplored for centuries, met there a native who claimed to be a Rechabite, and when an Arabic Bible was shown to him, turned to this chapter and read from it the description of his People, and said that it was still true of them, and that they still kept the precepts of Jonadab, their father. Over three thousand years have passed away since that family of the Kenites came with Israel into Canaan, and for two thousand years no traces of them were preserved; but now, after so long a lapse of time, recent discoveries have brought them to light, retaining their name, and glorying in their independence. Though surrounded by Mohammedan Arabs, they conform to the law of Moses yet maintaining that they are not Israelites; and are much hated by the Mussulman.” This account was given by a traveller so late as 1832, and is confirmed by English residents at Mocha, and from other sources. No doubt every promise of God’s Word is as abundantly fulfilled. We may not always be able to trace out the literal accomplishment of every one as strikingly as in this case, but we never could prove one promise in all the Bible false; and the more light we have the more abundantly do we see that all have been yea and amen. Let us rest upon God’s Word. Exceeding great and precious promises are given to us in the sacred book. They are like good notes from a prompt paymaster, falling due at different times. We may sometimes question their worth, or may even forget in the multitude of cares that we have such securities treasured up, but the time of their payment will come, and we shall find all redeemed. (W. H. Lewis, D. D.)

The Rechabites

Their record was an honourable one, and reached far back into the early days of Hebrew history. When Israel was passing through the wilderness of Sinai, the tribe of the Kenites showed them kindness; and this laid the foundation of perpetual friendliness between the two peoples. They seem to have adopted the religious convictions of Israel, and to have accompanied them into the Land of Promise. Retaining their integrity as s pastoral people, the Kenites maintained these friendly relations with Israel during the intervening centuries; and it was of this tribe that the Rechabites, for such was the name of this strange tent-loving people, had sprung ( 4:17-24; 1 Samuel 15:6; 1 Chronicles 2:55). About the time of Elijah, and perhaps largely influenced by him, the sheikh or leader of one branch of the Kenites was Jonadab the son of Rechab. He was dismayed at the abounding corruption of the time, and especially of the northern kingdom, then under the fatal spell of Jezebel’s and Ahab’s influence; and resembled some rank jungle in whose steamy air, heavy with fever and poison, noisome creatures swarm, and foul pestilences breed. In his endeavour to save his people from such a fate, this noble man, who afterwards become Jehu’s confederate in extirpating idolatry, bound his people under a solemn pledge to drink no wine for ever; neither to build houses, nor sow seed, nor plant vineyards, but to dwell in tents.

I. Jeremiah’s test of the Rechabites. So soon as their arrival was noised abroad, and had come to the ears of Jeremiah, he was seized by a Divine impulse to derive from them a striking object-lesson for his own people. With an inventiveness which only passionate love could have suggested, the prophet caught at every incident, and used every method to awaken his people to realise their true position in the sight of God. Probably a little group of Jews, arrested by the prophet s association with these strange-looking men, followed them in to watch the proceedings. They were curious witnesses of the prophet’s action, as he caused bowls of wine to be set before the tribesmen, and cups to be offered them, that they might dip them in and drink. They also heard the blunt unqualified refusal of these quaint old-fashioned Puritans, “We will drink no wine,” followed by an explanation of the solemn obligation laid on them centuries before. The moral was obvious, Hero were men loyal to the wish of their ancestor, though he was little more than a name to them, and refusing the offered sweets in which so many freely indulged. How great a contrast to the people of Jerusalem, who persistently disregarded the words of the living God perpetually remonstrating against their sins! The prohibitions of Jonadab were largely arbitrary and external; whilst those of Jehovah were corroborated by the convictions of conscience, and consonant with the deepest foundations of religion and morality. The voice of Jonadab was a cry coming faintly from far down the ages; whilst Jehovah was ever speaking with each new dawn, and in the voice of each fresh messenger whom He rose early to send. Such devotion to principle; such persistent culture of simplicity, frugality, and abstinence; such literal adherence to the will of the father of their house--not only carried within them the assurance of perpetuity to the people who practised them, but must receive the signature and countersign of the Almighty. “Therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel Jonadab, the son of Rechab, shall not want a man to stand before Me for ever.” This phrase had a very profound significance. It suggested, of course, obviously, that the tribe should not cease to exist. The phrase is often used in Scripture of priestly service. And may we not infer that where we meet that devotion to principle, and that detachment from the world, which characterised these men, there will always be a strong religious tone, a knowledge of God, a power in prayer and intercession, which are the essential characteristics of the priests?

II. This elements of a strongly religious life. Oh, to stand always before Him, on whose face the glory of God shines as the sun in his strength! But if this is to be something more than a vague wish, an idle dream, three things should be remembered, suggested by the words of the Rechabites.

1. There must be close adhesion to great principles. Many superficial reasons might have suggested to the Rechabites compliance with the prophet s tempting suggestion. The wine was before them; there was no sin against God in taking it; the people around had no scruples about it; and the prophet himself invited them. In contrast to this, it is the general tendency amongst men to ask what is the practice of the majority; what is done by those in their rank and station; and what will be expected of them. We drift with the current. We allow our lives to be settled by our companions or our whims, our fancies or our tastes. We make a grave mistake in supposing that the main purpose of our life is something different from that which reveals itself in details. What we are in the details of our life, that we are really and essentially. The truest photographs are taken when we are unprepared for the operation. And, indeed, when we consider the characters of the early disciples of Jesus, or those of saints, martyrs, and confessors, must we not admit that they were as scrupulous in seeking the will of God about the trifles of their life, as the Rechabites were in consulting the will and pleasure of the dead Jonadab? The thought of God was as present with the one as of Jonadab with the other. And was not this the secret of their strong and noble lives? What a revolution would come to us all if it became the one fixed aim and ambition of our lives to do always those things that are pleasing in His sight!

2. Abstinence from the spirit of the age. It was an immense gain in every way for the Rechabites to abstain from wine. Wine was closely associated with the luxury, corruption, and abominable revelries of the time (Isaiah 28:1-8). Their abstinence was not only a protest against the evils which wore honeycombing their age, but was a sure safeguard against participation in them. In these days the same principles apply. Surely, then, we shall do well to say with the Rechabites, whoever may ask us to drink, “We will drink no wine.” But wine may stand for the spirit of the age, its restlessness, its constant thirst for novelty, for amusement, for fascination; its feverish demand for the fresh play, the exciting novel, the rush of the season, the magnificent pageant. It is easier to abstain from alcohol than from this insidious spirit of our time, which is poured so freely into the air, as from the vial of some demon sorceress.

3. We must hold lightly to the things around. The Rechabites dwelt in tents. They drove their vast flocks from place to place, and were content with the simple life of the wandering shepherd. It was thus that the great patriarchs had lived before them (Hebrews 11:9; Hebrews 11:13). It is difficult to say what worldliness consists in. What would be worldly to some people is an ordinary part of life’s circumstances to others. But all of us are sensible of ties that hold us to the earth. We may discover what they are by considering what we cling to; what we find it hard to let go; what we are always striving to augment; what we pride ourselves in. (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

The Rechabites

I. Their principles are tried. Three features mark this trial.

1. They were offered wine. After s family record of three hundred years’ abstinence, the evil thing is set before them, free of cost. As they fortunately had no experience of its power by reason of former habits of intemperance, they could look upon the enemy without fear or danger.

2. Wine was offered them by a good man. Jeremiah was the generous host. Surely God’s prophet would not offer them an evil thing, or tempt them to do wrong! A great many well-meaning people place the tempting cup before their guests, and their guests are not the sturdy sons of Jonadab, and much evil is wrought.

3. Wine was offered in the Lord’s house. They were in the chamber of good men, on “holy ground,” and in strict privacy. Under such circumstances, might they not suspend their stringent rules of life? They had broken one vow in coming into Jerusalem, might they not yield another point, and adopt one of the ways of city people? Life is full of opportunities for testing principles and character.

II. Their principles are triumphant.

1. It was prompt and definite. They reasoned not “with flesh and blood,” nor did they offer any compromise.

2. It was complete. Their pledge was a comprehensive one, involving dwelling in tents, and living a very unworldly life (verses 6-10). Total abstinence, was not enough. Their father’s commandment, was broad. Sobriety is not salvation.

3. It was general. “We, our wives, our sons, our daughters” (verse 8). The domestic peace had not been broken by faithlessness and sin. A blessed unity in principle and in practice.

4. It was constant. Three hundred years had passed since they received these injunctions, and they still regarded them as binding and sacred.

III. Their actuating motive.

1. It was filial love. “For Jonadab our father commanded us” (verse 6) was the only defence they cared to offer for their singular conduct. A pious ancestry is an invaluable blessing; but the filial spirit must turn that boon to practical account.

2. Men live after death. “He being dead, yet speaketh.” Time cannot impair the power of a good life.

IV. The exemplary meaning of their conduct. They were not tried for their own sake, but for the good of others.

1. Conduct makes personal influence. “No man liveth unto himself.” The end of our trials may concern others more than ourselves. The Jews were to be instructed by the behaviour of the Rechabites.

2. The sobriety of one condemns the drunkenness of the other. If one life can be good, other lives can too.

3. It was a contrast of privilege. In obedience to an earthly father, who had been dead three centuries, the sons of Jonadab had kept their pledges. The Jews had received Divine commands, all the prophets had spoken to them, and yet they disobeyed (verses 14, 16).

4. It justified Divine judgment. “Therefore . . . I will bring upon Judah,” &c. (verse 17). The abstinence of Rechab condemns inebriate Judah.

5. National intemperance is a swift destroyer.

6. Personal drunkenness makes up the national sin. The units make the million.

V. The rechabites reward.

1. Divine approval Jeremiah assured them of God’s benediction.

2. Divine preservation. Jonadab promised his sons long life, “many days in the land where ye be strangers” (verse 7), and that promise God ratified. Medical and statistical science have come to Jonadab’s view.

3. Divine honour. “Jonadab, the son of Rechab, shall not want a man to stand before Me for ever” (verse 19). Standing before God has reference to a priestly relationship and service. (R. W. Keighley.)

A reason for total abstinence

The late Frances E. Willard once asked the greatest of inventors, Thomas A. Edison, if he were a total abstainer; and when he told her that he was, she said, “May I inquire if it was home influence that made you so?” and he replied, “No; I think it was because I always felt that I had a better use for my head. Who can measure the loss to the world if that wonderful instrument of thought that has given us so much of light and leading in the practical mechanism of life had become sodden with drink, instead of electric with original ideas!

Obedience to human authority

1. Premise that complications are apt to arise, unless we remember--

2. What right had Jonadab to enjoin upon his descendants the observances specified? His injunctions were those of a founder and legislator.

3. To proceed, then, we have--

I have spoken unto you, rising early and speaking; but ye hearkened not unto Me.--

The aggravated nature of disobedience

I. Look at the authority of God--the right He has to be obeyed and hearkened to. “I have spoken unto you,” saith God. We must lay a stress upon that “I.” We must contrast it with the name of Jonadab. It is as much as to say, What is Jonadab compared with Me? What is his authority compared with Mine?

II. We must lay a stress also upon the manner in which the Lord hath given His directions to us. “I have spoken unto you,” saith He--how? “rising early and speaking.” Oh! wonderful expression! spoken, indeed, in accommodation to man’s language; but how affecting! how significant! Jonadab, perhaps, laid down his rules but once, and was readily obeyed. But again and again hath the Great Jehovah sent abroad His invitations, and renewed His offers, and repeated His commands.

III. The nature of the Lord’s directions. Look over Jonadab’s injunctions, and assuredly you will pronounce them harsh and strict in the extreme. He laid an embargo on the very gifts of providence, and bade his family abstain from them. Now contrast with this the gentle, gracious precepts of the Gospel of Christ Jesus--surely His yoke is easy and His burthen is light! But before He gives His precepts He sends His invitations (Matthew 11:28). Pardon and grace are first proposed before duties are required. (A. Roberts, M. A.)

The reasonableness of hearkening to God’s voice and submitting ourselves to Him

1. As we are His creatures (Malachi 1:6; Hebrews 12:9).

2. As He is our benefactor (Isaiah 1:2-3; Romans 12:1).

3. As He has engaged Himself to support and deliver such (Romans 8:28, &c.).

4. As He forbids only what is hurtful, and commands only what is good (Romans 7:12; Deuteronomy 10:12-13).

5. The wisest and best of men have acted thus (Hebrews 12:1).

6. It is its own reward (Psalms 19:11).

7. The reward He sets before us is infinitely great (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).

8. Disobedience exposes to His wrath (Romans 1:18; Romans 2:8-9). (H. Foster.)

Disobedience to God condemned

I. Let us consider this complaint. There is at this day--

1. The same regard for the commands of men.

2. The same disregard for the commands of God. But let us consider the complaint more minutely--

II. With its attendant aggravations.

1. The authority from which the different commands proceeded.

2. The commands themselves.

3. The manner in which they were enforced. Address--

Return ye now every man from his evil way.--

Sinners admonished to return to God

I. What the exhortation presupposes.

1. That there has been a departure from God.

2. This departure is universal (Romans 3:10; Romans 3:19-23).

3. This departure is flagrantly wicked. “Evil way.” Evil in its nature, in its influence, in its consequences.

II. To what reforms the exhortation points.

1. Deep conviction of the evil and dangerous nature of a wicked career.

2. Contrition of heart, and confession of sin to God.

3. The renunciation of every evil way.

4. Supreme love and loyalty to God.

III. Compliance with this request is urgent.

1. Life is short and uncertain.

2. Sin is hardening and deceitful.

3. You will escape the greatest evils and realise the most exalted pleasures.

4. The longer you delay the less probability there is that you will ever return.

5. The present is the only time in which we are authorised to tell you you can be saved.

IV. The happy result of returning to God.

1. The Israelites entered Canaan--a faint type of heaven to which believers are called.

2. “Ye shall dwell” there in fulness of joy, and at God’s right hand. Your “sun shall no more go down.” (Helps for the Pulpit.)

Amending one’s ways a great work

Sir Thomas Burnet, the third son of Bishop Burner, led at one time a dissipated life. At last he took a serious turn, and one evening his father observing him to be very thoughtful, asked what he was meditating. “A greater work,” replied he, “than your lordship’s ‘History of the Reformation.’” “Ay,” said the bishop, “what is that?” “The reformation of myself,” said the young man. He fulfilled his promise, and he afterwards became one of the best lawyers of his time; and in 1741 one of the judges in the Court of Common Pleas.


Verses 1-19

Jeremiah 35:1-19

Go unto the house of the Rechabites, and speak unto them, and bring them into the house of the Lord, into one of the chambers, and give them wine to drink.

The Rechabites

Did the Lord make a proposal to total abstainers to drink wine? Did he send for them to a kind of wine festival? Is this the meaning of the Lord’s Prayer, “Load us not into temptation”? Is not the Lord always thus leading men into temptation?--not in the patent and vulgar sense in which that term is generally understood, but in a sense which signifies drill, the application of discipline, the testing of principles and purposes and character? Is not all life a temptation? The Lord tries every man. There need be no hesitation in offering the prayer, “Lead us not into temptation.” People have tried to soften the words. They have said instead of “lead” “leave us not in temptation”; but these are the annotations of inexperience and folly, or superficiality. We are not men until we have been thus moulded, tried, qualified. We can do little for one another in that pit of temptation. We must be left with God. There is one Refiner; He sits over the furnace, and when the fire has done enough He quenches the cruel, flame. Think it no strange thin that temptation hath befallen you; yea, think it not strange that God Himself has given you opportunities by which you may be burned. He never gives such an opportunity without giving something else. Alas, how often we see the opportunity and not the sustaining grace! The drinking of wine in this case was to be done in “the house of the Lord.” Now light begins to dawn. Mark the limitations of our temptation. The Lord is never absent from His house. Let God tempt me, and He will also save me; let Him invite me into His own house, that there, under a roof beautiful as heaven, He may work His will upon me, and afterwards I shall stand up, higher in nature, broader in manhood, truer in the metal of the Spirit. Observe the details of this mysterious operation. The men who were taken were proved men (verse 3). When the Lord calls for giants to fight His battle and show the strength of His grace, they are chosen men. All these men were conspicuous witnesses for the truth: they were identified with the faith of Israel; they were the trustees of the morality of society. It is so in all ages. There are certain men whom we may denominate our stewards, trustees, representatives; as for ourselves, we say, it is not safe to trust us; we are weaker than a bruised reed; we cannot stand great public ordeals; we were not meant to be illustrations of moral fortitude: spare us from the agony of such trial! There are other men in society whom God Himself can trust. What did the sons of Rechab say? Herein is a strange thing, that children should obey the voice of a dead father. Yet this is a most pleasing contention; this is an argument softened by pathos. The men stood up, and did not speak in their own name; they said, We be the sons of a certain man, who gave a certain law, and by that law we will live, and ever will live. The trial took place in the chamber of the sons of Hanan, the son of Igdaliah, a man of God, which was above the chamber of Maaseiah. The father of Maaseiah was Shallum, who was the husband of Huldah the prophetess, who had taken an active part in the reformation wrought in the reign of Josiah. So all these were so many guarantees of probity, and strength, and success. There will be no evil wrought in that chamber I Not only are the Rechabites there, but their fathers are with them in spirit. Though our fathers, physical and spiritual, be dead, yet they may live with us in the spirit, and may go with us and sustain us in all the trials and difficulties of life. “We will drink no wine.” Note the definiteness of the answer. No inquiry is made about the kind of wine. Men are saved by their definiteness. A strong, proud, decisive answer is the true reply to all temptation. An oath that strikes as with a fist of iron, a denial that is like a long, sharp two-edged sword,--these must be our policies and watchwords in the time of danger. The reason is given (verse 6). It is a filial argument. Good advice is not always thrown away; and men should remember that though exhortation may be rejected for a long time, yet there are periods when it may recur to the memory and come upon the whole life like a blessing sent from God. The argument is a fortiori. The Lord has shown how the sons of Jonadab can refuse wine: now He will take this example and apply it to the whole host of Judah, and He will say, See what one section of your country can do; if they can do this, why cannot you be equally loyal and true? why cannot you be equally obedient to the spirit of righteousness? for three hundred years this bond has been kept in this family; never once has it been violated: if one family can do this, why not a thousand families? if one section of the country, why not the whole nation? This was God’s method of applying truth to those who needed it. Thus we teach one another. One boy can be obedient; why not all boys? One soul can be faithful; why not all souls? God in His providence says: See what others can do, and as they toil and climb and succeed in reaching the highest point, so do ye follow them: the grace that made them succeed will not fail you in the hour of your trial and difficulty. (J. Parker, D. D.)

We will drink no wine: for Jonadab the son of Rechab, our father, commanded us.

The Rechabites

St. Austin says of the Syrophenician woman, who was both hardly spoken of by our Saviour at first, and anon commended highly before her face; she that took not her reproach in scorn, would not wax arrogant upon her commendation; so these Rechabites who lived with good content in a life full of neglect, may the better endure to have their good deeds scanned, without fear of begetting ostentation. And therefore I will branch out my text into four parts, in every of which they will justly deserve our praise, and in some our imitation. First, when the prophet Jeremiah did try them with this temptation, whether they would feast it and-drink wine, they make him a resolute denial, a prophet could., draw them to no inconvenient act. Some are good men of themselves, but easily drawn aside by allurements; such are not the Rechabites. He that will sin to please another, makes his friend either to be a God that shall rule him, or a devil that shall tempt him. Three things, says Aristotle, do preserve the life of friendship.

1. To answer love with like affection.

2. Some similitude and likeness of condition.

3. But above either, neither to sin ourselves, nor for our sakes to lay the charge of sin upon our familiars.

No, he is too prodigal of his kindness, that giveth his friend both his heart and his conscience. I may not forget how Agesilaus’ son behaved himself in this point toward his own father: the cause was corrupt wherein his father did solicit; the son answers him with this modesty: Your education taught me from a child to keep the laws, and my youth is so inured to your former discipline, that I cannot skill the latter. Here let rhetoricians declaim Whether this were duty or disobedience. But let us examine the case by philosophy. I am sure that no man s reason is so nearly conjoined to my soul as my own appetite, although my appetite be merely sensitive. And must I oftentimes resist my own appetite, and enthral it as a civil rebel: and have I not power much more to oppose any man’s reason that Persuades me unto evil, his reason being but a stranger unto me, and not of the secret council of my soul! Yes, out of question. How it pities me to hear some men say, that they could live as soberly, as chastely, as saintlike as the best, if it were not for company! Fie upon such weakness: says St. Austin, If thy mother speak thee fair, if the wife of thy bosom tempt thy heart, beware of Eve, and think of Adam. The serpent was a wise creature (Genesis 3:1-24), and Eve could not but take his word in good manners. Fond mother of mankind, so ready to believe the devil, that her posterity ever since nave Dean slow to believe God. Never can there be a better season for nolumus, for every Christian to be a Rechabite, than when any man reacheth out a cup of intemperance unto us, to say boldly, We will not drink it. Now I proceed to the second part of my text, which hath a strong connection with the former; for why did they resist these enticements, and disavow the prophet (verse 8)? Their obedience is the second part of their encomium, they will obey the voice of Jonadab their father. The name of father was that wherewith God was pleased to mollify our stony hearts, and bring them into the subjection of the fifth commandment. Surely as a parricide, that killed his father, was to have no burial upon the earth, but sewed in an ox hide and east headlong into the sea; so he that despiseth his father deserves not to hold any place of dignity above others, but to be a slave to all men. For what are we but coin that hath our fathers’ image stamped upon it? and we receive our current value from them to be called sons of men. And yet the more commendable was the obedience of the Rechabites, that their father Jonadab being dead, his law was in as good force as if he had been living. Concerning this virtue of obedience, let us extend our discourse a little further, and yet tread upon our own ground. Obedience is used in a large sense, for a condition, or modus, annexed unto all virtues. As the magistrate may execute justice dutifully under his prince, the soldier may perform a valiant exploit dutifully under his captain; but strictly, and according to the pattern of the Rechabites, says Aquinas. It is one peculiar and entire virtue, whereby we oblige ourselves, for authority’s sake, to do things indifferent to be done, or omitted; for sometimes that which is evil may be hurtful prohibito to the party forbidden: as the laws forbid a man to murder himself: sometimes a thing is evil prohibenti, so treasons, adulteries, and thefts are interdicted: but sometimes the thing is no way in itself pernicious to any, but only propounded to make trial of our duty and allegiance, as when Adam was forbid to eat the apple; and this is true obedience, not to obey for the necessity of the thing commanded, but out of conscience and subjection to just authority. Such obedience, and nothing else, is that which hath made the little commonwealth of bees so famous: for are they not at appointment who should dispose the work at home, and who should gather honey in the fields? they flinch not from their task, and no creature under the sun hath so brave an instinct of sagacity. Let us gather up this second part of my text into one closure: we commend the Rechabites for their obedience, and by their example we owe duty to our parents, natural and civil, those that begot us, those that govern us. We owe duty to the dead, after our rulers have left us in the way of a good life, and changed their own for a better. We owe duty to our rulers in all things honest and lawful; in obeying rites and ceremonies indifferent, in laws civil and ecclesiastical. But where God controls, or wherein our liberty cannot be enthralled, we are bound ad patiendum, and happy if we suffer for righteousness’ sake. Now that the obedience of the Rechabites was lawful and religious, and a thing wherein they might profitably dispense with freedom and liberty, the third part of my text, that is their temperance, will make it manifest, for in this they obeyed Jonadab. To spare somewhat which God hath given us for our sustenance, is to restore a part of the plenty back again; if we lay hands upon all that is set before us, it is suspicious that we expected more, and accused nature of frugality. And though the vine did boast in Jotham’s parable, that it cheered up the heart of God and man, though it be so useful a creature for our preservation, that no Carthusian or Caelestine monk of the strictest order did put this into their vow to drink no wine, yet the Rechabites are contented to be more sober than any, and lap the water of the brook, like Gideon’s soldiers. Which moderation of diet did enable them to avoid luxury and swinish drunkenness, into which sin whosoever falls makes himself subject to a fourfold punishment. First, The heat of too liberal a proportion kindles the lust of the flesh. Lot, who was not consumed in Sodom with the fire of brimstone, drunkenness set him on fire with incestuous lust in Zoar. What St. Paul hath coupled (2 Corinthians 6:1-18.), let us not divide; lastings go first, then follows pureness and chastity. Secondly, How many brawls and unmanly combats have we seen? Thirdly, Superfluity of drink is the draught of foolishness. Such a misery, in my opinion, that I would think men had rather lose their right arm than the government of their reason, if they knew the royalty thereof. Lastly, Whereas sobriety is the sustentation of that which decays in man, drunkenness is the utter decay of the body. The Rechabites had encouragement to take this vow upon them for three reasons:

1. As being but strangers to the true commonwealth of Israel.

2. To make the better preparation for the captivity of Babylon.

3. To draw their affections to the content of a little, and the contempt of the world.

Now I follow my own method to handle the second consideration of this vow, that these circumstances were not only well foreseen, but that the conditions of the thing vowed are just and lawful. Not to tumble over all the distinctions of the schoolmen, which are as multiplicious in this cause as in any; of vows, some are singular, which concern one man and no more, as when David vowed to build an house unto the Lord, this was not a vow of many associated in that pious work, but of David only. Some are public when there is a unity of consent in divers persons to obtest the same thing before the presence of God. And such was this vow in my text, it concerned the whole family of the Rechabites. That this vow was of some moment in the practice of piety, appears by God’s benediction upon them. For as it was said of Socrates’ goodness, that it stood the common wealth of Athens in more stead than all their warlike prowess by sea and land, so that religious life of the Rechabites was the best wall and fortress to keep Judah in peace and safety. And almost who doth not follow Christ rather to be a gainer by Him than a loser. Behold, we have left all and followed Thee; that was the perfection of the apostles, that was the state of the Rechabites; not simply all, everything that belonged to the maintenance of a man, and so to live upon beggary, they have learned to ask nothing but a gourd to cover their head, a few flocks of sheep to employ their hands, the spring water to quench their thirst. They that must have no more, have cut off superfluous desires, that they can never ask more. And so piety and a godly life were chiefly aimed at in the vow of the Rechabites. The end and last part of all is this: That forasmuch as God was well pleased with these abstemious people that would drink no wine, therefore promise unto the Lord, and do the deed; for that is my final conclusion, that a vow justly conceived is to be solemnly performed. When we have breathed out a resolved protestation before God, it is like the hour we spake it in, past and gone, and can never be recalled. Says David, “I have poured out my soul in prayer,” as if upon his supplication it were no longer his, but God s for ever. Surely if our soul be gone from us in our prayers, then much more in our vows they are flown up to Heaven, like Lazarus to the bosom of Abraham, they cannot, they should not return to earth again. He that changed his sex in the fable is not so great a wonder, as he that changeth any covenant which is drawn between God and his conscience. He that hath consecrated himself to God, doth, as it were, carry heaven upon his shoulders. Support your burdens in God’s name, lest if you shrink the wrath of God press you down to the nethermost pit. I will give a brief answer to one question. Is Christ so austere that He doth reclaim against all dispensation? no, says Aquinas, you are loose again, if the thing in vow be sinful, nay if it be unuseful, nay if it cross the accomplishment of a greater good. This is good allowance, and well spoken. The careful pilot sets his adventure to a certain haven, and would turn neither to the right hand nor to the left, if the winds were as constant as the loadstone, but they blow contrary to his expectation. Suppose a Rechabite protesting to drink no wine, had lived after the institution of our Saviour’s Supper, when He consecrated the fruit of the grape, and said, Drink ye all of this, would it pass for an answer at the Holy Communion to say, We will drink no wine? No more than if he had sworn before not to eat a paschal lamb, or any sour herbs, quite against the institution of the passover. There is enough in this chapter to stride over this doubt if you mark it. Jonadab indented with God, that he and his seed should live in tabernacles for ever; and in tabernacles they did live for three hundred years. Then comes the king of Babylon with an army into the country to invade the land. It was dangerous now to live in tabernacles; there was no high priest, I assure you, to absolve them; no money given to the publicans of the Church for a dispensation: but they said, “Come and let us go to Jerusalem for fear of the army of the Chaldeans and Syrians, and let us dwell at Jerusalem.” The vow was unprofitable, tabernacles dangerous, and so the bond is cancelled. Yet, do not take all the liberty due unto you, if I may advise you: there are two things which you may choose to untie the knot of a vow. The peremptory rejecting of a bad vow, and that is lawful, and the changing thereof into some other vow, and that is more expedient, that God may have some service done unto Him, by way of a vow. (Bishop Hacket.)

Obedience to parental authority

The first and principal commandment of the moral law, Honour thy father and thy mother, begins with obedience to parents; but must of course be interpreted in a wider sense so as to apply to all who have a right to obedience--the persons to be honoured in that famous and excellent summary of the Catechism are the King, and all in authority under him, my governors, teachers, spiritual pastors and masters, and last of all “my betters”; the falling into disuse of such an instructive word is a fact of very great significance and needs no comment. But duty to parents comes clearly first, which an old writer has called “the band and firmament of Commonwealths”; for society is near its dissolution when this obligation is loosened or weakened in any way. The stability of an empire like that of China is an illustration in point, and I was struck some time ago by hearing a missionary of long experience select this one virtue of reverence for parents as that which has for so many centuries preserved the cohesion of that people. Affection may indeed be missing, but obedience and respect for authority are, I believe, universal. So it has come to pass that a nation that we despise outdoes us in the discharge of one of the most elementary moral duties; not that Confucius is a better teacher than Moses, or made any advance upon him, but that we are somehow drifting from a commandment of God, and seem powerless to enforce it. To arrest the widespread mischief we must go back to first principles, and seek to re-establish authority in the family, in the elementary schools, in places of higher education, and perhaps in the university itself. Authority must be taught to be a trust delegated by God to some for the good of the whole body, and the applications of the Christian precept: “All of you be subject one to another,” in its several relations, must be laid down fearlessly and with distinctness by teachers and preachers as the safeguard of society. To revert to filial reverence. It was once, I believe, a characteristic of Englishmen, for even as late as the last century sons would address their fathers by the reverential title of “sir.” The virtue is not exotic, it can stand our rude climate, and it must not be thought for a moment to be a poor sickly plant, that has no root in strong and masculine natures. On the contrary, take a specimen of it from the most robust of our own countrymen. To most of us is known the compunction of Dr. Johnson which has formed the subject of an historical picture. He has related of himself, how when a young man he refused to stand at his father’s stall to sell books; it was, he says, through pride he disobeyed, a trivial circumstance to a less sensitive man, but it was a burden to him for fifty years, until on the very day he went to the very spot where his father’s stall used formerly to be, and on a day of business stood in Uttoxeter market, bareheaded, for an hour exposed to the gibes of the passers-by, and the inclemency of the weather. “This was a penance by which I trust I have propitiated heaven for the only instance I believe of contumacy to my father.” Upon which Mr. Leslie Stephen, by no means a sentimental writer, remarks: “The anecdote cannot be read without emotion, and if it illustrates a touch of superstition in Johnson’s mind, it reveals too that sacred depth of tenderness which ennobled his character.” To both parents we are debtors. Mothers are to be esteemed as highly as fathers, and dutiful obedience rendered to them. Take care you despise them not in their old age or in lonely widowhood. Value them all the more if they are alone. Do not think that you have outgrown their wisdom, for in his mature years Solomon could stamp his own maxims with the authority of his mother’s mint, and give them currency as the words which his mother had taught him. The wishes of parents are also to be attended to, for wise fathers dealing with grown-up children will not burden them with commands, but will leave them to act upon what their sons know they would wish done. In a book that furnished my vacation reading I lighted upon a passage in the undergraduate life of Dr. Corrie that will interest some of us. “When he first came up, his father, knowing his son’s great love for horses, and fearing the scenes of temptation into which this taste might lead him, expressed a strong desire that he would not go to Newmarket. This injunction was faithfully respected. Though he was fully aware that his father would never ask him whether his wish had been observed, his loyalty would not permit him to trifle with the confidence thus placed in him.” A characteristic anecdote of a man who was known as the soul of honour, who if he lacked sons of his own, was looked up to and reverenced by hundreds of pupils and others, who felt their own principles of duty strengthened by his unswerving fidelity to old traditions. Obedience to a father’s law is the whole idea of the incarnation. Not to please Himself at all, but to surrender Himself wholly to the Divine will, runs through all Christ’s life. When He cometh into the world He saith, “I am come to do Thy will, O God,” and when He is about to leave the world in that great fight of conflicting emotions the thought of submission alone rules His prayer, “Not My will, but Thine be done.” Not only as a son, but as a citizen, as a member of the Jewish synagogue and nation, He is obedient to the law, to every ordinance of man, for His Father’s sake. Conscious of His Divinity, of His real relation to God at twelve years old, He goes meekly home to be subject to earthly parents and to learn His trade. When the time of His manifestation has come, He allows John to baptize Him, to fulfil an ordinance of God, and by His obedience He approves John’s commission in the eyes of the people. Though, as Son of God, He is free from the temple tax, yet He works a miracle to pay the due, that He might give no offence to the rulers who sat in Moses’ seat. He even acknowledges that the civil power of the Roman Governor is of God. Under the terms of the new covenant we are no mere slaves but sons, and can claim the spirit of adoption, the will to wish all things in conformity with God’s will, and the power to perform the same. I have heard myself from the lips of those whose whole life has been most wilful and contrary such a confession as this, “I love now as much to do things for God as at one time I did everything against God,” for the love of Christ converts and subdues a stubborn temper, which to its harm would kick against the pricks into a service where there is no heavy burden, no galling yoke, but all is perfect freedom. (C. E. Searle, D. D.)

The obedient Rechabites

I. The authority of the family. The power of human descent and family tradition in moulding a career is well illustrated in the case of the Rechabites.

1. It controlled the natural tastes. Its members must renounce pleasure, comfort, and fixed habitation; their inheritance was the loss of those very things which sons expect, and parents delight to bequeath. But with the loss came a better gain,--health of body, purity of morals, loyalty of conscience. They had that best possession,--noble character.

2. The authority of the family also controlled their external alliances; those entering it by marriage must accept its obligations. A man may leave father and mother to cleave unto his wife, but may not leave truth and virtue.

3. In the same way the family tradition proved superior to surrounding influences. They were as faithful in the city as in the country, as loyal among strangers as where well known. So from lonely farmhouses among the hills, young men and young women have gone to seek an easier fortune in the great city, or in the lawless West, and been delivered from evil by the abiding influence of their sanctified homes.

4. The faithfulness of the Rechabites displays the normal influence of the family in transmitting a tendency to virtue, and confirming that inherited disposition by congenial surroundings and careful training. This is what God means the family to be,--His surest and mightiest agency for spreading righteousness on the earth.

II. This higher authority of God. If human descent and family tradition exert authority over the individual, the Divine Creator and Governor holds a far higher claim upon him. Whatever depravity sin may breed into the race, virtue is always its normal life, holiness its ideal. The Scriptures describe man as directly connected with God in his origin. “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” When the clay was shaped, He “breathed into his nostrils thy breath of life, and man became a living soul.” The characteristics of our Divine origin are as discernible as the marks of our human descent. Our intellect is made after the likeness of the Divine mind, else the universe would be to us an insoluble mystery. In our tastes we can trace kinship with Him who has adorned the earth with beauty. Pure human affection gives us our worthiest conception of the Divine love. Misfortune cannot turn it, ingratitude cannot chill it, death itself cannot overcome it, The Heavenly Father uses this earthly tie to symbolise His own regard; the Saviour describes His fostering care and close union with the Church by naming it His “bride.” Our moral nature is plainly Divine in origin. Conscience is the voice of God in man. He who obeys it is lifted to the plane of Divine action, is made a co-worker with God. Over this lordly realm, crowned its regent by the Creator Himself, is the Personal Soul, the “Self,” the “I.” Self-consciousness is its throne, self-determination its sceptre. By this solemn conviction “I am,” “I will,” man separates himself from all the universe around him; through this he balances his soul against the whole world and weighs it down; with it he faces eternity. He is his own, something for which the Infinite asks, and he may give. It is here that man’s Divine origin finds its explanation; for the glad choice of God, all the dignity of human nature was given; to this end converge the constant teachings of the revealing universe, the open instructions of the inspired Word, the solemn persuasions of the Holy Spirit. Lessons--

1. The responsibility of parents. One writer on heredity declares that the dispositions of Bacon and Goethe were formed by the simple addition of the dispositions of their ancestors. We know that passionate temper, fretfulness, and despondency may be inherited. Let a parent beware how he sins.

2. The responsibility resting upon the child of godly parents. When one who has had a virtuous ancestry seeks out vice and courts godlessness, he has not long to wait before every red drop in his veins will turn against him and curse him traitor. There is something back of his own will,--an authority he knows not how to resist and cannot defy.

3. The ultimate responsibility of each soul to God. When Samuel J. Mills was struggling against the convictions of the Spirit, he exclaimed, “I wish I had never been born!” His mother replied, “But you are born, my son, and can never escape your accountability to God.” The glad choice of the holy God is the highest exercise of the created will. (C. M. Southgate.)

The obedience of the Rechabites

I. Wherein it resembles christian obedience.

1. It was total. They did not consult their preferences or their “affinities.” They did not proceed upon any law of “natural selection.” They did not show punctilious fidelity with reference to one commandment, and great laxity concerning another. This is one essential characteristic of Christian obedience. It is total. If we can make choice of such commands as we feel like obeying and disregard the rest, what are we but masters instead of subjects, dictating terms instead of receiving orders?

2. It was constant. It kept an unbroken path. It bore the stress of storms and tests. And herein it was marked by another essential characteristic of Christian obedience--a beautiful constancy. Enlistment in the Lord’s army is for life, and there is no discharge in that war.

II. Wherein this Rechabite obedience was unlike Christian obedience.

1. The Rechabites obeyed Jonadab: Christians obey God. This is a substantive difference. And we must not confound things that radically differ. The source of a command has a great deal to do with the value of obedience to it. The lower relation must give way to the higher when the two conflict.

2. Jonadab’s commands, so far as we know, were for temporal and material ends, in the interests of a rugged manhood and a sturdy independence. God’s commands are for spiritual ends, for good of soul, and they stand vitally connected with those higher interests that relate not only to the life that now is, but to that which is to come. Rechabite obedience, therefore, conserves temporal good; Christian obedience conserves eternal good.

3. Rechabite obedience was not necessary to salvation; Christian obedience is indispensable.

III. Wherein it shames Christian disobedience.

1. These Rechabites are obedient to their father Jonadab, a mere man who had been dead nearly three hundred years, while Judah is in open and flagrant disobedience to the Most High God.

2. Jonadab commanded but once, and he had instant and constant heed, generation upon generation, for centuries. “But I,” saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel--“I have spoken unto you, rising early and speaking. I have also sent unto you,” &c.

3. Obedience to Jonadab was at a cost, and it brought at the best only power to endure and the spirit of independence. It left the Rechabites poor and homeless. Obedience to God was also at a cost, but it gave His people assured possessions, peace of conscience, protection from their enemies, and all the exceeding riches of an eternal inheritance in God’s kingdom of grace and glory. Yet the Rechabites obeyed Jonadab with a beautiful constancy, while Judah hearkened not to the voice of the Lord.

Practical suggestions--

1. The very essence of Christian fidelity is obedience.

2. A true obedience has two infallible signs. It will have no reservations, and it will never cry “Halt!”

3. See the shame and guilt of disobedience under the Gospel.

4. In respect to one particular in this Rechabite obedience, namely, abstinence from wine--three things are clear.

Wine-drinking is a sin “for that man who drinks with offence” (Romans 14:20). Wine-drinking is a sin for that man who by it “puts a stumbling-block or an occasion to fall in a brother s way (Romans 14:15). When wine-drinking wounds a weak conscience” it is “as in against Christ” (1 Corinthians 8:12). (H. Johnson, D. D.)

The obedience of the Rechabites

Jonadab saw that his people were but a handful among a more powerful people, and likely soon to be swallowed up by their neighbours, and he hit upon a happy method of preserving their independent existence. He enjoined them “not to drink wine”; this was to save them from luxury and intemperance, which would prey upon them from within, and make them ripe for destruction; and he also commanded them “not to till the ground, nor to have any houses, nor to dwell in cities”; this was in order that they might have no riches to tempt others to make war upon them; and thus, to use his own words, “they might live many days in the land wherein they were strangers.” Luxury and wealth are the bane of nations, and by keeping his tribe a simple, pastoral people, pure in their habits, and destitute of property, he accomplished his wishes for them.

I. The obedience of the Rechabites contrasted with the disobedience of Israel to God. An ancestor of that family, who had been dead nearly three hundred years, had issued his commands, and they were still obeyed; but the living God had spoken repeatedly to Israel, by His prophets, yet they would not hear. The commands of Jonadab, too, were very arbitrary. There could be no sin in cultivating the fields, or in living in houses, whatever moral worth there may have been in the precept to drink no wine: but still, because Jonadab commanded it they obeyed. The complaint of God has still an application. It is a fact, that among sinners, any and every law, precept, or tradition, of mere human authority, is better obeyed than the laws of God Himself. See, in a few instances, how this has been verified. Mahomet arose, a sensualist, an adulterer, a breaker of treaties, and a robber, and issued his commands, which for centuries have been religiously obeyed. At the cry of the muezzin, and the hour of prayer, every follower of his, whether in the desert, on board the ship, in the city, or the field, suspends his labour, his pleasures, and even his griefs, and casts himself upon his knees in prayer. But the blessed Jesus, pure, peaceful, and glorious, speaks, and even those who acknowledge Him as Lord over all, and own the goodness of His commands, can listen to such words as, “This do in remembrance of Me,” and obey them not. The founder of some monkish order, again, has enjoined upon all his fraternity certain rules and austerities, and he is obeyed. Day after day, and year after year, the same tedious round of ceremonies is gone through with, as though salvation depended upon it, and the deluded ones will rise at the midnight hour to inflict stripes upon themselves or to offer prayer. But Christ may enjoin the reasonable duty of praying to our Father in spirit and in truth, and multitudes can suffer days and years to pass, and pray not. The commander of the order of Jesuits can place his inferior priests in any country of the world, and whether the mandate be to act as father confessor in some palace, or to Penetrate to China or Paraguay, there is no more resistance for apparent regard for the sacrifices to be made than in the machinery which is moved by mechanic power. Christ commands His disciples to “go preach the Gospel to every creature,” but only here and there one goes forth. The heathen priest bids the worshippers of idols to cast their children rote the fire or the water, and it is done. Jesus says, “Suffer little children to come to Me,” and has appointed a sacrament in which they may be received, but men will admit the duty, and yet neglect the baptism of their children. The Rechabites of modern times, and Sons of Temperance, may institute a vow of temperance, and it is kept; or command one of their number to minister to the sick, and it is done; or provide well for their poor; but Christ says, that “no drunkard shall enter heaven,” and enjoins charity to the sick and the destitute, while many heed Him not.

II. The rewards of obedience. Modern travellers, moreover, state that the Rechabites are still in existence. Mr. Wolf, the famous Jewish missionary, asserts this as his belief. “And another traveller who visited a tract to the south of Judea, which has been unexplored for centuries, met there a native who claimed to be a Rechabite, and when an Arabic Bible was shown to him, turned to this chapter and read from it the description of his People, and said that it was still true of them, and that they still kept the precepts of Jonadab, their father. Over three thousand years have passed away since that family of the Kenites came with Israel into Canaan, and for two thousand years no traces of them were preserved; but now, after so long a lapse of time, recent discoveries have brought them to light, retaining their name, and glorying in their independence. Though surrounded by Mohammedan Arabs, they conform to the law of Moses yet maintaining that they are not Israelites; and are much hated by the Mussulman.” This account was given by a traveller so late as 1832, and is confirmed by English residents at Mocha, and from other sources. No doubt every promise of God’s Word is as abundantly fulfilled. We may not always be able to trace out the literal accomplishment of every one as strikingly as in this case, but we never could prove one promise in all the Bible false; and the more light we have the more abundantly do we see that all have been yea and amen. Let us rest upon God’s Word. Exceeding great and precious promises are given to us in the sacred book. They are like good notes from a prompt paymaster, falling due at different times. We may sometimes question their worth, or may even forget in the multitude of cares that we have such securities treasured up, but the time of their payment will come, and we shall find all redeemed. (W. H. Lewis, D. D.)

The Rechabites

Their record was an honourable one, and reached far back into the early days of Hebrew history. When Israel was passing through the wilderness of Sinai, the tribe of the Kenites showed them kindness; and this laid the foundation of perpetual friendliness between the two peoples. They seem to have adopted the religious convictions of Israel, and to have accompanied them into the Land of Promise. Retaining their integrity as s pastoral people, the Kenites maintained these friendly relations with Israel during the intervening centuries; and it was of this tribe that the Rechabites, for such was the name of this strange tent-loving people, had sprung ( 4:17-24; 1 Samuel 15:6; 1 Chronicles 2:55). About the time of Elijah, and perhaps largely influenced by him, the sheikh or leader of one branch of the Kenites was Jonadab the son of Rechab. He was dismayed at the abounding corruption of the time, and especially of the northern kingdom, then under the fatal spell of Jezebel’s and Ahab’s influence; and resembled some rank jungle in whose steamy air, heavy with fever and poison, noisome creatures swarm, and foul pestilences breed. In his endeavour to save his people from such a fate, this noble man, who afterwards become Jehu’s confederate in extirpating idolatry, bound his people under a solemn pledge to drink no wine for ever; neither to build houses, nor sow seed, nor plant vineyards, but to dwell in tents.

I. Jeremiah’s test of the Rechabites. So soon as their arrival was noised abroad, and had come to the ears of Jeremiah, he was seized by a Divine impulse to derive from them a striking object-lesson for his own people. With an inventiveness which only passionate love could have suggested, the prophet caught at every incident, and used every method to awaken his people to realise their true position in the sight of God. Probably a little group of Jews, arrested by the prophet s association with these strange-looking men, followed them in to watch the proceedings. They were curious witnesses of the prophet’s action, as he caused bowls of wine to be set before the tribesmen, and cups to be offered them, that they might dip them in and drink. They also heard the blunt unqualified refusal of these quaint old-fashioned Puritans, “We will drink no wine,” followed by an explanation of the solemn obligation laid on them centuries before. The moral was obvious, Hero were men loyal to the wish of their ancestor, though he was little more than a name to them, and refusing the offered sweets in which so many freely indulged. How great a contrast to the people of Jerusalem, who persistently disregarded the words of the living God perpetually remonstrating against their sins! The prohibitions of Jonadab were largely arbitrary and external; whilst those of Jehovah were corroborated by the convictions of conscience, and consonant with the deepest foundations of religion and morality. The voice of Jonadab was a cry coming faintly from far down the ages; whilst Jehovah was ever speaking with each new dawn, and in the voice of each fresh messenger whom He rose early to send. Such devotion to principle; such persistent culture of simplicity, frugality, and abstinence; such literal adherence to the will of the father of their house--not only carried within them the assurance of perpetuity to the people who practised them, but must receive the signature and countersign of the Almighty. “Therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel Jonadab, the son of Rechab, shall not want a man to stand before Me for ever.” This phrase had a very profound significance. It suggested, of course, obviously, that the tribe should not cease to exist. The phrase is often used in Scripture of priestly service. And may we not infer that where we meet that devotion to principle, and that detachment from the world, which characterised these men, there will always be a strong religious tone, a knowledge of God, a power in prayer and intercession, which are the essential characteristics of the priests?

II. This elements of a strongly religious life. Oh, to stand always before Him, on whose face the glory of God shines as the sun in his strength! But if this is to be something more than a vague wish, an idle dream, three things should be remembered, suggested by the words of the Rechabites.

1. There must be close adhesion to great principles. Many superficial reasons might have suggested to the Rechabites compliance with the prophet s tempting suggestion. The wine was before them; there was no sin against God in taking it; the people around had no scruples about it; and the prophet himself invited them. In contrast to this, it is the general tendency amongst men to ask what is the practice of the majority; what is done by those in their rank and station; and what will be expected of them. We drift with the current. We allow our lives to be settled by our companions or our whims, our fancies or our tastes. We make a grave mistake in supposing that the main purpose of our life is something different from that which reveals itself in details. What we are in the details of our life, that we are really and essentially. The truest photographs are taken when we are unprepared for the operation. And, indeed, when we consider the characters of the early disciples of Jesus, or those of saints, martyrs, and confessors, must we not admit that they were as scrupulous in seeking the will of God about the trifles of their life, as the Rechabites were in consulting the will and pleasure of the dead Jonadab? The thought of God was as present with the one as of Jonadab with the other. And was not this the secret of their strong and noble lives? What a revolution would come to us all if it became the one fixed aim and ambition of our lives to do always those things that are pleasing in His sight!

2. Abstinence from the spirit of the age. It was an immense gain in every way for the Rechabites to abstain from wine. Wine was closely associated with the luxury, corruption, and abominable revelries of the time (Isaiah 28:1-8). Their abstinence was not only a protest against the evils which wore honeycombing their age, but was a sure safeguard against participation in them. In these days the same principles apply. Surely, then, we shall do well to say with the Rechabites, whoever may ask us to drink, “We will drink no wine.” But wine may stand for the spirit of the age, its restlessness, its constant thirst for novelty, for amusement, for fascination; its feverish demand for the fresh play, the exciting novel, the rush of the season, the magnificent pageant. It is easier to abstain from alcohol than from this insidious spirit of our time, which is poured so freely into the air, as from the vial of some demon sorceress.

3. We must hold lightly to the things around. The Rechabites dwelt in tents. They drove their vast flocks from place to place, and were content with the simple life of the wandering shepherd. It was thus that the great patriarchs had lived before them (Hebrews 11:9; Hebrews 11:13). It is difficult to say what worldliness consists in. What would be worldly to some people is an ordinary part of life’s circumstances to others. But all of us are sensible of ties that hold us to the earth. We may discover what they are by considering what we cling to; what we find it hard to let go; what we are always striving to augment; what we pride ourselves in. (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

The Rechabites

I. Their principles are tried. Three features mark this trial.

1. They were offered wine. After s family record of three hundred years’ abstinence, the evil thing is set before them, free of cost. As they fortunately had no experience of its power by reason of former habits of intemperance, they could look upon the enemy without fear or danger.

2. Wine was offered them by a good man. Jeremiah was the generous host. Surely God’s prophet would not offer them an evil thing, or tempt them to do wrong! A great many well-meaning people place the tempting cup before their guests, and their guests are not the sturdy sons of Jonadab, and much evil is wrought.

3. Wine was offered in the Lord’s house. They were in the chamber of good men, on “holy ground,” and in strict privacy. Under such circumstances, might they not suspend their stringent rules of life? They had broken one vow in coming into Jerusalem, might they not yield another point, and adopt one of the ways of city people? Life is full of opportunities for testing principles and character.

II. Their principles are triumphant.

1. It was prompt and definite. They reasoned not “with flesh and blood,” nor did they offer any compromise.

2. It was complete. Their pledge was a comprehensive one, involving dwelling in tents, and living a very unworldly life (verses 6-10). Total abstinence, was not enough. Their father’s commandment, was broad. Sobriety is not salvation.

3. It was general. “We, our wives, our sons, our daughters” (verse 8). The domestic peace had not been broken by faithlessness and sin. A blessed unity in principle and in practice.

4. It was constant. Three hundred years had passed since they received these injunctions, and they still regarded them as binding and sacred.

III. Their actuating motive.

1. It was filial love. “For Jonadab our father commanded us” (verse 6) was the only defence they cared to offer for their singular conduct. A pious ancestry is an invaluable blessing; but the filial spirit must turn that boon to practical account.

2. Men live after death. “He being dead, yet speaketh.” Time cannot impair the power of a good life.

IV. The exemplary meaning of their conduct. They were not tried for their own sake, but for the good of others.

1. Conduct makes personal influence. “No man liveth unto himself.” The end of our trials may concern others more than ourselves. The Jews were to be instructed by the behaviour of the Rechabites.

2. The sobriety of one condemns the drunkenness of the other. If one life can be good, other lives can too.

3. It was a contrast of privilege. In obedience to an earthly father, who had been dead three centuries, the sons of Jonadab had kept their pledges. The Jews had received Divine commands, all the prophets had spoken to them, and yet they disobeyed (verses 14, 16).

4. It justified Divine judgment. “Therefore . . . I will bring upon Judah,” &c. (verse 17). The abstinence of Rechab condemns inebriate Judah.

5. National intemperance is a swift destroyer.

6. Personal drunkenness makes up the national sin. The units make the million.

V. The rechabites reward.

1. Divine approval Jeremiah assured them of God’s benediction.

2. Divine preservation. Jonadab promised his sons long life, “many days in the land where ye be strangers” (verse 7), and that promise God ratified. Medical and statistical science have come to Jonadab’s view.

3. Divine honour. “Jonadab, the son of Rechab, shall not want a man to stand before Me for ever” (verse 19). Standing before God has reference to a priestly relationship and service. (R. W. Keighley.)

A reason for total abstinence

The late Frances E. Willard once asked the greatest of inventors, Thomas A. Edison, if he were a total abstainer; and when he told her that he was, she said, “May I inquire if it was home influence that made you so?” and he replied, “No; I think it was because I always felt that I had a better use for my head. Who can measure the loss to the world if that wonderful instrument of thought that has given us so much of light and leading in the practical mechanism of life had become sodden with drink, instead of electric with original ideas!

Obedience to human authority

1. Premise that complications are apt to arise, unless we remember--

2. What right had Jonadab to enjoin upon his descendants the observances specified? His injunctions were those of a founder and legislator.

3. To proceed, then, we have--

I have spoken unto you, rising early and speaking; but ye hearkened not unto Me.--

The aggravated nature of disobedience

I. Look at the authority of God--the right He has to be obeyed and hearkened to. “I have spoken unto you,” saith God. We must lay a stress upon that “I.” We must contrast it with the name of Jonadab. It is as much as to say, What is Jonadab compared with Me? What is his authority compared with Mine?

II. We must lay a stress also upon the manner in which the Lord hath given His directions to us. “I have spoken unto you,” saith He--how? “rising early and speaking.” Oh! wonderful expression! spoken, indeed, in accommodation to man’s language; but how affecting! how significant! Jonadab, perhaps, laid down his rules but once, and was readily obeyed. But again and again hath the Great Jehovah sent abroad His invitations, and renewed His offers, and repeated His commands.

III. The nature of the Lord’s directions. Look over Jonadab’s injunctions, and assuredly you will pronounce them harsh and strict in the extreme. He laid an embargo on the very gifts of providence, and bade his family abstain from them. Now contrast with this the gentle, gracious precepts of the Gospel of Christ Jesus--surely His yoke is easy and His burthen is light! But before He gives His precepts He sends His invitations (Matthew 11:28). Pardon and grace are first proposed before duties are required. (A. Roberts, M. A.)

The reasonableness of hearkening to God’s voice and submitting ourselves to Him

1. As we are His creatures (Malachi 1:6; Hebrews 12:9).

2. As He is our benefactor (Isaiah 1:2-3; Romans 12:1).

3. As He has engaged Himself to support and deliver such (Romans 8:28, &c.).

4. As He forbids only what is hurtful, and commands only what is good (Romans 7:12; Deuteronomy 10:12-13).

5. The wisest and best of men have acted thus (Hebrews 12:1).

6. It is its own reward (Psalms 19:11).

7. The reward He sets before us is infinitely great (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).

8. Disobedience exposes to His wrath (Romans 1:18; Romans 2:8-9). (H. Foster.)

Disobedience to God condemned

I. Let us consider this complaint. There is at this day--

1. The same regard for the commands of men.

2. The same disregard for the commands of God. But let us consider the complaint more minutely--

II. With its attendant aggravations.

1. The authority from which the different commands proceeded.

2. The commands themselves.

3. The manner in which they were enforced. Address--

Return ye now every man from his evil way.--

Sinners admonished to return to God

I. What the exhortation presupposes.

1. That there has been a departure from God.

2. This departure is universal (Romans 3:10; Romans 3:19-23).

3. This departure is flagrantly wicked. “Evil way.” Evil in its nature, in its influence, in its consequences.

II. To what reforms the exhortation points.

1. Deep conviction of the evil and dangerous nature of a wicked career.

2. Contrition of heart, and confession of sin to God.

3. The renunciation of every evil way.

4. Supreme love and loyalty to God.

III. Compliance with this request is urgent.

1. Life is short and uncertain.

2. Sin is hardening and deceitful.

3. You will escape the greatest evils and realise the most exalted pleasures.

4. The longer you delay the less probability there is that you will ever return.

5. The present is the only time in which we are authorised to tell you you can be saved.

IV. The happy result of returning to God.

1. The Israelites entered Canaan--a faint type of heaven to which believers are called.

2. “Ye shall dwell” there in fulness of joy, and at God’s right hand. Your “sun shall no more go down.” (Helps for the Pulpit.)

Amending one’s ways a great work

Sir Thomas Burnet, the third son of Bishop Burner, led at one time a dissipated life. At last he took a serious turn, and one evening his father observing him to be very thoughtful, asked what he was meditating. “A greater work,” replied he, “than your lordship’s ‘History of the Reformation.’” “Ay,” said the bishop, “what is that?” “The reformation of myself,” said the young man. He fulfilled his promise, and he afterwards became one of the best lawyers of his time; and in 1741 one of the judges in the Court of Common Pleas.


Verse 16-17

Jeremiah 35:16-17

I will bring upon Judah and upon all the inhabitants of Jerusalem all the evil that I have pronounced against them: because I have spoken unto them, but they have not heard; and I have called unto them, but they have not answered.

Condemned by our virtues

How did the obedience of the Rechabites prove inexcusable, and therefore worthy of the severest punishment, the disobedience of the Jews? Their obedience was the obedience of children to their father, and sufficiently showed that even in a matter which crossed their natural inclinations men were capable of acting on a parental command and practising self-denial. The Jews then could not plead that they had no power of hearkening unto God. The Rechabites were witnesses against them. If Jonadab were obeyed because he was a father, had not Jehovah a right to expect to be obeyed, seeing that He was a father unto Israel? If the Rechabites could obey, obey as children, the Israelites might have obeyed, obeyed as children. Thus the instance or example of the Rechabites rose up in the sternest condemnation of the Jews, and in the clearest vindication of the judgments with which God was about to visit their transgressions. Now let us extend the argument, and exhibit it in such shape as may make it applicable to ourselves. It is a very hard doctrine which we have to enforce, when we press on your attention the utter worthlessness, so far as our procuring favour with God is concerned, of those virtues and excellences which are so much admired in society. There is something so graceful, and beautiful, and beneficial around a man of unblemished morals, of high rectitude, of large generosity--the dutiful son, the affectionate husband and parent, the loyal subject, the staunch friend--that you seem to shrink instinctively from statements which go to the bringing him to a level with those whom you abhor as the hardened and the injurious, and to the declaring him possibly as far off from the kingdom of heaven as though he lived a dissolute life, or were dishonourable in his dealings. But the statements are not the less true because they may jar with your feelings; and the minister cannot,, without the worst dishonesty, soften down facts on which Scripture is most explicit, and which even experience sufficiently establishes--the facts that there may be as thorough enmity to God beneath the aspect which is most attractive, as beneath that which is most repulsive, and that the virtues which shed a blandness over domestic life, and a dignity over commercial transactions, and a strength over political relations, may as well coexist with complete want of the religion of the heart, as those vices which break up the peace of families, and outrage all the decencies of a neighbourhood. But the principle involved in the text requires us to go even further than this, and to maintain, not only that there is no justifying power in these virtues, hut that there is even a condemning power--that they may be brought up as witnesses against their possessors, and used as proofs of their being without excuse in their neglect of God and disobedience to His Gospel. The man of great native kindliness of heart has evidently even less excuse than one of worse nature for withholding from God the offerings of thankfulness. Where there is a fine generosity, a gushing sensibility, a quick appreciation of what is noble and disinterested, what shall extenuate indifference to the Gospel, with all its holy story of love and condescension and conquest? We have thus engaged you with the general argument, rather than with the particular case presented by our text. You will, probably, however, understand the argument better, if we now confine ourselves to the relation which subsists between parent and child; for it is on this that God grounds His complaint against the Jews. Now there is no more beautiful and graceful affection of our nature than that which subsists between parents and children. We cannot but admire this affection, even as exhibited amongst inferior animals; and no passage in natural history is so attractive as that which tells how tenderly the wild beast of the forest will watch over her young, or with what assiduousness the fowls of the air will tend their helpless brood. But with the inferior animals the affection is but an instinct which lasts for a time, just long enough to ensure attention to the offspring whilst yet unable to provide for themselves; when this time is past, the tie is for the most part altogether broken; there is no keeping up of the relationship; however exquisitely the beast of the field and the fowl of the air may have nourished their young during their weeks of helplessness, they become afterwards as strangers to them, and seem not to distinguish them from others of their tribe. There is for a time a great exhibition of parental affection, but comparatively little of filial; there is apparently no reciprocity, for when the offspring has reached an age at which the kindness might be returned, the connection seems at an end, and the offspring goes away from the parent, though, becoming a parent itself, it displays the very instinct of which it has been the object. But in the human race the connection goes beyond this; if not so very intense at the first, it is abiding and reciprocal; the love of a parent for a child does not terminate when the child has grown into strength and asks no further help--it continues through life, increasing, for the most part, rather than diminishing, so that though the child may have been long absent from his home, wandering in foreign lands, or domesticated among strangers, yet can he always reckon that the hearts of his father and mother are beating kindly towards him, and that he has only again to present himself at their door, to unlock a tide of rich sensibilities, and be folded in an ardent embrace, and welcomed with deep gratulations. But whilst parents are thus abidingly and profitably actuated by affection for their children, children entertain an affection towards their parents which is scarcely less graceful and scarcely less advantageous. Of course there are exceptions, but they provoke unmingled reprobation, as though all the feelings of a community rose up against that unnatural being, a thankless child, and prompted the fitness of ejecting him from its circles. It is comparatively but seldom that children show themselves void of affection towards a father and a mother, when that father and that mother have done their part as parents; on the contrary, whether it be in the highest or the lowest families of the land, there is generally a frank yielding to its heads of that respect and that gratitude which they have a right to look for from their offspring. And from this fact, illustrated in the particular case of the Rechabites, God proceeds in our text to justify His complaint against the Jews. We stay not to demonstrate to you the paternal character of God; it is the character which pervades the whole of revelation, and is outlined by the whole of providence. The question is not as to whether God acts towards us as a father--it is only whether we act towards God as children; and here comes the melancholy contrast between men as members of particular families, and men as members of the universal family. The very beings who can recognise most cordially the claims of earthly parents, who can manifest themselves a reverence and a homage which give to the domestic picture an exquisite moral beauty, and who would show themselves monstrously indignant at any tale of filial disobedience or unthankfulness, have only to be viewed as children of God, and presently they would be convicted of all that unnaturalness, all that ingratitude, and all that baseness, on which they are so ready to pour unmingled reprobation. You cannot for a moment profess to deny, that in the heart which is all alive to filial emotions, and which beats with so true an affection towards a father and a mother, that the whole strength is gathered in the showing them respect and ministering to their comfort, there may be an utter indifference towards the heavenly Parent--ay, no more practical remembrance of Him “in whom we live, and move, and have our being,” than if it were the heart of one of those blots upon our race, in which all the family charities appear to have been extinguished, or never to have grown. Then do ye not further perceive how thoroughly self-condemned must all of us stand, if we act faithfully the part of a child toward an earthly parent, but utterly fail to act that part towards a heavenly? It will be demonstrable from our own actions that we were quite without excuse, as members of the universal family; we shall be put to shame by our very excellence as members of individual families. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

A wilful rejection of salvation

Mr. Spurgeon has said, “To me it is especially appalling that a man should perish through wilfully rejecting the Divine salvation. A drowning man throwing away the life-belt, a poisoned man pouring the antidote upon the floor, a wounded man tearing open his wounds--any of these is a sad sight. But what shall we say of a soul refusing its Saviour and choosing its own destruction?” (R. Venting.)

 


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Jeremiah 35:4". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/jeremiah-35.html. 1905-1909. New York.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, September 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
ADVERTISEMENT
Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
ADVERTISEMENT
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology