Reflections on Scripture

by Wayne Bandy

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Scripture Passage

      Jeremiah - Chapter 35 (Contemporary English Version)
    1. When Jehoiakim was king of Judah, the LORD told me,
    2. "Go to the Rechabite clan and invite them to meet you in one of the side rooms of the temple. When they arrive, offer them a drink of wine."
    3. So I went to Jaazaniah, the leader of the clan, and I invited him and all the men of his clan.
    4. I brought them into the temple courtyard and took them upstairs to a room belonging to the prophets who were followers of Hanan son of Igdaliah. It was next to a room belonging to some of the officials, and that room was over the one belonging to Maaseiah, a priest who was one of the high officials in the temple.
    5. I set out some large bowls full of wine together with some cups, and then I said to the Rechabites, "Have some wine!"
    6. But they answered: No! The ancestor of our clan, Jonadab son of Rechab, made a rule that we must obey. He said, "Don't ever drink wine
    7. or build houses or plant crops and vineyards. Instead, you must always live in tents and move from place to place. If you obey this command, you will live a long time."
    8. Our clan has always obeyed Jonadab's command. To this very day, we and our wives and sons and daughters don't drink wine or build houses or plant vineyards or crops. And we have lived in tents,
    9. (SEE 35:8)
    10. (SEE 35:8)
    11. except now we have to live inside Jerusalem because Nebuchadnezzar has taken over the countryside with his army from Babylonia and Syria.
    12. Then the LORD told me to say to the people of Judah and Jerusalem: I, the LORD All-Powerful, the God of Israel, want you to learn a lesson
    13. (SEE 35:12)
    14. from the Rechabite clan. Their ancestor Jonadab told his descendants never to drink wine, and to this very day they have obeyed him. But I have spoken to you over and over, and you haven't obeyed me!
    15. You refused to listen to my prophets, who kept telling you, "Stop doing evil and worshiping other gods! Start obeying the LORD, and he will let you live in this land he gave your ancestors."
    16. The Rechabites have obeyed the command of their ancestor Jonadab, but you have not obeyed me,
    17. your God. I am the LORD All-Powerful, and I warned you about the terrible things that would happen to you if you did not listen to me. You have ignored me, so now disaster will strike you. I, the LORD, have spoken.
    18. Then the LORD told me to say to the Rechabite clan: I am the LORD All-Powerful, the God of Israel. You have obeyed your ancestor Jonadab,
    19. so I promise that your clan will be my servants and will never die out.

Jeremiah - Chapter 35

Entered: October 18, 2004
Jeremiah and other prophets preached God's message to the kings of Israel and Judah for years, telling them of the destruction to come unless they repented. But the kings ignored the message at best, and at worst tried to kill the prophets. This seems amazing to me that the kings would so ignore God's warnings. Then I have to ask myself if I would have been any different. I can't be sure. Would I have viewed those prophets any differently than I do, say, a TV evangelist? Would the messenger have gotten in the way of my acceptance of God's instructions? I'm not sure. I was raised with a Christian training, and through my adult years I have pursued God's word and tried to understand His will and purpose for me. In light of this, I would hope I would recognize God's message regardless of the messenger, particularly if his message was in line with scripture.

Entered: December 15, 2010

Events of chapter 35 preceed those of chapter 34 chronologically, but serve to contrast the events of that previous chapter. God had repeatedly warned the people of Judah that they must turn back to the Lord and obey His teachings, but they had not heeded these warnings. Thus the Babylon army was outside the walls of Jerusalem and the city was on the brink of falling into their hands. 

Jeremiah was told to invite the Rechabites to "one of the chambers of the temple of the LORD to offer them a drink of wine." (35:2) This seems a rather strange request, especially when we learn that the Rechabites do not drink wine. It was a prohibition given to them by Jonadab, their ancester, which they obeyed faithfully, even when told to do otherwise by the Lord's prophet in the temple of the Lord. Jeremiah was instructed to go to the house of the Rechabites and then bring them to the temple. Why not offer them the wine at their house? Why at the temple? Possibly this approach was intended to lend weight to the request, suggesting, but not specifically saying, that it came from the Lord. Another possibility for going to the temple was to have the priests witness the event. Whatever the reason for going to the temple, the Rechabites politely refused to drink the wine, explaining that it was a prohibition from their ancestor. 

Refusal by the Rechabites to drink the wine was the outcome expected and intended by the Lord. It provided the example He wanted. Following this exchange with the Rechabites, Jeremiah was sent to speak to the "men of Judah and residents of Jerusalem," and say, "Will you not accept discipline by listening to My words?" (35:13) Furthermore, Jeremiah was to tell the people, "Time and time again I have sent you all My servants the prophets, proclaiming: Turn, each one from his evil way of life, and correct your actions. Stop following other gods to serve them. Live in the land that I gave you and your ancestors. But you would not pay attention or obey Me. Yes, the sons of Jonadab son of Rechab carried out their ancestor's command he gave them, but these people have not obeyed Me. " (35:15-16)

Drinking wine is not the point of this account. It was not prohibited by the Lord, only by the Rechabite ancestors. Nor did the commands of the Rechabite ancestors take precedence over those of the Lord. The point was obedience. If the Rechabites could be obedient to the teaching of their ancestors, was it not even more important that the Judeans be obedient to the teachings of the Lord? In rebelling against the Lord's teachings, the Judeans were also rebelling against the teachings of their ancestors who handed down the commands given them by the Lord. 

Each generation is arrogant enough to think it has discovered new truth that makes the truths of their parents outmoded. However, real truth does not change. This is the nature of truth. If a thing is true it does not suddenly become false, and vice versa. The issue, of course, is our perception of truth. Though we may believe the perception our parents or ancestors had regarding a certain truth may have been misguided we must not arrogantly assume our perceptions are any less misguided. Truth is like precious metals. When refined in the fires of time and trial, truth, like pure gold, will separate from impurities to be drawn away and put to excellent use.