Where are the Rechabites?
Conditions worsened in Jerusalem in 597 bc. A cursory reading of Jeremiah underscores the perfidy of the short-term King Jehoiakim and the forlorn condition of his subjects in Judah. But in the midst of political and social despair, the amazing story of the Rechabites emerges like the phoenix out of the rubble of ashes. You will find their story in Jeremiah 35.
Jeremiah is the prophet of the unexpected. God calls him to do the strangest things. In Jeremiah 35, he is instructed to usher Jaazaniah the son of another contemporary Jeremiah (not the prophet), the son of Habazziniah, and all his brothers and his sons and all the Rechabites and brought them to the chamber of Hanan, son of Igdaliah, in the house of the Lord. Then the prophet Jeremiah set a bowl of wine before each man and invited the men to imbibe.
The godly Rechabites declined the offer. They were in the house of God; and even though Jeremiah the prophet placed the wine before them, they refused saying,
“We will drink no wine, for Jonadab the son of Rechab, our father, commanded us, saying, ‘You shall drink no wine, you nor your sons, forever. You shall not build a house, sow seed, plant a vineyard, nor have any of these; but all your days you shall dwell in tents, that you may live many days in the land where you are sojourners.’” (Jer 35:6-7).
God commended the behavior and the faithfulness of the Rechabites and offered them a promise about their future. Wait a minute! Judah is a cooked goose! In a few weeks she will succumb to Nebuchadnezzar, and many will go into captivity. Only a few years later in 586 bc, they will be ravaged by the same sovereign. Hardly a Jew will be left in the land when the debachel concludes. So what precisely is intended by this reference to “a future”?
Hear the word of the Lord: “Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not lack a man to stand before Me forever’” (Jer 35:19). In the onslaught of political upheaval and social degradation, the Rechabites are singled out by the God of righteousness and judgment. God is omniscient; He never forgets; He is omnipresent, and He sees all so that the testimony of their faithfulness will be forever in the heart of God.
Is there anywhere a starry-eyed optimist who remembers and pines for the confidence of the era when professors in universities assured us that science was the messiah? We were going to build a world where peace would prevail, war would cease, and education would subdue evil. Not only did such promises fail to materialize, but also the circumstances worsened until our post-Hiroshima world has spun out of control. Increasingly the use of sophisticated weaponry, the out-of-control riots in American streets, the bold advance of the suppression of Christianity almost world-wide, the unparalleled political gridlock, and a deadly pandemic that appears to have no end—all these precursors shout from every roof that the USA has no more future than did Jerusalem in 597 bc. The demise of the family, wide-spread divorce, and the execution of babies in the wombs of their mothers is accentuated by nightly shootings in our cities and rampant racial tension. Where are the Rechabites (as described in Jer 35) when we need them?
Make no mistake, a sizable army of “Rechabites” is forming. Whether or not they deter the ultimate judgment of God on Southern Baptists or the outpouring of His wrath on America is not for me to say. What can be confidently affirmed is that those chosen to be among the “Rechabites” have the promises of God’s blessing forever. You may be virtually powerless to resist the tides of contemporary disruption; but if you choose to be faithful to the truths of Scripture and to live according to the example of your fathers in the faith, you will enjoy the benedictions of God just as did the Rechabites.
This promise from the Lord Himself was recorded in Matthew 16:18: “… On this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” God calls for our commitment to return to the faith of our spiritual fathers, the people who led us to Christ; and He challenges us to walk in the way of Christ and thus to be honored with the godly Rechabites!