Friday, February 19, 2016

Simple Obedience

"This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord" (Jeremiah 35:1 NIV).  It took 26 hundred years, but it finally came to me as well.  I've read Jeremiah 35 many times, but it never struck me as it did a couple days ago.  In fact, I had totally forgotten about the family of Rekab, I had also forgotten about the strange command Jehonadab, the son of Rekab, gave to his children and all their children to come.

Before reminding you of Jehonadab's odd behest to his children, let me start at the word that came to Jeremiah.  God told Jeremiah, a prophet during a harsh period in Israel's history, to invite the family of Rekabites to the house of the Lord for wine.  That too, was an odd behest.

The ten tribes of Israel had already been vanquished to live in exile.  The tribes of Judah were living in fear and desperation at the mercy of Babylon and their king, Nebuchadnezzar.  Jeremiah was preaching repentance to people who weren't listening though they were suffering through horrible sieges. And yet, this was God's command to Jeremiah at this time.

"This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord during the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah:  “Go to the Rekabite family and invite them to come to one of the side rooms of the house of the Lord and give them wine to drink.” (Jeremiah 35:1-2 NIV)

The Rekabites showed up and sat down at the table; Jeremiah put bowls of wine and cups in front of them, and Jeremiah said, drink up!  Though I personally do not drink alcohol, if a prophet of the Lord made the offer because God commanded him to do so, I would probably drink up.

The head of the Rekabite household, Jaazaniah, had a different conviction. He and his entire family told Jeremiah flat out, "We do not drink wine."  He went on to say that their forefather Jehonadab (from generations back) had commanded that none of his children, children's children, and their children on should ever drink wine.  Those that married into the family couldn't either.  Now, that's conviction!

Like I said, I don't drink alcohol.  I also don't want my children to drink.  So, up to this point, I'm completely on board. But, that wasn't all that Jehonadab commanded of his descendants.

The hard part is in verse 7, "you must never build houses, sow seed or plant vineyards; you must never have any of these things, but must always live in tents." So, what's that all about?

If you don't build a house, do you have a place to call home?  If you aren't planting gardens and vineyards, are you staying in one place long enough to enjoy the fruits of your labors?

Personally, I like laying down roots. Going home to the same place every day after work is important to me.  I also appreciate having things to stick in that place I go to in the evenings.  If you've ever been camping, you know that tents were made to be picked up and moved, not to stay in one place for a long time and not to fill with stuff.  The forefather of the Rekabites didn't mince words, his descendants would live as nomads... in tents.

I admire the conviction of the Rekabites.  They seem like some of the minimalists (oddballs?) that you occasionally hear about in 21st century America.  Minimalists are people that get by with less, focusing on essentials rather than luxuries.  Some of these people have extended that minimalist philosophy to their homes, building fully functional 150 square feet houses on trailers.

tumbleweedhouses - this is an example sold by the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company
(not an endorsement)

Maybe the Rekabites  have employed this strategy if they are living in America today.

Yes... I do believe the Rekabite family is alive and well today.  Let's consider that in a minute.

In the refusal of the Rekabites to drink wine, they asserted strongly that they had obeyed EVERYTHING their forefather had commanded them.  They weren't lying, either.  

Another word came from the Lord to Jeremiah.  The prophet was to rebuke the Israelites using the Rekabites family as an illustration.  The Rekabites had obeyed everything a man commanded them to do.  Most likely with hardship, living as nomads.  The Israelites, conversely, failed to obey the words of GOD!  Time after time God's prophets were sent to them to urge them to heed God's words and turn away from wickedly following other gods; no doubt their comforts and luxuries were among those false gods.

Simply by turning to God, He would bless his people to live in the land he gave them.  If they didn't turn from wickedness, that land and their homes would be taken from them.

In contrast, the Rekabites received a blessing for their faithfulness to obey their forefather.  As a result of their simple obedience, "Therefore this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘Jehonadab son of Rekab will never fail to have a descendant to serve me.’”

God didn't promise them a fancy house, not even one on wheels.  His promise was that the family would ALWAYS have a descendant to serve HIM. (No doubt a Rekabite is out there serving the Lord in the 21st century.)

Long before the birth of Christ and the writings of Paul, the Rekabites recognized that the earthly tent we live in (2 Corinthians 5) is a temporary dwelling.  We are foreigners and nomads in this land, but a mansion is being built for us in Heaven.  Better to be a servant in the house of the Lord, then live as a king where thieves break in and steal, and moths and rust destroy.

So what is the word of the Lord for me?  Though many righteous men have enjoyed fame and fortune, don't pursue it.  Be obedient to the word of the Lord... and serve him forever along with your children's children.


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