1 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD during the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah:
2 "Go to the Recabite family and invite them to come to one of the side rooms of the house of the LORD and give them wine to drink."
3 So I went to get Jaazaniah son of Jeremiah, the son of Habazziniah, and his brothers and all his sons--the whole family of the Recabites.
4 I brought them into the house of the LORD, into the room of the sons of Hanan son of Igdaliah the man of God. It was next to the room of the officials, which was over that of Maaseiah son of Shallum the doorkeeper.
5 Then I set bowls full of wine and some cups before the men of the Recabite family and said to them, "Drink some wine."
6 But they replied, "We do not drink wine, because our forefather Jonadab son of Recab gave us this command: 'Neither you nor your descendants must ever drink wine.
7 Also you must never build houses, sow seed or plant vineyards; you must never have any of these things, but must always live in tents. Then you will live a long time in the land where you are nomads.'
8 We have obeyed everything our forefather Jonadab son of Recab commanded us. Neither we nor our wives nor our sons and daughters have ever drunk wine
9 or built houses to live in or had vineyards, fields or crops.
10 We have lived in tents and have fully obeyed everything our forefather Jonadab commanded us.
11 But when Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon invaded this land, we said, 'Come, we must go to Jerusalem to escape the Babylonian and Aramean armies.' So we have remained in Jerusalem."
12 Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah, saying:
13 "This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Go and tell the men of Judah and the people of Jerusalem, 'Will you not learn a lesson and obey my words?' declares the LORD.
14 'Jonadab son of Recab ordered his sons not to drink wine and this command has been kept. To this day they do not drink wine, because they obey their forefather's command. But I have spoken to you again and again, yet you have not obeyed me.
15 Again and again I sent all my servants the prophets to you. They said, "Each of you must turn from your wicked ways and reform your actions; do not follow other gods to serve them. Then you will live in the land I have given to you and your fathers." But you have not paid attention or listened to me.
16 The descendants of Jonadab son of Recab have carried out the command their forefather gave them, but these people have not obeyed me.'
17 "Therefore, this is what the LORD God Almighty, the God of Israel, says: 'Listen! I am going to bring on Judah and on everyone living in Jerusalem every disaster I pronounced against them. I spoke to them, but they did not listen; I called to them, but they did not answer.'"
18 Then Jeremiah said to the family of the Recabites, "This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: 'You have obeyed the command of your forefather Jonadab and have followed all his instructions and have done everything he ordered.'
19 Therefore, this is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: 'Jonadab son of Recab will never fail to have a man to serve me.'"
God uses the Recabites to teach the Israelites a lesson. He tells Jeremiah to go to them and offer them some wine in v 1.Their answer is in v6-7 where they say we don't drink wine, never build houses or sow vineyards because our forefather Jonadab, son of Recab had commanded us not to do 200 years ago.
God responds to them in v12-17 comparing the Israelites' response with the Recabites' response.
Let us see the contrast:
1. The Recabites kept their vows to a fallible human leader BUT the Israelites broke their covenant with their infallible divine leader.
2. Jonadab told them not to drink just one time and they obeyed BUT God commanded his people many times to turn from sin, yet they refused
3. The Recabites obeyed laws that dealt with temporal issues BUT Israelites refused to obey God that dealt with eternal issues.
4. The Recabites had obeyed for hundreds of years BUT Israel had disobeyed for hundreds of years.
5. The Recabites would be rewarded BUT the Israelites would be punished.
Jonadab gave a commandment to his sons and daughters that they should drink no wine, build no houses, sow no seeds, plant no vineyards but live in tents. His instructions seemed severe, and we might argue that he was depriving them of perfectly legitimate things. However, it is obvious that he was a man who feared God deeply. Seeing the awful wickedness around him, he desired to preserve his life from such sin and lawlessness, and so he placed them under this solemn pledge.
It was calculated to preserve their pilgrim character and keep them from putting down roots. The great founders of the nation of Israel had been pilgrims who lived in tents, and Jonadab decided that his family should do the same. The remarkable thing is that 200 plus years later, his descendants were absolutely true to this family tradition, and that is what it was.
A tradition is something handed down from one generation to another, and from one generation to another they had passed it on and had lived by it. So firmly did they adhere to the family tradition that when Jeremiah tried to persuade them to drink wine they flatly refused, and out came the story of the commandment of Jonadab their father.
We have obeyed the voice of Jonadab the son of Recab our father in all that he charged us, to drink no wine all our days, we, our wives, our sons, nor our daughters; nor to build houses for us to dwell in: neither have we vineyard, nor field, nor seed: but we hove dwelt in tents, and have obeyed, and done according to all that Jonadab our father commanded us (Jer. 35:8-10).
Jeremiah did not want to tempt the Recabites into disloyalty to their pledge; he wanted to use the example of their devotion as a lesson for God's people, Judah. The Recabites had been far more true to the commandments of their forefathers than Judah had been to the commandments of the Lord. That is the main point that comes out of the story to provide a lesson for us today.
What spiritual traditions are we passing on to our families? Remember, we can't pass anything that we don't have.