Reckoning With The Rechabites
By Mark L. Mullins
The descendants of Jonadab the Rechabite who resisted the invitation by Jeremiah (Jer 35) to drink pots of wine stood not only as an example to their generation but down the centuries to ours too. The Lord Jesus posed the question whether, on His return, He would find faith on the earth (Luke 18:8). As we look around us we might well ask the same question. It seems as though apostasy is increasing its grip over the church and that the love of many is growing cold cf. Matthew 24:12. The world is racing towards its own solution and the voice of truth is rarely heard today.
The situation was little different in the days of Jeremiah. The incident in chapter 35 took place during the reign of Jehoiakim, when Israel was under domination from first the Egyptians and then the Babylonians. The Rechabite family had a fine pedigree which went back to Jonadab: the man invited to join Jehu as he executed judgment against Ahab's descendants and the worshippers of Baal (2 Kings 10). His heart was for the Lord and was one with Jehu: how important to have honest and good hearts (Luke 8:15).
Jonadab had left an extraordinary legacy for his descendants. While many, including God's people, desire to leave a financial legacy to their offspring, Jonadab was different. He left this instruction that they should drink no wine; neither build houses, nor sow seed, nor plant vineyards, nor own them. Instead they were to dwell in tents; that they may live many days in the land where they would be strangers. I am not sure how many last wills and testaments we would find with these instructions. But Jonadab had an eye for the long term: what really matters—preparation for the next life.
As you read this editorial, governments are pumping money into their countries' coffers and doing all they can to make us all spend more to kick-start the economy. A Government minister in England has recently cautioned parents against teaching their children about right and wrong when it comes to giving advice about sex. The motto seems to be: “live for today – don't worry about tomorrow!”
Unusual though we might consider Jonadab's advice, it was nevertheless followed by his descendants many decades later: no drinking, no homebuilding, no vineyards and only tents to live in. It is interesting that they were then put to the test on these convictions by none other than Jeremiah at the command of the Lord Himself. Wine was put in front of them and they were told to drink. What an excellent reason to break their forefather's instructions because the invitation came from God Himself! But they would not do it. Little did they know that their steadfastness, in the face of trial, was to be used as a reproach to the people of Israel. While the Rechabites listened to the instructions of their ancestors, Jeremiah charged that God's people ignored the instructions of their God (cf. verse 14).
Our position is not very different from the Rechabites: we too are strangers and pilgrims in this world (1 Peter 2:11). The call of the Lord Jesus is to leave all for Him as He put it in Luke’s Gospel:
Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. – Luke 14: 25-27.
There are sacrifices for the individual Christian which are necessary for his/her walk with the Lord with a pure heart. Is there anything we want more than the Lord Himself? We must surrender all—everything must go on the altar.
Don't think that giving up things for the Lord will go unchallenged. We will be tried – and, according to James, we are to count it all joy because it will develop perseverance in us.
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience – James 1:2-3.
We are called to be salt and light in the society in which we live. Jonadab had a long view on life. He knew what was really important: to live for heaven and not for this world.
As the credit crunch tightens its grip so the words of John are reinforced:
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever - 1 John 2: 15-17.
Jonadab knew what would spoil his descendants' focus. So too, we must be careful not to spoil ours. As the writer to the Hebrews put it:
For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come – Hebrews 13: 14.
Let us live lives in the light of that glorious city – The New Jerusalem the holy city, soon to come down from God out of heaven, “prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:2).
As every day goes by so that distant dream becomes a nearer reality.
About the Author
Mark Mullins is the guest editorialist for this issue of CETF. He became a Christian while a student at Durham University, England, at the age of 19 after a year of experimental atheism and a number of years of half-hearted nominal Christianity. The thought that there would be no judgment simply didn't ring true and the realisation that Mark was not ready for God's judgment sent him to the cross where he found the joy of sins forgiven and the assurance that he would be in heaven when he died.
At the age of 21 his heart's desire was the British Army where he served for seven years including operations in Northern Ireland and the Gulf. He left the Army in 1994 to train as a Barrister. He specialises in crime and immigration. For 5 years he served on the council of the Lawyers Christian Fellowship (LCF) chairing the public policy work so energetically conducted by Andrea Minichiello-Williams with whom he now works in Christian Concern for our Nation (CCfoN)1 which became independent of the LCF in 2008. He is part of the eldership of Stroud Green Christian Assembly2which is a Word-based Pentecostal church. Mark is frequently appealed to by the BBC for the Christian position on legal, moral, social and spiritual issues.