One of the truly vivid lessons presented by Jeremiah comes in chapter 35, and it concerns the descendants of a man named Rechab. Rechab was the father of Jehonadab, who participated with Jehu in slaughtering the worshipers of Baal after the death of king Ahab (2 Kings 10:15-28). Rechab’s “claim to fame” was his decree that none of his descendants should ever live in a house, nor plant a field or vine- yard, nor drink grape juice/wine in any form whatsoever (Jeremiah 35:6-7 – they lived as nomads, in tents, in the land of promise). It appears that this instruction resulted from the preaching of Elijah during that day. Furthermore, Rechab, Jehonadab (called Jonadab in Jeremiah 35), and their descendants were not actually Jews, but Kenites, who evidently descended from the family of Moses’ wife (Judges 1:16). They had been invited to settle in the land of promise along with the Israelites (Numbers 10:29). In Jeremiah 35, God instructs the prophet to offer them wine (verses 2 & 5), in order to make a point: These “Rechabites” would refuse to drink – and did – because of the commandment of their ancestor Jonadab (verses 6, 8, 14, & 18). With this example, the Lord is highlighting the fact that His own people, Israel, had not obeyed the commandments of their God as faithfully as these sojourners had obeyed their physical father’s instruction! Because the Rechabites were consistent, public examples of faithfulness and obedience in Israel, God promised that they would never lack a man to stand before Him, verse 19.
Jeremiah 36 provides a powerful example of shocking disrespect toward God and His word: Jeremiah dictates a long rebuke and condemnation of the nation of Judah to his servant Baruch. In the prophecy – which Baruch is to read aloud in the temple (verses 4-6) – Jeremiah foretells the coming invasion and conquest by Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians. The Lord’s motive is stated in verse 3; it is a “last-ditch” attempt to get His people to repent! After Baruch read the prophecy, some of the princes carried the scroll to the palace, where it was read to king Jehoiakim. Because he disliked the prophet’s message of judgement and punishment against Judah, the king sliced the scroll into pieces and burned them, and then ordered the arrest of both Jeremiah and Baruch. The Lord’s response to this king’s arrogant disdain was to declare that none of his descendants would follow him as king in Israel (verses 30-31), and that all the punishment He had decreed would take place. Jeremiah and Baruch then wrote a second copy of the scroll that the king had burned; it contained all the information of the first copy, and much more was added to this second scroll (verse 32). People may try to “edit” or dispose of God’s word; they may “pick and choose” the parts they like and ignore the parts they don’t; but God’s word will stand and be fulfilled, and those who oppose it will fall in condemnation.
Perhaps one of the most uplifting and gratifying incidents recorded among all the sad prophecies in Jeremiah arrives in chapter 39, when the faithful prophet is singled out for rescue, safe conduct, and freedom from the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of his people. By king Nebuchadnezzar’s personal command (verses 11-12), Jeremiah was to be found, well-treated, and allowed to stay in Judah or go to Babylon as he pleased (he stayed, verse 14). Likewise, verses 15-18 reveal that Ebed-melech –who had rescued Jeremiah from death in the royal dungeon (chapter 38) – was also rescued according to the word of the Lord because he had trusted in God. Even when we are surrounded by people who disdain and disregard the Lord and His word, He knows and remembers those who are faithful to Him. Let us determine to be among that number!
– Dave Rogers