The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, saying,…
Jonadab saw that his people were but a handful among a more powerful people, and likely soon to be swallowed up by their neighbours, and he hit upon a happy method of preserving their independent existence. He enjoined them "not to drink wine"; this was to save them from luxury and intemperance, which would prey upon them from within, and make them ripe for destruction; and he also commanded them "not to till the ground, nor to have any houses, nor to dwell in cities"; this was in order that they might have no riches to tempt others to make war upon them; and thus, to use his own words, "they might live many days in the land wherein they were strangers." Luxury and wealth are the bane of nations, and by keeping his tribe a simple, pastoral people, pure in their habits, and destitute of property, he accomplished his wishes for them.
I. THE OBEDIENCE OF THE RECHABITES CONTRASTED WITH THE DISOBEDIENCE OF ISRAEL TO GOD. An ancestor of that family, who had been dead nearly three hundred years, had issued his commands, and they were still obeyed; but the living God had spoken repeatedly to Israel, by His prophets, yet they would not hear. The commands of Jonadab, too, were very arbitrary. There could be no sin in cultivating the fields, or in living in houses, whatever moral worth there may have been in the precept to drink no wine: but still, because Jonadab commanded it. they obeyed. The complaint of God has still an application. It is a fact, that among sinners, any and every law, precept, or tradition, of mere human authority, is better obeyed than the laws of God Himself. See, in a few instances, how this has been verified. Mahomet arose, a sensualist, an adulterer, a breaker of treaties, and a robber, and issued his commands, which for centuries have been religiously obeyed. At the cry of the muezzin, and the hour of prayer, every follower of his, whether in the desert, on board the ship, in the city, or the field, suspends his labour, his pleasures, and even his griefs, and casts himself upon his knees in prayer. But the blessed Jesus, pure, peaceful, and glorious, speaks, and even those who acknowledge Him as Lord over all, and own the goodness of His commands, can listen to such words as, "This do in remembrance of Me," and obey them not. The founder of some monkish order, again, has enjoined upon all his fraternity certain rules and austerities, and he is obeyed. Day after day, and year after year, the same tedious round of ceremonies is gone through with, as though salvation depended upon it, and the deluded ones will rise at the midnight hour to inflict stripes upon themselves or to offer prayer. But Christ may enjoin the reasonable duty of praying to our Father in spirit and in truth, and multitudes can suffer days and years to pass, and pray not. The commander of the order of Jesuits can place his inferior priests in any country of the world, and whether the mandate be to act as father confessor in some palace, or to Penetrate to China or Paraguay, there is no more resistance for apparent regard for the sacrifices to be made than in the machinery which is moved by mechanic power. Christ commands His disciples to "go preach the Gospel to every creature," but only here and there one goes forth. The heathen priest bids the worshippers of idols to cast their children rote the fire or the water, and it is done. Jesus says, "Suffer little children to come to Me," and has appointed a sacrament in which they may be received, but men will admit the duty, and yet neglect the baptism of their children. The Rechabites of modern times, and Sons of Temperance, may institute a vow of temperance, and it is kept; or command one of their number to minister to the sick, and it is done; or provide well for their poor; but Christ says, that "no drunkard shall enter heaven," and enjoins charity to the sick and the destitute, while many heed Him not.
II. THE REWARDS OF OBEDIENCE. Modern travellers, moreover, state that the Rechabites are still in existence. Mr. Wolf, the famous Jewish missionary, asserts this as his belief. "And another traveller who visited a tract to the south of Judea, which has been unexplored for centuries, met there a native who claimed to be a Rechabite, and when an Arabic Bible was shown to him, turned to this chapter and read from it the description of his People, and said that it was still true of them, and that they still kept the precepts of Jonadab, their father. Over three thousand years have passed away since that family of the Kenites came with Israel into Canaan, and for two thousand years no traces of them were preserved; but now, after so long a lapse of time, recent discoveries have brought them to light, retaining their name, and glorying in their independence. Though surrounded by Mohammedan Arabs, they conform to the law of Moses. yet maintaining that they are not Israelites; and are much hated by the Mussulman." This account was given by a traveller so late as 1832, and is confirmed by English residents at Mocha, and from other sources. No doubt every promise of God's Word is as abundantly fulfilled. We may not always be able to trace out the literal accomplishment of every one as strikingly as in this case, but we never could prove one promise in all the Bible false; and the more light we have the more abundantly do we see that all have been yea and amen. Let us rest upon God's Word. Exceeding great and precious promises are given to us in the sacred book. They are like good notes from a prompt paymaster, falling due at different times. We may sometimes question their worth, or may even forget in the multitude of cares that we have such securities treasured up, but the time of their payment will come, and we shall find all redeemed.
(W. H. Lewis, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: The word which came unto Jeremiah from the LORD in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, saying,