And Jeremiah said to the house of the Rechabites, “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘Because you have obeyed the commandment of Jonadab your father, and kept all his precepts and done according to all that he commanded you, therefore thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: “Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not lack a man to stand before Me forever.” ’ ” (Jeremiah 35:18-19)
Children are rebellious by nature. We do not have to be taught to be disobedient. Defiance is in our blood. We demand our own way. The imposing of discipline is essential for breaking down that self-centered spirit, and is an act of love to prepare a child for the adult world where there are rules, direction, and subordination to order if one is to function in society. For Christian parents, the spiritual dimension is even more important as we are getting the children ready for the world to come—teaching them the need of submission to their Heavenly Father.
This is why the fifth commandment in the Decalogue is a hinge upon which the two dimensions of duty swing. The first four commandments point to our duty to God. The last six point to our duty to man. That is how the Ten Commandments are typically divided. I prefer to divide them five and five. The fifth commandment is to honor your father and your mother. They are God’s representatives—as such this concludes our duty to God for we honor Him in respecting them. It also gives us a bridge to the second table dealing with our duty to man.
In Jeremiah thirty five, we find a family that has honored their father—the Rechabites. These were not Jews, but were Kenites—descendants of the nomadic people of Midian—the in-laws of Moses (1 Chron.2:55). They were “sojourners” (v.7) dwelling in tents (v.10) according to the command of their father Jonadab. They had also been commanded not to drink wine (v.6), so when Jeremiah set wine before them, it was a test—and they passed with flying colors!
It was more than a test for them, however. It was a living illustration of the blessedness of obedience in contrast to the bitterness of disobedience (v.11-19). God had been a Father to Israel, yet they had been disobedient. They ignored His warnings through His prophets. They were intoxicated with idolatry. The result would be a life of bitterness as doom would fall on Jerusalem. The Babylonians were already on the march (v.11) as the rod of correction God would apply to His children.
We are free to choose our path, but we are not free to choose the results of that choice. Choices have consequences. “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you.” (Ex.20:12) This is the first commandment with a promise—that obedience brings blessedness. It is also true that disobedience will result in disaster. Again, this is about more than submission to a human parent; it is about obedience to the Heavenly Father. To submit to Him is to experience His blessing. Rebellion leads to bondage, suffering, and loss.
The Rechabites would be perpetually in a position of service to God (v.19). They would stand before the Lord marked with approval—honored by the Lord for honoring their father. In so doing, they had honored God. Do we not aspire to such? It is attainable. It is the blessedness of obedience.