(John MacArthur jr.)
Introduction: If you were pressed to compromise your convictions or the commitments you have made to God would you have the courage to stand by those commitments and your convictions? Dan Yeary in “Proclaim” speaks of those who make commitments that are only half commitments. He states, “‘Half commitment’ is spouting pious words about submission while resisting all authority. ‘Half commitment’ is justifying everything you want to do because, if you were God, you would let you do it. In Jeremiah, we read of a people who when tested stood by a commandment given and a commitment made by an ancestor over 250 years before they were even born. They provide an example for us who claim to be committed to Christ and His Word.
I. The History of the Rechabites
A. Jeremiah 35:2 “Go to the house of the Rechabites, speak to them, and bring them into the house of the LORD, into one of the chambers, and give them wine to drink.”
B. Rechabites — These Rechabites were the descendants Jonadab, the son of Rechab, who was descended from Hemath, a Kenite (of Cain), and Jethro the father-in-law of Moses.
C. Jonadab was a partner of Jehu, king of Israel who fought against Baalism.
D. 2 Kings 10:15-16 (NLT) “When Jehu left there, he met Jehonadab son of Recab, who was coming to meet him. After they had greeted each other, Jehu said to him, “Are you as loyal to me as I am to you?” “Yes, I am,” Jehonadab replied. “If you are,” Jehu said, “then give me your hand.” So Jehonadab put out his hand, and Jehu helped him into the chariot. Then Jehu said, “Now come with me, and see how devoted I am to the Lord.” So Jehonadab rode along with him.”
E. Jonadab shared the zeal Jehu had for the Lord and left a spiritual legacy and a covenantal foundation for his descendants to follow.
F. Jeremiah 35:6-7 “But they said, “We will drink no wine, for Jonadab the son of Rechab, our father, commanded us, saying, ‘You shall drink no wine, you nor your sons, forever. You shall not build a house, sow seed, plant a vineyard, nor have any of these; but all your days you shall dwell in tents, that you may live many days in the land where you are sojourners.’”
1. They were not to drink wine –
a. Jonadab knew the effects of wine. Jonadab knew that drinking of wine held with it the possibility of dulling their sensitivity to the Lord and could very easily lead to sin.
b. Proverbs 20:1 “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby (intoxicated by it) is not wise.”
c. John MacArthur writes, “Paul also said, „All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any” (1 Cor. 6:12b). Many things become habitual, and many of the habits we form are beneficial. But implied in the idea of wine as an addiction is a pattern creating a negative response. Paul said, „All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient” (1 Cor. 6:12). He in effect is saying, „There are things I could do, but they would trip me up or entangle me.” This passage can aptly be applied to the danger of alcohol addiction. Alcohol has the potential of bringing you under its power. It easily produces an overpowering dependency that distracts one’s attention and interferes with brain and bodily functions. Not only would a Christian want to avoid sin, but also the potential for sin. Food is somewhat similar to wine in its potential for sin. If you cannot control your intake of food, you are in danger of becoming gluttonous. Unlike wine, food is a necessity, but the same principle applies. A good practice is to vary your eating habits and occasionally abstain from food all together to make sure you are in control of what you eat and not vice versa. The Christian is to be controlled by the Spirit, not by ungodly influences that can lead him to sin.” – Living in the Spirit, Be Not Drunk with Wine – Part 3, by John MacArthur
d. The point is that we should never allow ourselves to voluntarily entangle ourselves with the influences of this world, the things that influence our thoughts, speech, and behavior.
e. Romans 12:2a “…do not be conformed to this world”
2. They were not to build houses
a. They were not to see this world as their home.
b. Philippians 3:20 “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ”
c. Hebrews 11:13-16 “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.”
d. Eternity is our home; we are only here temporarily. Years ago an American tourist paid a visit to a renowned Polish rabbi, Hofetz Chaim. He was astonished to see that the rabbi’s home was only a simple room filled with books, plus a table and a cot. The tourist asked, „Rabbi, where is your furniture?” Hofetz Chaim replied, „Where is yours?” The puzzled American asked, „Mine? But I’m only a visitor here. I’m only passing through.” The rabbi replied, „So am I.” That’s true for all of us – Christians should remember that on this earth and in this body they are but pilgrims passing through on the way to eternal glory. – copied
e. Colossians 3:2 “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.”
3. They were not to sow seed or plant vineyards
a. This again speaks of putting down roots, expecting to be permanently remaining somewhere or at least for a long time, seeking reward for earthly labor.
b. Many people plan their lives as if their whole existence is their earthly existence.
c. Matthew 6:19-22 “”Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
d. When men are distracted by the cares of this life, their hearts are defiled by the grime of the world.
e. James 4:13-15 “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.’”
4. They were to live as nomads in tents
a. They were to see their lives as a journey.
b. There’s no home for us this side of heaven. Like Pilgrim in Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, once we’ve caught sight of the Celestial City we can never be content with anything less. Like Abraham, we look for a city whose builder is God. In Tolkien’s The Lord of The Rings, as Frodo and the other hobbits set out on their great adventure, they sing, „Home is behind, the world ahead.” But for Christians, it’s the other way around: The world is behind; our home is ahead. – copied
c. 1 Peter 2:11-12 “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.”
d. During the Great Depression of the early 1930s, many men became tramps. They hopped freight trains to travel from place to place, slept in empty boxcars, and earned a little money by doing seasonal jobs. When they couldn’t find a job, they resorted to begging. My mother was a „soft touch” for any such drifters who came to our door for food. They had lost the comfortable security of a home. Like the tramp, a pilgrim may be without the comfort and protection of a home, but he knows where he is going. His hopes and aspirations are set upon a goal. The Christian is to be that kind of pilgrim. In Hebrews we read about the heroes of the faith, who „confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (11:13). They were able to live godly lives of faith because they looked forward to „a better, that is, a heavenly country” (v.16). The Lord is preparing you and me for eternity, and everything we do is full of significance. Though this earth is not our permanent place of habitation, we are not aimless vagabonds. We are to be sojourners who live responsibly as we travel to our prepared destination. We have a heavenly Father who loves us and will welcome us into that home made ready by our Savior. —Herbert Vander Lugt
II. The Trial of the Rechabites
A. Jeremiah 35:3-6 “Then I took Jaazaniah the son of Jeremiah, the son of Habazziniah, his brothers and all his sons, and the whole house of the Rechabites, 4 and I brought them into the house of the Lord, into the chamber of the sons of Hanan the son of Igdaliah, a man of God, which was by the chamber of the princes, above the chamber of Maaseiah the son of Shallum, the keeper of the door. Then I set before the sons of the house of the Rechabites bowls full of wine, and cups; and I said to them, „Drink wine.” But they said, „We will drink no wine, for Jonadab the son of Rechab, our father, commanded us, saying, ’You shall drink no wine, you nor your sons, forever.”
B. Jeremiah not only asked the Rechabites whether they would drink any wine, but he set pots full of wine before them, and cups to drink out of. He turned the pressure up as strong as he possibly could to test the strength of their commitment.
C. Jeremiah’s hospitality was extended to them in one of the inner rooms of the temple surely would make it acceptable to drink the wine. After all it was the man of God offering it in the temple of God. God wouldn’t allow it if it was wrong, would He?
D. “What is temptation? Seduction to evil, solicitation to wrong. It stands distinguished from trial thus: trial tests, seeks to discover the man’s moral qualities or character; but temptation persuades to evil, deludes, that it may ruin. The one means to undeceive, the other to deceive. The one aims at the man’s good, making him conscious of his true moral self; but the other at his evil, leading him more or less unconsciously into sin. God tries; Satan tempts.” – Fairbain, in The Words and Works of Jesus Christ, J.D. Pentecost, p. 99.
E. James 1:1-2 “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.”
F. How could the Rechabites be expected to honor a 250 year old command from Jonadab? After all, this is a different time from when the command was given. That command had to be outdated and for the people of that time not for today.
G. When the Rechabites were tested to violate their commitment and separation by the Lord and Jeremiah, they refused to yield recognizing the test for what it was; for they knew in their hearts and minds that God would not ask such a thing of them. Their devotion distinguished them as they chose to live by principle and precept not based on what was the accepted and common practice of others.
H. In speaking of the difference between the Rechabites and His children God said, “Surely the sons of Jonadab the son of Rechab have performed the commandment of their father, which he commanded them, but this people has not obeyed Me.” Jeremiah 35:16
III. Two Lesson to be learned from the Rechabites
A. Choice determines character.
1. Years ago the Douglas Aircraft Company was competing with Boeing to sell Eastern Airlines its first big order of jets. War hero, Eddie Rickenbacker, the head of Eastern Airlines, reportedly told Donald Douglas that the specifications and claims made by Douglas Company for the DC-8 were very close to Boeings’ on everything except noise suppression – apparently they were more noisy. Rickenbacker then gave Douglas one last chance to out-promise Boeing on that feature. After talking with his engineers Douglas said that he didn’t feel he could make that promise. Rickenbacker replied, „I know you can’t, I just wanted to see if you were still honest.” – copied
2. Sin is a choice we make. Sin is when we choose to go contrary to God’s will
3. Consider two choices that determined the character of two men of God.
a. Daniel – Daniel 1:8 „But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank.”
b. Moses – Hebrews 11:24-26 “By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward.
B. Faithfulness will be rewarded
1. „God reserves the very best for those who leave the choice with Him.” – Andrew Murray
2. Jeremiah 35:18-19 “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.”’”
3. 1 Peter