The Rechabites’ Example
Open Your Bible
Jeremiah 35:1-19, Jeremiah 36:1-32, Joel 2:15-17, Luke 16:29-31
The last fire truck just disappeared down our driveway. Our woods have been thoroughly soaked with water and while my kids’ eyes are big, their stories are already even bigger. I can still smell the wet wood steam, and the wind is just as strong as it was thirty minutes ago, when a small bonfire caught the wind and flew across the dead leaves, spreading down the hill in the high winds before I could get it back under control. Everyone and everything is okay, but I can’t help but wonder, Could I have prevented this?
I don’t have a great history with fire. When I was a child, I apparently left one candle burning on one blanket-covered bed and certain responsible adults still see fit to bring it up every Easter. (You’d think I would have learned, right?) But despite all of my past fire-related transgressions, I believe I should be forgiven these mistakes since everything turned out alright in the end.
We are accustomed to think of God’s grace as a “get out jail free” card, one that is indiscriminately available to cover whatever we can dish out. This is the natural bent of the human heart. We don’t really see all that much wrong with how we live, because we live in a culture of self-definition: I decide what is right for me, and no one should judge me for it. But what happens to that logic when we come face to face with a holy God?
We know what God’s Word says. But do we listen? God set before us the example of the Rechabites in contrast to the promiscuous culture of Judah under Jehoiakim’s reign. The Rechabites listened to the words of their ancestor, Jonabab, while Judah wouldn’t even listen to the Word of God. The Rechabites continued in obedience, generation after generation, resulting in God’s assurance that “Jonadab son of Rechab will never fail to have a man to stand before [God] always” (Jeremiah 35:19). Meanwhile, Judah continued on in their rebellion, despite repeated prophetic warning.
The people of Judah had so hardened their hearts that they utterly dismissed the dire warnings of God’s impending judgment—evidenced by the king throwing the warnings into the fire. In the context of this passage, this stubborness is shocking and disturbing. But are we so different?
The truth begins with tough news: Our hearts “are more deceitful than anything else” (Jeremiah 17:9). Acknowledging this fact leads us to the next unsettling truth: We have to deal with a Holy God. What can we do in the face of His righteous judgment? We cannot cure our own hearts, and He cannot abide wickedness, nor will He be deceived or mocked (Galatians 6:7). The hardened heart responds to the gospel like Jehoiakim: with denial and unbelief. Such a heart casts aside every warning, arrogantly dismissing the authority and holiness of God. And “it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).
There is only the way of life or the way of death. Our merciful God opens the door to the way of life, even to rebellious Judah: “Perhaps when the house of Judah hears about all the disaster I am planning to bring on them, each one of them will turn from his evil way. Then I will forgive their iniquity and their sin” (Jeremiah 36:3). God not only offers an undeserving and rebellious people the gift of forgiveness, He also graciously offers blessing to those who hunger and thirst for righteousness and love to walk in His law (Matthew 5:6). Through His grace, God extends to us a promise not unlike the one He offered to the Rechabites: the ongoing blessings of His covenant.
Do not harden your heart. Receive the grace available to you through Jesus! Turn away from evil. Do not throw His warnings into the fire, but instead live in the goodness of all He has given you. Because of Jesus, God will abundantly pardon, and grant you peace and joy everlasting.