Thus said the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel:
Because you have obeyed the charge of your ancestor Jonadab
And kept all his commandments
And done all that he enjoined upon you
Assuredly, thus said the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel:
There shall never cease to be a man
Of the line of Jonadab son of Rechab
Standing before Me.
-Jeremiah 35:18-19 (Jewish Study Bible)
Jeremiah is known as the ‘mourning prophet’ (or ‘moaning prophet’ depending on which interpreter you follow) because he delivered a lot of bad news to a lot of different people. In this instance, Jeremiah delivers good news to a clan that has been faithful to the guidelines set out generations before by a descendant of Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro.
Jonadab had said not to drink wine, and for generations the Rechabites had obeyed the injunction. The not drinking of wine was significant, for abstinence from wine was usually indicative of the setting apart of one’s self for ‘divine service’, something also required for those who pledged the Nazarite vow.
Jonadab had also included not owning land or building houses along with the injunction not to drink wine. The Rechabites were to live in tents just as their ancestor, Jethro, had done. Although at this point the Rechabites were staying in Jerusalem because of the invasion of two armies, they nevertheless continued in their abstinence from wine despite Jeremiah setting full bowls of wine before them.
God uses the Rechabites faithfulness as an example of opposites for Jeremiah to relay to Israel: The Rechabites had been faithful to the commands of an ancestor but Israel had not been faithful to the commands of God, in spite of all the prophets that He had sent to warn them:
Turn back every one of you
From your wicked ways and mend your deeds
Do not follow other gods or serve them.
Then you may remain on the land that I gave you and your fathers.
But you did not give ear or listen to Me. …
Assuredly, thus said the Lord, the God of Hosts, the God of Israel:
I am going to bring . . . disaster . . . for I spoke to them
But they would not listen
I called to them
But they would not respond.
-Jeremiah 35:15, 17 (Jewish Study Bible)
Today, we live in a generation that pooh-poohs Godly and/or moral instruction. Everyone knows better than their ancestors because they have a new god – the Internet – to give them any answer they want to justify how they live. Those who continue in their ancestors ways by faithfully serving Him by becoming a pastor, missionary, evangelist, etc., in this generation are seen as Albatrosses* (seabirds that have come to symbolize a great weight or burden around one’s neck) in a ‘progressive’ and ‘modern’ society.
However, this society doesn’t recognize that they themselves are like Boobies** (seabirds that earned their name because they could be captured once asleep, or easily captured and slaughtered when they landed on oceangoing ships) and have been tricked into turning away from the reality that the real struggle of humanity is “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12), or lulled into a false sense of security with access to all the world’s wisdom via the Internet instead of accessing God’s wisdom through His word and allowing it to be implanted in their heart, mind and spirit.
Perhaps you have a Godly elder in your family soon to become an ‘ancestor’ – go and talk to them about the good things of the Lord and all they have learned in His presence while you can. Their faithfulness to Him in all circumstances is your blessing and a guidepost on life’s journey. Learning from your ancestors might make you an Albatross in today’s world but it’s better than being Boobie.
The Lord is coming!
*The Albatross has one of the widest wingspans of all birds (11+ feet tip-to-tip) and can ride a restless wind for hours without having to flap its wings. However, when the skies are calm the weight of its body can be felt and it tires easily and has to rest on the ocean. If it lands on earth, it becomes one of the clumsiest of all birds and struggles to walk while dragging its great wings along the ground. They often trip over their own feet.
**The Boobie also has a large wingspan, colourful flat feet, and is also quite clumsy on land. Its name is derived from a Spanish word for a ‘stupid’ one – easy to trick or trap.