Sunday, January 29, 2023

“Go to the Recabite Family” [Matt's Messages]

“Go to the Recabite Family”
Uprooted - The Words of Jeremiah
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
January 29, 2023 :: Jeremiah 34:1-35:19

Here’s the main application of these two chapters in one simple sentence. Ready?

Start to obey the Lord, and don’t stop.

Now, that’s easy to say, but it’s hard to do. And I’m glad that God has given us these two chapters of His Holy Word to build it into us as we get into them.

For the last month and half, we have been in the sweetest part of the Book of Jeremiah. Chapters 29 through 33 are often called “The Book of Hope” or “The Book of Comfort” or the “Book of Promises,” because in those chapters we got wonderful promises like 29:11, “A hope and a future.” True prosperity. A great restoration. Promises of an everlasting love. We get the promises of the New Covenant. A better, unbreakable covenant that makes new people–on the inside–a covenant that makes people new! A New Covenant! Those chapters are so sweet as they tell us the great and unsearchable things that God has in store for His people. 

Well, in chapter 34, we’ve turned the page from the “Book of Hope” to something that could be called “The Book of Failures” (Michael Wilcock).

For from chapter 34 to at least 39 and probably all the way to 45, we return to the bleak sad doom of Jeremiah. There are several stories, many of them Jeremiah interacting with the last two major kings of Judah: Jehoiakim (who hated his guts) and Zedekiah who hated his message (and put Jeremiah in prison). And these guys were thumbs-down kings. They failed to lead Judah in righteousness and instead led it straight into the besieging arms of Babylonian exile.

These chapters would never play on K-LOVE. They are not “positive and encouraging.”

But they are God’s Word. And they were written for us today. The Bible says that these chapters of Jeremiah are “God-breathed and...useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that [we might] be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

These chapters are more on the rebuking side of things. And the warning side of things. They are written here so that we learn the lessons that Judah failed to learn.

Such as: Start to obey the Lord, and don't stop.

And in typical Jeremiah style, he teaches these lessons through strange prophetic illustrations. Just like he like had to wear that wooden yoke, right? Remember that? And then the iron one? And that strange sash thing? And how he had to go to the Potter’s house?

Well, in today’s story, Jeremiah goes on another prophetic trip. This time to visit the Recabite Family.

Do you know about this Recabite Family? Probably most of us opened our bulletins today and thought that Misty had some kind of a typo there. The Whatsit Family? “Recabite?” What is that? And that family was stranger than its name. They were weird!  This is the only chapter in the whole Bible about them. And it’s a weird story.

But that’s chapter 35. In chapter 34, the LORD sends Jeremiah to someone else first. He sends him to King Zedekiah. Look with me at verse 1.

“While Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and all his army and all the kingdoms and peoples in the empire he ruled were fighting against Jerusalem and all its surrounding towns, this word came to Jeremiah from the LORD: ‘This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: Go to Zedekiah king of Judah and tell him, 'This is what the LORD says: I am about to hand this city over to the king of Babylon, and he will burn it down. You will not escape from his grasp but will surely be captured and handed over to him. You will see the king of Babylon with your own eyes, and he will speak with you face to face. And you will go to Babylon” (vv.1-3). 

This prophecy apparently came around the same time as the last two chapters. Babylon is at the door. Jeremiah seems to have a little bit more freedom of movement, or maybe he just had access to Zedekiah.

The LORD sends him with a message. And the LORD makes sure that we all know that it was from the LORD. Three times in just two verses! “This is what the LORD says...” 

And His message is not positive or encouraging, but it is true. Zedekiah’s kingdom will fall, and Zedekiah will see the king of Babylon with his own eyes and end up in Babylon to die there. Nebuchadnezzar is actually one of the last things he’ll ever see. Because he’s going to have his eyes cut out of his head.

Now, it’s not as bad as it could be. He is not going to get a bullet to the head, too. In God’s mercy, Zedekiah will die of natural cause–in prison, in exile–but not of violence. V.4

“'Yet hear the promise of the LORD, O Zedekiah king of Judah. This is what the LORD says concerning you: You will not die by the sword; you will die peacefully [in shalom]. As people made a funeral fire in honor of your fathers, the former kings who preceded you, so they will make a fire in your honor and lament, ‘Alas, O master!’ I myself make this promise, declares the LORD.' Then Jeremiah the prophet told all this to Zedekiah king of Judah, in Jerusalem, while the army of the king of Babylon was fighting against Jerusalem and the other cities of Judah that were still holding out–Lachish and Azekah. These were the only fortified cities left in Judah” (vv.4-7).

It’s interesting, archeologists have found letters from Lachish from that exact time. They are currently in the British Museum, and they tell the same story about holding out against Babylon to the very end. One of them says that they can no longer see the lights of Azekah. They have gone down. Eventually they all went down, including Jerusalem.


Well, by now we know because Jeremiah has been a broken record about the broken covenant. They are going down because they had one job and they failed to do it. They disobeyed the Lord. They did not do what He said to do. Judah did not obey.

And the next section gives an illustration of that from the last days of Jerusalem. Look at verse 8.

“The word came to Jeremiah from the LORD after King Zedekiah had made a covenant with all the people in Jerusalem to proclaim freedom for the slaves. Everyone was to free his Hebrew slaves, both male and female; no one was to hold a fellow Jew in bondage. So all the officials and people who entered into this covenant agreed that they would free their male and female slaves and no longer hold them in bondage. They agreed, and set them free” (vv.8-10).

That sounds good, doesn’t it? Yes, it does! We don’t know exactly why Zedekiah did this, but it was a good thing. He got the people of Jerusalem to agree to emancipate their fellow Israelites. 

I’m not sure why the people agreed to do that. Perhaps they thought they could then get away with not feeding them. Or perhaps they thought that they would be more likely to fight the Babylonians if they were free. 

Or maybe it was an attempt to obey, at the last second, the Law of the LORD. Because they were not supposed to hold their countrymen in slavery for more than 6 years, right? This kind of slavery was not based on race or kidnaping or conquest but was a safety net for Israelites so that Hebrews families could get out of debt. And each slave was supposed to be freed by the sabbatical year (the seventh year) or freed with everyone no matter how many years it had been when the Year of Jubilee came around, every 50 years.

But, apparently, they haven’t been doing that. They have just been holding in slavery in perpetuity. And that’s the opposite of how this was designed. That’s disobedience.

But here and now, they have chosen obedience. And that’s good!


And it’s better late than never. Find out what the LORD says we ought to do, and start doing it right away. Most of the time, that will require some repentance. Some turning. Here, the people began to obey in the area of biblical social justice. Because God loves the poor and watches out for them, we should too. We should never take advantage of the poor, and we should always seek what is just and right for them. Solomon said, “He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God” (Prov. 14:31 NIVO). Start to obey the Lord.

This goes for any area of life because every area of life is under the lordship of Christ. So, the Lord says to refrain from “obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place” (Eph. 5:4 NIVO). Are you obeying that? What does your social media say? How do you talk in the breakroom at work? What would happen if we projected your text messages up on this screen? Obscenity, foolish talk, coarse joking? Start to obey the Lord.

The LORD says “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Col. 3:13 NIVO). That’s not always easy to do. It was hard to give up their slaves! (Too hard, they apparently thought, as we shall soon see.) Repentance is hard. But it’s good. Start to obey the Lord. It’s not too late. Late is better than never. Turn!

Start to obey the Lord. Whatever He says. Start to obey Him. And then, don’t stop.


Which, of course, is exactly what the people of Jerusalem did. Look at verse 11. “They agreed, and set them free. But afterward they changed their minds and took back the slaves they had freed and enslaved them again.”

Rats! It had looked like they were maybe doing something right for a change. It looks like this was the moment when Nebuchadnezzar thought that Egypt was rising up to be a threat, and he gave Jerusalem a little break. He pulled his guys off of the siege of Jerusalem briefly to make sure that Egypt didn’t pose a problem for him. And so probably at that point, the people of Jerusalem, “You know I could really use those slaves now. Let’s get ‘em back.” We’re not 100% sure why they broke their promises to liberate them, but we are 100% sure that they did go back on their word. 

And the LORD had something to say about that!

Verse 12. “Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah: ‘This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: I made a covenant with your forefathers when I brought them out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. [Remember that? Remember Exodus? All of your ancestors were slaves. And I hate perpetual slavery. I set them free! V.14] I said, 'Every seventh year each of you must free any fellow Hebrew who has sold himself to you. After he has served you six years, you must let him go free.' [Read it in Exodus 21. Read it in Deuteronomy 15.] Your fathers, however, did not listen to me or pay attention to me. [They had their fingers in their ears. They kept their brothers and sisters in slavery. V.15]

Recently you repented and did what is right in my sight: Each of you proclaimed freedom to his countrymen. You even made a covenant before me in the house that bears my Name.

But now you have turned around and profaned my name; each of you has taken back the male and female slaves you had set free to go where they wished. You have forced them to become your slaves again” (vv.12-16).

That’s where they went wrong.

They did the first part. They repented and started to obey the Lord, but they didn’t do the second part. They stopped, and they turned back. He uses that favorite word there again, “Shuv.” Remember “Shuv?” It means to turn or to repent or to go back.

He uses it in verse 15 for something good. “Recently you [shuved] repented and did what is right in my sight.”

But then they shuvved the shuv! Verse 16, “But now you have [shuved] turned around and profaned my name.”

They repented of their repentance. Don’t do that. Don’t repent of your repentance! Start to obey the Lord, and don’t turn back.

I’m guessing that some of us (maybe all of us) are tempted to repent of our repentance these days. It’s hard to live a repentant life. It’s often a lot easier to do things the world’s way than it is to things the Lord’s way. 

Sometimes, it seems downright crazy to obey, doesn’t it? “Buy the field!” right? It’s hard to forgive and to keep bitterness at bay. It’s hard to put away lust or greed or gluttony or rage. Especially when the world says that’s the way blessing lies. It’s hard to not give up on obedience and repent of your repentance.

But that way lies death. Look at verse 17.

“‘Therefore, this is what the LORD says: You have not obeyed me; you have not proclaimed freedom for your fellow countrymen. So I now proclaim 'freedom' for you, declares the LORD–'freedom' to fall by the sword, plague and famine. I will make you abhorrent to all the kingdoms of the earth. The men who have violated my covenant and have not fulfilled the terms of the covenant they made before me, I will treat like the calf they cut in two and then walked between its pieces.

The leaders of Judah and Jerusalem, the court officials, the priests and all the people of the land who walked between the pieces of the calf, I will hand over to their enemies who seek their lives. Their dead bodies will become food for the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth. I will hand Zedekiah king of Judah and his officials over to their enemies who seek their lives, to the army of the king of Babylon, which has withdrawn from you. I am going to give the order, declares the LORD, and I will bring them back to this city. They will fight against it, take it and burn it down. And I will lay waste the towns of Judah so no one can live there.” (vv 17-22).

Why does God care so much about this?

One commentator calls this the “Emancipation Revocation” (Phillip Ryken). They took back the freedom they had promised in God’s name. Right there. It tells you something. They had made these promises in God’s holy name. They had made a solemn covenant. They had cut a calf in two pieces and walked through it saying, “If I break this covenant, may this happen to me, so help me, Yahweh!” And then they just went back on their promises! When you and I make promises, we are involving the Lord because we bear His name. So when we break our promises, we are implicating the Lord in that, too. Of course He cares! 

And more than that, the LORD loves freedom. He loves setting people free. That’s what the Cross does right? That’s what Jesus did when He redeemed us from our slavery to sin. So, of course, He cares. And He hates that they have, once again, broken His covenant because whether or not they made a covenant together about this, they were already supposed to be doing it. And they weren’t. Once again, they had stopped obeying the Lord and were going to pay for it.

Which brings us, at long last, to the Recabite Family, chapter 35. Look at verse 1.

“This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD during the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah: ‘Go to the Recabite family and invite them to come to one of the side rooms of the house of the LORD and give them wine to drink.’”

Now, this is actually a flashback to an earlier time. Probably a decade or so before the events of chapter 34. This is during the reign of wicked king Jehoiakim son of Josiah. It’s probably around 600BC. He reigned from 609-598. 

But even though it happened before chapter 34, I think it’s placed here in Jeremiah’s book to provide a comparison and contrast with it. Chapter 34 was about a fickle group people who started to obey but then stopped. And chapter 35 is about a faithful group of people who started to obey and then never stopped.

They were a weird family named after their great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather Recab. Recab had a son named Jonadab who is mentioned once before in 2 Kings chapter 10 (vv.15-17). He was a right hand man to Jehu who was a violent rebel against evil king Ahab. He’s the one who, humanly speaking, took down wicked King Ahab and his wife Jezebel and killed all of the prophets of Baal at that time. He was zealous! And so, apparently was his right hand man Jonadab son of Recab. 

And, also apparently, Jonadab son of Recab had a strong influence over his family which was passed down from generation to generation for more than (get this!) 200 years. Jonadab gave his family instructions on how they were supposed to live. He had like “5 Rules for the Recabite Family.”

And they followed them for over 200 years!

And one of them was...well, let’s just see what happens. The LORD sends Jeremiah to find this family and invite them to the temple and to provide them with wine to drink. So he does. I don’t know how he pulls it off. He doesn’t have authority over the temple. King Jehoiakim hates his guts. But he does it. Look at verse 3.

“So I went to get Jaazaniah son of Jeremiah [different Jeremiah], the son of Habazziniah, and his brothers and all his sons–the whole family of the Recabites. I brought them into the house of the LORD, into the room of the sons of Hanan son of Igdaliah the man of God. It was next to the room of the officials, which was over that of Maaseiah son of Shallum the doorkeeper. Then I set bowls full of wine and some cups before the men of the Recabite family and said to them, ‘Drink some wine.’”

Do you see it?

He’s got like punch bowls full of good wine. And cups to dip it in. And they’re at the Temple. And it’s the men of God offering them this hospitality. Deeply honoring. Everybody is watching. And they are all there. The whole weird exotic family. There must not have been that many of them because they can all fit in that one room in the temple. But they all have a cup, and they are all invited to drink.

And they all refused. Every single one of them.

Verse 6. “But they replied, ‘We do not drink wine, because our forefather Jonadab son of Recab gave us this command: 'Neither you nor your descendants must ever drink wine. Also you must never build houses, sow seed or plant vineyards; you must never have any of these things, but must always live in tents. Then you will live a long time in the land where you are nomads.' 

We have obeyed everything our forefather Jonadab son of Recab commanded us. Neither we nor our wives nor our sons and daughters have ever drunk wine or built houses to live in or had vineyards, fields or crops. We have lived in tents and have fully obeyed everything our forefather Jonadab commanded us. But when Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon invaded this land, we said, 'Come, we must go to Jerusalem to escape the Babylonian and Aramean armies.' So we have remained in Jerusalem’” (vv.6-11).

Do you see how weird they were? They weren’t just teetotalers. They were like nomads. They didn’t have houses. And they never farmed. They always lived under tents. They lived a very “intense” life, right? {That was a pun.} The only reason why they were in Jerusalem right then was that Nebuchadnezzar had pushed them in. Their tents were set up inside the city walls. I’ll bet everybody loved that. Don’t you love it when you see a little tent city spring up in your town? Everybody had their eyes on these folks.

They were different! They were kind of like the Amish but not peaceful (Jonadab sure wasn’t) and not farmers, more like nomadic Nazirites. Or kind of like the Roma people who wander from place to place in Europe. Or the Fulani. Or hippies. They lived an alternative lifestyle. 

And it did not include the fruit of the vine. For going on 250 years, nobody in that family had had a drop of wine. 

So Jeremiah has sought them out, brought them to the temple, poured out a vast quantities of wine, in front of everybody. The whole nation is going to hear about this!

And they all to a man say, “Thank you for offering this wine. It’s very generous. But we can’t drink it because Grandpa Jonadab commanded us not to.”

That’s the story. That’s all that happened.

My guess is that Jeremiah replied, “Thank you, guys, for coming. That’s what I thought you would say. No problem. We are not offended. We weren’t trying to trick you or trap you. Instead, the LORD brought you here so you could show us how it’s done. You Recabites showed us how to obey somebody and keep obeying them even under pressure. Well done!”

And the LORD says the same thing. Look at verse 12.

“Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah, saying: ‘This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Go and tell the men of Judah and the people of Jerusalem, 'Will you not learn a lesson and obey my words?' declares the LORD. [Notice the emphasis there on HIS words.]

‘Jonadab son of Recab ordered his sons not to drink wine and this command has been kept. To this day they do not drink wine, because they obey their forefather's command. 

But I have spoken to you again and again, yet you have not obeyed me.

Again and again I sent all my servants the prophets to you. They said, ‘Each of you must turn from your wicked ways and reform your actions; do not follow other gods to serve them. Then you will live in the land I have given to you and your fathers.’ But you have not paid attention or listened to me” (vv.12-15).

Now, let’s be clear.

The LORD is not saying that everybody ought to do the same things as the Recabite Family.  He isn’t saying that nobody should ever drink wine. Jesus made the best wine ever! He isn’t saying that believers should never build houses or never plant seeds or never have a vineyard or always live in tents. He’s not saying that at all. The LORD has promised some of those things as the blessing of shalom and prosperity on God’s people! He’s not even saying that the Recabites all have to live that exact way forever, like Grandpa said.

He’s saying that the people of Judah should be like the Recabite Family in this one key way: they should start obeying and not stop. The Recabite Family is one great big object lesson in relentless obedience.

Here’s the logic. If this little family can go 250 years in obeying their forefather who was just a man at best, then how much more should and could the people of God obey and keep obeying their Heavenly Father who is God Himself?! 

Shame on Judah for re-enslaving their brothers and sisters! They couldn’t go a few weeks without repenting of their repentance when it got a little hard. Instead, they should been like the Recabite Family instead and stayed obedient to their Lord no matter what. No matter how funny it made them look.

You know, increasingly, we Christians are going to be looked at as ridiculous. The things we believe. The things we cannot go along with.  We are going to going to get laughed at, which is often harder to live with than straight up persecution. At least it feels like it sometimes. We need to decide in advance that we’re going to keep on obeying our Lord even if the world laughs at us.

Lanse Free Church, let’s decide now to obey the LORD in 2023 and not stop obeying the LORD in 2023 if times get rough. Let’s stick it out. Let’s do the things we know the Lord wants us to do. And let’s not “become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Gal. 6:9 NIVO)

Because with obedience comes blessing. Look at verse 16.

“The descendants of Jonadab son of Recab have carried out the command their forefather gave them, but these people have not obeyed me.' ‘Therefore, this is what the LORD God Almighty, the God of Israel, says: 'Listen! I am going to bring on Judah and on everyone living in Jerusalem every disaster I pronounced against them. I spoke to them, but they did not listen; I called to them, but they did not answer.'

Then Jeremiah said to the family of the Recabites, ‘This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: 'You have obeyed the command of your forefather Jonadab and have followed all his instructions and have done everything he ordered.' [Good job! Great example!] Therefore, this is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: 'Jonadab son of Recab will never fail to have a man to serve me.'”

Start to obey the Lord, and don’t stop, and you will be blessed.

Just like the Recabite Family.


Previous Messages in This Series:

01. "The Word of the LORD Came to Me" - Jeremiah 1:1-19
02. "I Bring Charges Against You" - Jeremiah 2:1-3:5
03. "Return to Me" - Jeremiah 3:6-4:4
04. “Oh My Anguish, My Anguish!” - Jeremiah 4:6-5:31
05. "Ask for the Ancient Paths" - Jeremiah 6:1-30
06. “This Is the Temple of the LORD, the Temple of the LORD, the Temple of the LORD!” - Jeremiah 7:1-8:3
07. "Is There No Balm in Gilead?" - Jeremiah 8:4-9:22
08. "Boast About This" - Jeremiah 9:23-24
09. "Like a Scarecrow in a Melon Patch" - Jeremiah 9:25-10:25
10. "Conspiracy" - Jeremiah 11:1-12:17
11. “My People For My Renown” - Jeremiah 13:1-27
12. "I Can No Longer Show Compassion" - Jeremiah 14:1-15:21
13. "I Have Withdrawn My Blessing, My Love and My Pity" - Jeremiah 16:1-21
14. "I the LORD Search the Heart" - Jeremiah 17:1-27
15. "Go Down to the Potter's House" - Jeremiah 18:1-19:15
16. “Insult and Reproach All Day Long” - Jeremiah 20:1-18
17. "Woe to the Shepherds" - Jeremiah 21:1-23:8
18. "I Did Not Send These Prophets" - Jeremiah 23:9-40
19. "“My Eyes Will Watch Over Them For Their Good” - Jeremiah 24:1-25:38
20. "This Man Should Be Sentenced to Death" - Jeremiah 26:1-24
21. “Under the Yoke” - Jeremiah 27:1-28:17
22. “I Know the Plans I Have for You” - Jeremiah 29:1-32
23. "I Will Surely Save You Out of a Distant Land" - Jeremiah 30:1-24
24. “I Have Loved You With An Everlasting Love” - Jeremiah 31:1-26
25. "A New Covenant" - Jeremiah 31:27-40
26. "Buy the Field" - Jeremiah 32:1-44