I’ve been into the prophets ever since I discovered Walter Brueggemann sometime last year. Anyway, I remember reading all the way through Jeremiah for a church-run program called DC (Discipleship Curriculum). It was seldom breathtaking. I came away feeling like I’d just read the journal entry of a man’s worst day over & over. Well, Brueggemann has forever changed that perception. I’ve not read his most influential work, The Prophetic Imagination”, but I have added it to my already crowded reading list. Having listened to lots of podcasts and his YouTube lectures, I think I am at least somewhat familiar with what that book says. And it’s breathtaking. So with this new-to-me vision for reading and interpreting the prophets, I’ve been reading through Jeremiah anew.
Yesterday, I encountered Jeremiah 35. This astonishing chapter depicts Yahweh’s charge to His prophet Jeremiah to go and get the Rechabites, bring them to the House of Yahweh, and set before them wine to drink. As usual, Jeremiah does what YHWH says and brings the Rechabites to the Temple and sets bowls full of wine before them and says, “Drink up!” They decline, citing their forefather Jonadab’s command that they would never drink wine, build houses, or cultivate crops. In other words they were to be a nomadic clan. Yahweh, whose eyes go to & fro across the earth looking for worshippers, touts this obscure family’s obedience as behavior of which He approves, and with which He sadly cannot associate His chosen Judah. He basically seems to use the Rechabites’ right behavior in order to heap judgment on the chosen Israelites.
“But to the house of the Rechabites Jeremiah said, “Thus says Yahweh of hosts, the God of Israel,” Because you have listened to the command of Jonadab your ancestor, and you have kept all his commands, and you have done all that he commanded you,’ 19 ⌊therefore⌋ thus says Yahweh of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘A man will not be cut off for Jonadab, the son of Rechab, to stand ⌊before me⌋ ⌊always⌋.’ ”
Sidebar: I did a bit of research online to see what is known about the Rechabites, and couldn’t find much. I mostly wanted to know if they were a Jewish clan. Apparently they are part of the same people as Moses’ wife. So there’s that…but the point of the story seems to me to be that these people, who are at best “less than chosen”, are noted by Yahweh for their faithfulness in keeping the law of their ancestor. They may not have believed all the stuff about Yahweh that the Israeilites did, they might not have performed religiously as well as their chosen counterparts, and they likely weren’t “Israel in the flesh”, but just as Paul noted Gentiles that somehow kept the law without having the right bloodlines, these Rechabites pleased Yahweh in their obedience.
The applications abound for this passage. I continue to be convicted that actions are far more important than intellectual beliefs in God’s eyes. What other possibilities are there? God’s character and kindness are on display in this chapter in very surprising ways that should give those of us pause who are so nervous about believing all the “right things” while simultaneously neglecting to do things which match up with the teachings of Jesus.
“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you oh Yahweh my rock and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)