Shouldn’t the Cycle have stopped with temptation by snake and never made it to disobedience, disunity, warnings, and judgment?
Chapters 34 and 35 offer us a stark affirmation of these questions – I find it wonderful that a foreign refugee, Jonadab the son of Rechab, comes forward out of anonymity on this New Year’s Eve to encourage us in this age of rising calamities!
God tells Jeremiah that Zedekiah king of Judah has made a covenant with the people of Jerusalem proclaiming liberty to all slaves after seven years of service, just as Moses had commanded Israel when God brought them out of slavery in Egypt. But shortly after, the people of Jerusalem pivot to temptation, revoke the proclamation of liberty, and take back their slaves in disobedience, just as their fathers had disobeyed the orders of Moses.
God’s message to them through Jeremiah chills to the bone:
“…you have not obeyed me by proclaiming liberty, every one to his brother and to his neighbor; behold, I proclaim to you liberty to the sword, to pestilence, and to famine…I will make you a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth” (34:17, ESV).
Note that there were two failures here – not only the failure to obey God’s command to their fathers to liberate slaves after seven years; but also the failure of usurping God’s authority, by making and then breaking their own covenants with the people, which God had already commanded with no expiration date.
God’s commands are irrevocable and forever; so should our resolutions be, not just on New Year’s Eve, but daily - forever.
As if God anticipates this very thought, he commands Jeremiah in Chapter 35 by contrast to go to the house of the refugee Jonadab, the son of Rechab; to bring them to God’s house; and to offer them copious amounts of wine to drink. This would seem to be permissible if authorized by God through the prophet of God.
But stunning integrity on the part of these humble foreigners intervenes based on their own father’s commands:
“We will drink no wine…for our father commanded us, ‘You shall drink no wine…forever…You shall not build a house…not sow seed…not plant or have a vineyard…that you may live many days in the land where you sojourn…We have obeyed the voice…of our father…so we are living in Jerusalem” (35:6-8, 11).
God then sends Jeremiah back to the rest of the people of Judah in Jerusalem to declare:
“The command that Jonadab the son of Rechab gave to his sons, to drink no wine, has been kept…for they have obeyed their father’s command. I have spoken to you persistently, but you have not listened to me. I have sent you all my servants the prophets, sending them persistently, saying, ‘Turn now every one of you from his evil way, and amend your deeds’…but you did not incline your ear to listen to me. Behold, I am bringing upon Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem all the disaster that I have pronounced against them, because I have spoken to them and they have not listened, I have called to them and they have not answered” (35:14, 17b).
Repeated warnings. Persistently. And now judgment.
Because the house of Judah did not listen, they are to be wiped out.
But the lowly refugees did listen and obey:
“Because you have obeyed the command of Jonadab your father and kept all his precepts and done all that he commanded you, [he] shall never lack a man to stand before me” (35:19).
This year, make your resolution to obey the commands of God as brought to life by the commands of Jesus, who persistently warns through the Holy Spirit.
Then be sure that your resolution is as irrevocable as the family of Jonadab. The never-ending love of God awaits!
Your life and the life of your entire family depend on it.