As the unfaithful kingdom of Judah neared her end, God instructed Jeremiah to visit the Rechabites, who were to serve as an example for the people of Judah. The Rechabites kept their forefather Jonadab’s command not to drink wine, build a house, or sow seeds. Such a lifestyle seemed impossible with the given circumstances, but they persevered even when their determination seemed insignificant to others. The Babylonians were devouring their nation and most of the Israelites had forsaken God.
In contrast to the Rechabites’ perseverance was the Judeans’ half-hearted attempt to return to God. At the brink of Babylonian invasion, King Zedekiah made a covenant with all the people in Jerusalem for a proclamation of liberty, that everyone should set free his Hebrew slaves according to the Mosaic law (Exod 21:2). All the people obeyed, but afterward turned around and enslaved them again, to God’s anger and the prophet’s dismay (Jer 34:15-16).
Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: “Go and tell the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, ‘Will you not receive instruction to obey My words? The words of Jonadab the son of Rechab, which he commanded his sons, not to drink wine, are performed; for to this day they drink none, and obey their father’s commandment. But although I have spoken to you, rising early and speaking, you did not obey Me.’” (Jer 35:13-14)
The Israelites had attempted to keep God’s command, but lacked the resolve to follow through. In the end, their insincere repentance deeply disappointed God and provoked Him to anger (Jer 34:18). On the other hand, even though the determination of the Rechabites was small, the LORD remembered them—in fact, He promised they would never lack a man to stand before Him forever (Jer 35:18-19)!
God never demands from us what is beyond our ability. Persevere in your spiritual determinations, no matter how small they may seem to be. Keep making those daily sacrifices for God and thereby progress steadily toward Him. Sometimes, the fire in our hearts may feel fiercely challenged and our hope feels dim. In those times, do not forget that if we have the determination to separate ourselves from the world for God, He will surely remember us, just as He remembered the Rechabites.
“Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:6).