Can You Obey (Jeremiah 35:13-14)

Jeremiah 35: 13-14 – Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: “Go and say to the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, ‘Will you not receive instruction and listen to my words?’ declares the Lord. ‘The command that Jonadab the son of Rechab gave to his sons, to drink no wine, has been kept, and they drink none to this day, for they have obeyed their father’s command. I have spoken to you persistently, but you have not listened to me.’”
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Jeremiah 35 has an interesting narrative illustration that should challenge us all. God called Jeremiah to gather a clan of Israel called the Rechabites. This family had been commanded by their patriarch to never drink wine and to never live in houses. In Jeremiah 35, we read of how God called Jeremiah to bring in the Rechabites and to offer them wine. They refused the wine, remembering the command of their forefather that they had continually obeyed.

Now, before we loose focus in this passage, let me remind you that this passage is not about the rightness or wrongness of drinking wine. Rather, this passage is about obedience. The Rechabites had received a command from their father, and they obeyed that command. They obeyed, regardless of what social opinion may have been. They obeyed, regardless of how convenient it may have been to disobey.

After these men display their continued commitment to their father’s command, God reveals to us what this event is about. God says to all of Israel that the Rechabites have obeyed a simple command of their father, even though that command was neither overly good or overly bad. It was certainly not the command of God on their lives, yet they obeyed it. Yet, as a nation, Israel had refused to obey the commands of God, commands that they were required to obey under the terms of the covenant. The Rechabites served as an example. It was not that the people could not obey commands, they were simply people who chose not to obey the commands of God. The people were not opposed to all commands, just God’s commands.

In our lives, we can learn quite a bit from the Rechabites. How often do we find ourselves obeying simple rules that have no bearing on our future. Some of us obey family superstitions that have no impact on our worlds whatsoever. For example, my father still eats black-eyed peas and cooked cabbage every New Year’s day, because his family always said that you should eat black-eyed peas and cabbage every new years day for good luck and prosperity. He has no problem obeying that command of his forefathers, though it, as a command, has no spiritual use at all (and in fact is dishonoring to God because it is a superstitious belief in luck rather than in a sovereign God).

Now, ask yourself, just how many little rules and commands do you follow every day which have no real impact on your life or on your eternity? On the other hand, how often do you pretend that you have no ability to obey commands when it comes to the commands of God? We dishonor God greatly when we pretend that obedience to his commands is burdensome, when we so easily and so regularly hear and obey the far less important commands of others.

Today, make it a point to focus your life on obedience to the commands of God. His commands are not burdensome, but life-giving. If we can obey the rules in a sport or card game, the rules on the highway, or the rules at a shopping mall or theatre, we should be able to obey the commands of God. If we can keep family traditions that have no moral significance, we should be able to keep the charges handed down to us by God. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you have been given by God the ability to keep his commands. There is not a command that God has given you that you can not follow. So, make it your hopeful task, this day, to follow those commands. Do not honor God less than you honor your family traditions. Do not honor God less than you honor the Wal-Mart security guard. Honor God by obeying his commands first and foremost.

Dear Lord, I thank you for this challenging example. I pray that I will never be one who follows my traditions better than your commands. I acknowledge that, in Christ, you have given me the ability to follow your commands. You have given me all that I need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). Therefore, I will follow you. Help me to keep your command this day. Help me to serve you this day. Remind me that you have given me all that I need to follow you. Remind me that I have no excuse for failing to follow you. Please give me your aid in honoring you in all that I do this day.

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