Summary: Jeremiah’s experience with the Rechabites shaped his message on fatherhood and guidance. We need to renew our commitment to parenting and to responding to parental guidance.
I guess every teenager grapples with who he is. For me, a 17-year-old, away from home and “on my own” at college, I was ever so much “smarter” than I am today and certainly “much smarter” than my own father who had attended college and seminary on a “catch as catch can” basis and had no degree to serve as his academic credit card. “How smart can he be?” asked this genius 17-year-old with his assumptions of mental superiority and confident certainty of success—even success in the same field of endeavor.
It was in this state of mind, shortly after one of my periodic visits home where my father had “proved” his lack of sophistication and mental capacity by disagreeing with me—it didn’t matter if the topic of the day was politics, theology, ethics, or money management. My father was obviously out of touch, clueless, and hopeless. I went to a Saturday matinee showing of that great Sidney Poitier movie, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” and I reveled in that confrontation between Poitier’s world-renowned doctor character and his inner-city postman father. The postman father plays the “I sacrificed everything for you” card and the doctor plays the “father’s duty” card. That scene epitomized my feelings. My own father had already done his duty. Why didn’t he just leave me alone?
He didn’t leave me alone because he knew that I wasn’t anywhere near as brilliant as 17-year-old Johnny thought he was. In fact, he could see the gaping weaknesses in my armor of pseudo-sophistication, the unprotected portions of my helmet of academia. If I had been as smart as 17-year-old Johnny thought he was, I would have listened to my father about a lot more things and I might not have experienced all of those hero-to-zero rollercoaster experiences that I ended up having in my life.
Frankly, the father’s duty isn’t over until the father dies. And if the father has done well, the father’s legacy takes over when the father has gone on. Let’s look at the legacy of an earthly father this morning and, as our text does, let’s make some comparisons with our heavenly father. I’m going to break my usual rule and read from my own translation, this morning, largely because I want you to hear the meaning of the names involved in our text.
1) The word which happened to Jeremiah from Yahweh (Let Yahweh exalt) in the days of Jehoiakim (Yahweh caused to stand), son of Josiah (Yahweh heals), King of Judah, saying:
2) “Go to the House of the Rechabites (riders or charioteers – in the ancient world, this often meant an elite warrior class) and, [as a result], you will speak to them and cause them to come to the House of Yahweh, to one of the chambers and cause them to drink wine.
3) And I took Jaazaniah (Yahweh hears), son of Jeremiah (Yahweh exalts or possibly, Yahweh throws), son of Habazziniah (“loves to celebrate?”), and his brothers, and all his sons, and all the House of the Rechabites.
4) And I brought them to the House of Yahweh, to the chamber of the Sons of Hanan (Favored, or Experiencing Grace), son of Igdaliah (Yahweh is Great), the man of God, which was near the chamber of the princes, which was above the chamber of Maaseiah (Made by Yahweh), son of Shallum (The Replaced One), keeper of the threshold.
5) And I placed pitchers full of wine and cups in front of the House of the Rechabites (lit. “gave to their faces”) and I said to them, “Drink wine!”
6) And they said, “We do not drink wine BECAUSE Jonadab (Yahweh incites or Yahweh volunteers/offers), son of Rechab (rider/charioteer/warrior?) commanded us saying, “Do not drink wine, you and your sons (children) forever (lit. to the horizon with idea of “for as far as you can see”)
7) And a house you shall not construct and seed you shall not sow and vineyards you shall not plant and [none of these] shall belong to you [lit. and shall not be for you] BECAUSE in tents you shall live all your days. Accordingly, you shall live many days upon the face of the land in which you are resident aliens there.
8) And we have heard the voice of Jonodab, son of Rechab, our father, for all which he commanded us, no drinking wine all our days, ourselves, our wives, our sons, and our daughters,
9) No building houses for us to live in, nor vineyards, fields, or seed belonging to us.
10) But we have lived in tents, we heard and we did all the things which Jonadab, our father, commanded us.
11) And when Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, came up against this land and we said, “Come and let us go to Jerusalem from the face of the armed host of the Chaldeans and from the face of the armed host of the Assyrians!” and we proceeded to live in Jerusalem.