The trial of the Rechabites’ constancy was intended but for a sign; now here we have the application of it.
I. The Rechabites’ observance of their father’s charge to them is made use of as an aggravation of the disobedience of the Jews to God. Let them see it and be ashamed. The prophet asks them, in God’s name, “Will you not at length receive instruction? Jer. 35:13. Will nothing affect you? Will nothing fasten upon you? Will nothing prevail to discover sin and duty to you? You see how obedient the Rechabites are to their father’s commandment (Jer. 35:14); but you have not inclined your ear to me” (Jer. 35:15), though one might much more reasonably expect that the people of God should have obeyed him than that the sons of Jonadab should have obeyed him; and the aggravation is very high, for, 1. The Rechabites were obedient to one who was but a man like themselves, who had but the wisdom and power of a man, and was only the father of their flesh; but the Jews were disobedient to an infinite and eternal God, who had an absolute authority over them, as the Father of their spirits. 2. Jonadab was long since dead, and was ignorant of them, and could neither take cognizance of their disobedience to his orders nor give correction for it; but God lives for ever, to see how his laws are observed, and is in a readiness to revenge all disobedience. 3. The Rechabites were never put in mind of their obligations to their father; but God often sent his prophets to his people, to put them in mind of their duty to him, and yet they would not do it. This is insisted on here as a great aggravation of their disobedience: “I have myself spoken to you, rising early and speaking by the written word and the dictates and admonitions of conscience (Jer. 35:14); nay, I have sent unto you all my servants the prophets, men like yourselves, whose terrors shall not make you afraid, rising up early and sending them (Jer. 35:15), and yet all in vain.” 4. Jonadab never did that for his seed which God had done for his people. He left them a charge, but left them no estate to bear the charge; but God had given his people a good land, and promised them that, if they would be obedient, they should still dwell in it, so that they were bound both in gratitude and interest to be obedient, and yet they would not hear, they would not hearken. 5. God did not tie up his people to so much hardship, and to such instances of mortification, as Jonadab obliged his seed to; and yet Jonadab’s orders were obeyed and God’s were not.
II. Judgments are threatened, as often before, against Judah and Jerusalem, for their disobedience thus aggravated. The Rechabites shall rise up in judgment against them, and shall condemn them; for they very punctually performed the commandment of their father, and continued and persevered in their obedience to it (Jer. 35:16); but this people, this rebellious and gainsaying people, have not hearkened unto me; and therefore (Jer. 35:17), because they have not obeyed the precepts of the word, God will perform the threatenings of it: “I will bring upon them, by the Chaldean army, all the evil pronounced against them both in the law and in the prophets, for I have spoken to them, I have called to them—spoken in a still small voice to those that were near and called aloud to those that were at a distance, tried all ways and means to convince and reduce them—spoken by my word, called by my providence, both to the same purport, and yet all to no purpose; they have not heard nor answered.”
III. Mercy is here promised to the family of the Rechabites for their steady and unanimous adherence to the laws of their house. Though it was only for the shaming of Israel that their constancy was tried, yet, being unshaken, it was found unto praise, and honour, and glory; and God takes occasion from it to tell them that he had favours in reserve for them (Jer. 35:18, 19) and that they should have the comfort of them. 1. That the family shall continue as long as any of the families of Israel, among whom they were strangers and sojourners. it shall never want a man to inherit what they had, though they had no inheritance to leave. Note, Sometimes those that have the smallest estates have the most numerous progeny; but he that sends mouths will be sure to send meat. 2. That religion shall continue in the family: “He shall not want a man to stand before me, to serve me.” Though they are neither priests nor levites, nor appear to have had any post in the temple service, yet in a constant course of regular devotion, they stand before God, to minister to him. Note, (1.) The greatest blessing that can be entailed upon a family is to have the worship of God kept up in it from generation to generation. (2.) Temperance, self-denial, and mortification to the world, do very much befriend the exercises of piety, and help to transmit the observance of them to posterity. The more dead we are to the delights of sense the better we are disposed for the service of God; but nothing is more fatal to the entail of religion in a family than pride and luxury.