When you think of your family background and what you have received from your family, what is the primary heritage you received? It is usually the case that those in a family see things that make them unique from others, that others who know them or have even been close to the family for years, will likely never see. When you think of your children or grandchildren, what are some things you hope that they recognize as a family heritage they are privileged to share? What are some characteristics that you would love for them to own as they mature and to be able to honestly say to others that it is something they received from their parents or that it is a mark of your family.
In Jeremiah 35 God had the prophet to go to the house of the Rechabites and speak to them. He was to bring them to the house of the Lord, into one of the chambers “and give them wine to drink.” So he prepared everything and brought the family together and had them to sit down. “Then I set before the men of the house of the Rechabites pitchers full of wine, and cups; and I said to them, ‘Drink wine!’ But they said, ‘We will not drink wine, for Jonadab the son of Rechab, our father, commanded us, saying, ‘You shall not drink wine, you or your sons, forever. You shall not build a house, and you shall not sow seed nor plant a vineyard, nor own one; but you shall live in tents all your days so that you may live many days in the land where you live as strangers.’ And we have obeyed the voice of Jonadab, the son Rechab, our father, in all that he commanded us, not to drink wine all our days, we, our wives, our sons, or our daughters, not to build ourselves houses to live in and we do not have a vineyard, a field or seed. But we have lived only in tents and have obeyed and have done according to all that our father Jonadab commanded us.”
God was teaching Jeremiah a lesson that he was to teach to the people of Judah about family heritage. His point was that God was the father of the Jewish nation and that he passed down a family heritage to them of how they were to live and be faithful and loyal to Him as their father. But, unlike the Rechabites, they refused to follow the family heritage and turned away from God to worship idols and practice all kinds of immoral, ungodly behavior that God had forbidden them to do as His children
Surely there had been those among the Rechabites who felt that the things they had been told to do by their father and grandfather were not what was best for them. Can’t you imagine children or grandchildren saying, “Why do we have to live in a tent all our lives? Why can’t we have a house like everyone else does? Why don’t we plant fields and grow vineyards like other people instead of being so different? Don’t you remember those times as a young person when you longed to be like other young people in your age group? It may have been to wear the clothes they did, or to have some of the things they had. But it could have been more about church, worship or what your family did on Sunday’s.
God wasn’t trying to get the people of Judah to all follow the heritage of the Rechabites. He longed instead for them to have a family heritage that set them apart as His, like that family had done. The reality is that God still longs for His people to follow His family heritage. He longs for us to admire his love and grace and mercy that made it possible for us to be accepted into his family enough that we make those marks of our life and heritage every day. I suspect that if you had lived in the time of Jeremiah and you met some of the descendants of Rechab you would have recognized them immediately. You may have thought their habits were odd. But their heritage made them stand out as his family. When someone new meets us, do you suppose they recognize us immediately as God’s children? What about your family heritage? What about your family stands out as uniquely part of the family? It is certainly possible to pick some small side issue in God’s family and be odd in that way, but God’s longing is for us to pick up His heart and mission and turn it into our heart and mission. Let’s make God’s heritage our own and pass it down continually.