Father and son were laying beneath the starry sky. The boy kept opening his eyes wider and wider to avoid the fuzziness of sleep threatening him. So many things muddled his brain, that Kabad struggled to know how to begin with his father, or even if he should begin.
Finally, he rolled over onto his elbow, the forced movement bringing some alertness to his mind. "Father," he began timidly.
"Hmm..." Father replied softly.
"Why are we different?"
"Different?" Father asked, and Kabad knew it was a rhetorical question. His entire existence had been defined by his family's differences from the rest of the country. Certainly, he could trace his family tree back to the beginning of the nation, but many said it wasn't through the right people, and therefore, he did not truly belong with the rest of the country. While his cousins and aunts and uncles and third cousins twice removed lived the same way as his family, he knew of no other people who lived in tents as a matter of course. Who would choose such a lifestyle on purpose? Of course, he and father were not in their family tents now. They were laying on thin bedrolls under the stars, because this was their turn to guard the flocks. Not only their livelihood, but also all the wealth of the entire extended family was invested in their livestock. These animals rested a stone's throw away under Father's watchful eye, and seemed to be louder in sleep than in activity. Even life as a herdsman was no random decision, but a deliberate choice. Kabad would not grow up to be a farmer; he would grow up to be a herdsman.
All of this, he had known for years, but just today, another difference had fallen upon his thoughts.
So instead of reiterating all of these differences to Father, Kabad merely replied, "Why did you not drink with the men today?" The travelling men, who had bought sheep, and from whom Father and uncles had bought supplies, had sat down to a celebratory drink, but all his kin had refused, and this the boy still puzzled over.
"Son, we do not drink wine because our father asked us not to. Wine and farming and living in houses do not violate the Law; they are not sinful. But they are all things our father asked us to abstain from, just as I ask you to do the same. I have chosen to honor my father, and in doing so, I have been strengthened by turning away from those things which could have made life easier. We're not any holier or set apart than those men who offered their hospitality and their drink; we're just obeying the wishes father communicated to us."
Kabad pondered all this as he finally fell asleep, marvelling and hoping that he would delight in obeying and honoring his father just as Father did with Grandfather.
The next morning brought a strange turn of events; Jeremiah, the famed prophet of God had called every male Rechabite to the house of the Lord, and all of the boy's family was buzzing at the unusual summons. They marched in bravely, in their very best attire, to meet the man who they had heard so much about.
"Sit, sit!" Jeremiah boomed hospitably as he quickly and attentively served every single man of the large family a bowl full of wine, and cups to dip into the vast containers. "Drink wine!" He commanded, he whom they respected for his godliness, insight, and faithfulness.
The boy looked at his father over the ruby red bowl of wine. Surely, this was an exception clause? Surely Grandfather did not anticipate a prophet of the Lord serving them this wine? What if Jeremiah had a message from God, which could only be shared upon eating and drinking together? Father had been so attentive to Grandfather's wishes; could not this one time slide by?
The silence was an endless loop, playing over and over again, until it was stuck in the minds of each man, and no one could get it out. Stuck! What were they to do?
Slowly, Father looked at his son, at his pleading eyes, begging for compromise. Father smiled reassuringly, then rose regally. "We will drink no wine, for Jonadab the son of Rechab, our father, commanded us, saying, 'You shall drink no wine, you nor your sons, forever.'"
Every man stood to agree with Father, and his brother spoke up from the back. "Thus we have obeyed the voice of Jonadab the son of Rechab, our father, in all that he charged us."
Kabad felt a sinking, sick feeling in his stomach as he watched for Jeremiah's reaction. Suddenly, the prophet's face softened into the kindest, gentlest expression of gratitude the boy had ever seen. Jeremiah's voice easily carried through the whole room and beyond as he said, "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?" says the Lord. "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....Surely the sons of Jonadab the son of Rechab have performed the commandment of their father, which he commanded them, but this people has not obeyed Me."'"
The boy watched and listened in awe and grief as Jeremiah continued to share the Word of the Lord and pronounced doom upon all of the nation. Then Jeremiah seemed to be finished, for he embraced each man and thanked them for their faithfulness. The boy felt hardly deserving of such an honor when his turn came, and yet he felt the importance of living worthy to this honor.
As Jeremiah hugged the last man and turned to exit, he paused and surveyed the rough men quietly. "Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel," he began, and Kabad thought Jeremiah was looking straight into his soul. "Because you have obeyed the commandment of Jonadab your father, and kept all his precepts and done according to all that he commanded you, therefore thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: 'Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not lack a man to stand before Me forever.'"
And with that, Jeremiah was gone. The boy could hardly breathe. Suddenly he, a descendant of the father-in-law of Moses, who had always lived as a Hebrew and one of the chosen people, but had never been completely accepted by his countrymen, felt as he imagined Abraham or Moses or David must have felt when God had covenanted with them. Suddenly he comprehended just how monumentally historic honoring his father really was.
Photo Credit: disgustipado
Taken from Jeremiah 35. Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.