In Jeremiah 35, we come across the story of the Recabites. Now, these Recabites were not a tribe of Israel. They dwelt in tents, and lived on outskirts of the land. And these Recabite people, whom others might have considered out of place, indwell one of the literary gems of Hebrew Scripture as it relates God’s grace.
Couple of reasons why I say that:
(1) These nomadic people were invited into the Lord’s Temple, under the command of the Lord himself. Invitation is central to God’s gracious relationships with people.
(2) They refused what was offered to them. How many times have we experienced others refusing those things we believe (or even what we’re told by God himself) that others are “supposed” to receive? How many times have we been taken aback? Jeremiah simply continued listening to God at that point, instead of becoming miffed, and grace resulted…
(3) See, they trusted their ancestors, as far as it seemed good to them. A lot of times, we invite people to experience the grace of God thinking that they’ll switch their past out entirely – here, not only are they devoted to that past, God actually rewards them with verbalized, continued fellowship because of that devotion, a devotion that mirrors, in a small way, the relationship we are to enjoy with God. They stay true to themselves, and in return he says, specifically, “Jehonadab son of Recab will always have descendants who serve me” (35:19, NLT). Hmm.
If we’ve spent a lot of time in church, especially in the midst of debates about practical faith matters, this most likely seems relevant. Some of us in the Church feel we are living through another period in which one of our constituent groups is “refusing what the Church offers.”
While it may seem more accurate to argue that the Church could be refusing to offer what they would gladly and responsibly take, even so the Recabites provide an unusual check to our assumptions. We expect everyone who comes into the Church to become like the Church that “already has been,” instead of contributing to and expanding the gospel through their presence in the Church that “will be.” It is not our job to determine what those who will enter the house of the Lord receive or not, because we most likely do not or cannot understand and know why. Perhaps, if we spend a bit more time listening to God in the midst of our broken expectations, we’ll find that the real expectation should have been to be surprised by the endless glory of the Lord.