In my place of work, one of our senior vice presidents was killed last week when a car swerved into a bike lane and hit the bicycle he was riding. Many people were positively impacted by his life: he was a strong Christian who had sacrificed much for the Lord, he was active in his church, and was a great husband and father of 3 great boys, two of whom are now in college. His death leaves a huge hole. It’s caused a lot of us to reflect on the great legacy he’s leaving behind, and the legacy that we’re leaving behind, as well. Although hard, it’s good to have reminders of this every once in awhile.
In Jeremiah 35, we read of a man who had left a legacy, a legacy that God used to shame His people for their faithlessness. Jonadab, a descendant of Rechab, was a person of some influence in his day, which was a couple generations before the time we’re reading about in Jeremiah. Back then, he had enough influence that he was sought out by King Jehu of Israel, when he was leading a coup and trying to turn Israel away from the Baal idol-worship that had plagued Israel for so long. It seems that Jonadab’s reputation as a zealous God-fearer had won him respect and influence. You can read the story in 2 Kings 10:15-26, if you’re interested. We don’t hear any more about him for the rest of his life after his involvement in Jehu’s coup, and might never hear about him again except for this peculiar story in Jeremiah.
Jonadab had particular instructions for his family. I don’t think I can say for sure what the full significance of his directives were, but they seem to be a reaction against materialism. His family were to be nomads, and not drink anything alcoholic. Neither of these instructions was from God Himself, as far as we know, anyways. It seems to have been personal instructions: extra distinguishing marks of his family’s unique place among the people of Israel, and his family latched onto them. They conscientiously followed the wisdom of their father’s instructions for generations, until it became well-known. Even when a prophet of God brought them solemnly into the Temple and ordered them to drink some wine, they nervously had to explain that it was such a part of their identity that they couldn’t do it. Jeremiah was impressed.
He uses this story to rebuke Israel. These Rechabites were following difficult instructions from a long-dead forefather, whose human wisdom they found worth following these many years. How much more should we follow simple instructions, from a living and active God, who loves us and has all wisdom and all knowledge?
But I like to think of the story another way, as well: what a legacy Jonadab had, that the influence he had on his descendants would be used by God as a picture of how He wishes His children would follow Him. I don’t know how many of us have wisdom that will be passed down generation by generation decades after our death, but we should strive to leave a legacy that will outlast ourselves. Each of us, I think, has something: maybe skills, maybe money, maybe wisdom or position. Instead of using these things up on frivolous things for ourselves or our kids, how can we invest them in such a way that future generations will be positively impacted? It’s worth pondering.