Short-term Wealth or Eternal Treasures?

  This timely message based on Jeremiah 35 was told by

Jerry Harr - November 2005

The opening scene of this story takes place in Jerusalem, in the land of Judah, the southern kingdom. It might be good for the purposes of this message to review a little bit about the history of Israel.  


You remember that up until the time of Solomon, Israel was one country. But after the time of Solomon, the land of Israel split into two kingdoms: the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. The split happened in 931 BC.


The northern kingdom of Israel quickly turned to idol worship. Fearing that after the split the people of the northern kingdom would go down to Jerusalem in the southern kingdom to worship, as God had commanded in the law, Israel’s king Jeroboam set up two golden calves in Israel for the people to worship.  


You remember that the woman in Samaria told Jesus that “our fathers worshipped in this mountain, but you Jews say that Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship”  


Now the people in the northern kingdom were led by godless rulers who followed the terrible religious practices of the nations around them, and after sending prophets to them telling them to follow the one true God, God finally brought the king of Assyria into the land, who took the people captive, scattering them into the countries round about, and replacing them with heathens. This happened around 722 BC.  


The southern kingdom of Judah still paid lip service to God, but also began to follow the idol worship of the nations around them. God sent them many prophets, telling them He would punish them if they continued to disobey Him, but they wouldn’t listen.  


One of the last prophets He sent to them was the prophet Jeremiah.  He was called to the prophetical office when still young, in the thirteenth year of Josiah (628 B.C.). He left his native place, and went to reside in Jerusalem. There he recorded the story about the faithful Rachabite family, held up by God as as a model to the rebellious nation.

"The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, saying, 'Go to the house of the 'Rechabites, speak to them, and bring them into the house of the Lord, into one of 'the chambers, and give them wine to drink.”


"Then I took Jaazaniah the son of Jeremiah, the son of Habazziniah, his brothers and all his sons, and the whole house of the Rechabites, and I brought them into the house of the Lord, into the chamber of the sons of Hanan the son of Igdaliah, a man of God, which was by the chamber of the princes, above the chamber of Maaseiah the son of Shallum, the keeper of the door.  Then I set before the sons of the house of the Rechabites bowls full of wine, and cups; and I said to them, 'Drink wine.'


"But they said, '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. You shall not build a house, sow seed, plant a vineyard, nor have any of these; but all your days you shall dwell in tents, that you may live many days in the land where you are sojourners.’ Thus we have obeyed the voice of Jonadab the son of Rechab, our father [many generations back], in all that he charged us, to drink no wine all our days, we, our wives, our sons, or our daughters, nor to build ourselves houses to dwell in; nor do we have vineyard, field, or seed. But we have dwelt in tents, and have obeyed and done according to all that Jonadab our father commanded us. But it came to pass, when Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up into the land, that we said, ‘Come, let us go to Jerusalem for fear of the army of the Chaldeans and for fear of the army of the Syrians.’ So we dwell at Jerusalem.”


"Then came the word of the Lord to Jeremiah, saying,

"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.... you did not obey Me.  I have also sent to you all My servants the prophets... saying, ‘Turn now everyone from his evil way, amend your doings, and do not go after other gods to serve them; then you will dwell in the land which I have given you and your fathers.’ But you have not inclined your ear, nor obeyed 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.” ’

“Therefore thus says the Lord God of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘Behold, I will bring on Judah and on all the inhabitants of Jerusalem all the doom that I have pronounced against them; because I have spoken to them but they have not heard, and I have called to them but they have not answered.’ ”


"And Jeremiah said to the house of the Rechabites, 'Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘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'.”  Jeremiah 35:1-19

Who was Jonadab?


The subjects of our study in Jeremiah 35 are called Rechabites, and the one who I believe is the progenitor of these sons of Jonadab is one called Jehonadab (the longer form of Jonadab, see note), the son of Rechab.  


Rechab is mentioned in 1Chron 2:55: "...These are the Kenites that came of Hemath, the father of the house of Rechab."


We meet Jehonadab, the son of Rechab in 2 Kings 10. We find him with Jehu gathering up and destroying the worshippers of Baal, about 50 years after Israel and Judah split. So this Jehonadab, son of a scribe, was evidently zealous for the Lord God. The idol worship going on in Israel must have been an abomination to him, grieving his soul.  


But idol worship was not removed from the land by destroying the Baal worshippers. Jehu, who became king of Israel, became one of these idol worshippers, because the Bible says he “took no heed to walk in the law of the Lord God of Israel with all his heart: for he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam which made Israel to sin.” (2 Kings 10:31) As a matter of fact, all 19 kings of Israel were godless men, leading their people in idolatry. They never did leave off their idolatry.


I see Jehonadab as a godly man grieved by the idol worship and godlessness that was spreading in Israel. He thinks about his children and his children’s children, trying to live for God while living in this land where all around them is increasing godlessness and immorality. What can I do to keep them from going astray? How can I cement their hearts to the God of Jacob? What can I give them that will keep and guard their hearts?  


So he made provision for his children. He gave his children a charge. He gave them a message.  


What was his message?

V6: “....Ye shall drink no wine, neither ye, nor your sons for ever: 7Neither shall ye build house, nor sow seed, nor plant vineyard, nor have any: but all your days ye shall dwell in tents; that ye may live many days in the land where ye be strangers”

Now that’s a pretty simple message. But at first glance it’s also kind of strange. What do drinking wine and building houses and having vineyards and living in tents have in common? How can this help preserve for him a godly line?


Jonadab would surely have worried about the deterioration in his community because of Baal worship, and he sees that some day things may get so bad in Israel that they might have to pack up and leave. He may have said to himself: "If they see the deteriorating morality around them and the pull of the world and the influence of neighbors on their kids, I pray to God that they will say ‘that’s it; we’ve got to go.’”


“But what if by that time they have houses and lands and vineyards and are enjoying the wine that comes from them, and are so entrenched in the land that maybe they won’t want to go? What if their whole focus becomes the produce of the land and how much seed they have for planting next year and their great houses and lands that will be the inheritance for their children? Will they be able to leave it all behind? Will they be able to consider it all wood hay and stubble? By that time, will they love things more than they love the living God?


So Jonadab decides on a mechanism to keep their eyes focused on the land of promise ahead and not on things of this world. He would give them a charge.  


What was his method?


I don’t see Jonadab as gathering his children around him one day, late in his life, and just laying it on them, exacting a promise, and that’s it. Instead, I see Jonadab following the principles laid out in Deuteronomy 6. Talking about the law, Moses tells the children of Israel:  

“Now this is athe commandment, and these are the statutes and judgments which the Lord your God has commanded to teach you, that you may observe them in the land which you are crossing over to possess, that you may fear the Lord your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life....

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.


"And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up." (Deuteronomy 6:1-7)

I think Jonadab told his kids time after time the importance of the charge he had given them. Maybe every day as he was walking along with them he must have told them,

 'Remember our father Abraham. You kids know that when he was called to go out into a place which he should receive for an inheritance, he obeyed and went out. He didn’t know where he was going. But he trusted God. I want you kids to be like that. By faith he traveled in a the land of promise as in a strange country, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob. He didn’t treat this land as his permanent home. Because he looked for a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.”


“God may call you to go to a different place. If you live in tents and don’t plant vineyards, it will be a whole lot easier to obey. That’s why I made you promise these things. Remember, you are strangers in this land. You are travelers, just passing through. God has a permanent home for you. Oh, if you’ll only love Him and follow Him wherever He leads.


“Remember Lot. The angels had to take him by the hand and pull him out of the city, even though it got so bad. His wife looked back on the things they were leaving. They could hardly stand to go. Don’t be like Lot. Don’t set your heart on things of this world. They will all be burned up some day. God has better things in mind for you if you will just always listen for His voice and be ready to follow Him. Now promise me again that you are going to follow all those things I told you to do. And you remember, when you grow up and have kids or your own, pass this promise along to them."

Did he succeed?


Jonadab lived in the northern kingdom of Israel, about the time of King Ahab, 880 BC. Jeremiah’s encounter with the sons of Jonadab occurred about 600 BC. So here are Jonadab’s sons, still obeying their father, after 280 years. That’s nine generations later. Nine generations had risen up and passed away, each passing on this charge their children.


In 722 BC, about 150 years after Jehonadab, the northern kingdom of Israel ceased to exist, being taken captive and scattered to the nations by Assyria. So the sons of Jonadab had left Israel by that time. These sons of Jonadab must have seen what was happening, seen the increasing idolatry, heard the prophets, and packed up and moved to the southern kingdom of Judah. In Jeremiah 35:11 we find them in Judah.

"But it came to pass, when Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon came up into the land, that we said, Come, and let us go to Jerusalem for fear of the army of the Chaldeans, and for fear of the army of the Syrians: so we dwell at Jerusalem." (v. 11)

So when the Chaldeans came, they again moved, this time to Jerusalem, still obeying their father, still traveling light, still waiting for the promise of God. What a message, and what a method!


Jeremiah uses these sons of Jonadab as an example of obedience, and contrasts them to the people of Judah who won’t obey God. But I want to focus on the application of Jonadab’s message and his method for us.


Applications for us


1) We need to be aware of how serious this business is.  

Jesus gives us the warning, in Matt 6:24: “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” Now the word ‘mammon’ here is translated ‘wealth’ or ‘money’ in some of your Bibles, but the word really has the idea of wealth as an idol that is worshipped.


Now, OK, so maybe this can cause us not to serve God the way we should, but is this an issue of salvation? Listen to the Lord again:

     "...Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, 'One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have qtreasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.' But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

     "Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, 'How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!' And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, 'Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.'
     "And they were greatly astonished, saying among themselves, 'Who then can be saved?'
     "But Jesus looked at them and said, 'With men it is impossible, but not vwith God; for with God all things are possible.'” 
Mark 10:23-27

Now here’s a man who, given a choice of holding onto the things of this world or following Christ, he chose things. The love of Christ was not enough, compared to things. The way of the cross was to difficult compared to his great possessions. How strong this pull is.  


Is it a salvation issue? Will your kids and grandkids look at their things and compare that with the way of the cross and say “no, I’d rather have things than Jesus”. Is the message of Jonadab important?


This is serious business. Listen to the apostle John; he tells us that if we love the world, we don’t love the Father:

"Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever." 1 John 2:15-17

Is the message of Jonadab important? Will the love of things of this world keep your kids from loving the Father?


How about fruitfulness? Can the things of this world cause us to be unfruitful? Can they cause us to turn away from serving the Lord? Listen to Paul. In a letter to Philemon, he mentioned Demas as  a “fellow-laborer.” But in his second letter to Timothy, Paul wrote this sad message:

"Be diligent to come to me quickly; for Demas has forsaken me, shaving loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica.... Only Luke is with me." 2 Timothy 4:9-11

And listen to the Lord's warning:

"The sower sows the word. And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts. These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness; and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble.

     "Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit...." Mk 4:14-19

Riches can affect our fellowship as well:

" the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write... 'I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.... As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent." Revelation 3:14-19

 2) We need to take our “spiritual pulse."


How do we know if this world has its grip on us?  

"Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. Now keep doesn’t mean to lock something away like a stock certificate. I think keeping our hearts means to guard it and watch over it and preserve it and check up on its health. Like a garden, if left untended, so our hearts will spring up weeds and the good plants will tend to wither and die." Proverb 4:23

So, how do we check up on our hearts? We need to check up and see where our “treasure” is. Jesus says our heart wills be there:

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:19-21

What is our heart? Isn’t it what we dream about, and spend our time thinking about? What is it that, when we sit down to rest and the day’s work is done and we have some time to contemplate, what do we think about? What is it our minds run to? Is it that new car we are itching to have? Is it that vacation home we would like to have? Is it that fancy new GPS navigation receiver in the instrument panel of our airplane? (Hitting kind of close to home now) What is it our minds love to dwell on? That’s our heart. It’s running to our treasure and looking it all over and tasting it and smelling it and counting it. Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Where is your treasure?  


We’ve recently had maybe the worst natural disaster ever to hit our nation. How many times last September did you see people on TV saying “I’ve lost everything; there’s nothing left; everything I had is gone”? Our hearts go out to these people. They have a very tough, long road ahead.


But I think that these people are divided into two groups. Some of those people have lost their treasure. They’ve lost the things that meant most to them in life. They lost the things that were the stuff of their dreams and the things they thought about and the things that their whole lives revolved around. The other group knew that they only lost things. Yes, the months ahead will be hard for them too, but they knew that they didn’t loose their treasure. Their treasure is in heaven, where moth and rust won’t destroy it and it won’t float away on a flood or burn up in a fire, get stolen by looters.  


I am reminded of a song from the old Gershwin musical “Porgy and Bess”. My parents had an album of it on 78 RPM records, and I used to hear it as a kid. The song is called “I got plenty of nuttin” and it reminds us to hold the things of this world loosely. The words go like this:

Oh, I got plenty o' nuttin,' an' nuttin's plenty for me.

I got no car, got no mule, got no misery.

De folks wid plenty o' plenty -- Got a lock on dey door,

'Fraid sombody's a-goin' to rob 'em

While dey's out a-makin' more. What for?

I got no lock on de door (Dat's no way to be),

Dey can steal de rug from de floor, Dat's okay wid me,

Cause de things dat I prize -- like de stars in de skies -- all are free.

Oh, I got plenty o' nuttin' An' nuttin's plenty for me.

I got my gal, got my song, got Hebben the whole day long!

No use complainin'! Got my gal, got my Lawd, got my song! " 

3) Saturate our minds and our kid’s minds with the Word. It is through the Word that we grow in the knowledge of the love of Christ. And as Christ gets brighter, the things of this world get dimmer. And as we are reminded again and again of the inheritance laid up for us, that “crown of righteousness”, those promises in the Word will help us “set our affections on things above, not on things on this earth.” Colossians 3:2 

"The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9)

4) Pass on to your kids the mindset of holding the things of this world lightly. The message of Jonadab had great reward. Look at vv. 18-19.  

"And Jeremiah said unto the house of the Rechabites, 'Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Because ye have obeyed the commandment of Jonadab your father, and kept all his precepts, and done according unto all that he hath commanded you: Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not want a man to stand before me for ever.'"

Do you know people of faith, who followed the Lord faithfully in their lifetimes, but whose kids followed the Lord half heartedly, and by the time the next generations came, like dry leaves in Autumn, faith had dried up and blown away?


God promised Jonadab that he would have men and women of faith in his line for all generations to come. Men and women who kept their eyes on God, still traveling lightly, still holding the things of this world loosely. Oh, wouldn’t you give anything to have a Godly line like that?


Learn this lesson from Jonadab. Train your kids and your grand kids to follow the wise ways of God. Talk to them about it. Day after day. Hold the things of this world loosely. We are strangers and pilgrims here. We are only passing through. This is not our home.

“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Philippians 3:20

It is not unusual for people’s names to appear differently in different parts of the Old Testament. Particularly if the name begins with Jeh, it frequently occurs in other places with the “eh” missing. For example:  


   ● Jehoahaz (2Ki 10:35) was shortened to Joahaz 2 Ch 34:8

   ● Jehoram (Ki 22:50, 2Ki 1:17) became Joram

   ● Jehosaphat (1 Ki 15:24) became Josaphat

   ● Jehoshua (Num 13:16) became Joshua

   ● Jehozabad (2 Ki 12:21) became Jozabad  

In the same way, the name Jehonadab was shortened to Jonadab.

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