Book Review: The Promise of Jonadab
By Jeff West
The following article appeared in the June 16, 2010 issue of The Times Examiner
Hurricanes, earthquakes, oil spills, record unemployment, plummeting dollar and housing values, a collapsing economy, terrorist attacks; the endless list of crises goes on and on. A person would have to be asleep on this train called America not to see that we are bound for a head-on collision with a train called Judgment. Meanwhile, the conductor, i.e. the media, is telling the passengers “All is well, go back to sleep.” We may foresee the collision, but what should we do?
Rev. E. Ray Moore and his wife Gail have written a wonderful book, The Promise of Jonadab (published by Ambassador International of Greenville), about an obscure Old Testament hero, a model for surviving national collapse. While Jonadab is mentioned only briefly, his extreme faithfulness and obedience to God provide a testimony and example for us all in America’s hard times. Rev. Moore said, “We can’t stop the train wreck, but we can get our people to the back of the train.”
Jonadab, son of Rechab (not Jonadab, King David’s devious nephew), was faithful to God in helping Jehu purge Israel of Baal worshippers by luring them into the Temple (II Kings 10). He is not mentioned again until Jeremiah blesses his descendants in the Temple (Jeremiah 35), significantly where Jonadab demonstrated his obedience to God.
The Moores provide some background:
“The family of Jonadab lived through two national and cultural calamities, first the collapse of Israel, the Northern Kingdom, when it fell into Assyrian captivity in 720 B.C. Then 120 years later in 603 B.C., the descendents of Jonadab were in Jerusalem before the kingdom of Judah in the south collapsed. They must have wondered if their family would survive. They did escape to Jerusalem when Babylonian armies made living outside insecure. They had survived the first calamity, but their security and continuation as a family was in question when they met Jeremiah in the Temple.”
Jeremiah offered them wine, but they refused, saying that they followed the commandments of their ancestor Jonadab, who instructed them to drink no wine, live in tents, not houses, and not to farm. As a reward for their faithfulness, Jeremiah delivers the powerful blessing from God, saying “Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not want a man to stand before me forever.”
Despite his brief mention, there are many lessons from Jonadab. The Moores explore these various aspects, including drawing examples from their own family’s life. As a personal friend, this writer can testify how Rev. Moore’s father, sadly just recently deceased, and his wife reared a strong Christian family now spanning three generations. The Moore family is a modern example of how we can experience the promise of Jonadab if we follow God and impart a Christian heritage to our descendants.
The Moores discuss how Jonadab had the patriarchal vision to impart strict rules for his family’s future welfare, and how a godly father makes his children’s spiritual development a top priority. Jonadab knew that God would punish Israel and wanted to protect his family. Despite no mention of Jonadab’s wife, the Moores present good Biblical evidence that she very likely also had a strong faith in God to support Jonadab. They cite examples of faithful women such as the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 and the fearlessness of Esther before the king. They observe: “Most women long to know that the intense devotion and sacrifice they make for their children will reap lasting benefits for them. Jonadab was not the only recipient of God’s remarkable promise. His children were the heritage of his wife, too.”
The Moores document, using Jonadab’s example, how important it is to rear a Christian family and impart a Christian heritage to future generations. Unfortunately, it seems that Americans, and many Christians, have forgotten God’s first commandment to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28), because of secular pleasures or a depressed economy. It is interesting to contrast Jonadab’s frugal tent living to our current economic woes including housing and the proliferation of foreclosed “McMansions,” while over 11 million homeowners are stuck in a house paying more than it is worth. The Moores point out the advantageous mobility of tents during the destruction of Israel, when the family had to move to safety, whereas these modern homeowners can’t flee. Perhaps this is also a lesson in fiscal conservatism.
The message of Jonadab could not be more perfect for the current collapse of our nation and culture, which suggests God’s hand in the timing of the Moores’ book. They write, “The tentacles that reached across Israel and seized Judah are not unlike the social malady today in Western culture spreading into the Church. When Christians do not prepare for spiritual battle and equip themselves with the armor of Christ, the Church can become prey to surrounding cultural vices.”
An obvious example, in contrast to Jonadab, is America’s obsession with fame and success, e.g. typified in TV shows such as the aptly-named “American Idol.” Parental pressure on children to achieve secular success is rampant in America with stories abounding in the media. This author read just today that a 16-year old girl is missing at sea trying to set a world record of solo circumnavigation, after her brother set a similar record, while a seven-year old crashed a plane in Wyoming with her father in it trying to set a record as the youngest pilot to cross country. The proliferation of social websites have gripped America so that many, both young and old, want to be famous and successful in the eyes of the world. Ironically, yet deceptively, the Internet is now so diluted with millions of webpages that one could garner almost the same publicity shouting in the street. Yet, as the Moores discuss, the lesson of Jonadab is that rearing a Christian family and imparting that heritage is true success in the eyes of God, for both men and women. They quote 3 John 4: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.” And miraculously, while Jonadab steadfastly followed God and was barely mentioned in the Bible, thousands of years before the Internet, now his descendants still serve God and the world still hears his name. You can’t get that kind of fame from Facebook!
Our historic adherence to Jonadab’s principle of passing down a godly heritage is what made America great and our failure to follow it is why we are collapsing. The Moores wonder, just how many Christians who took a stand for God might have been his descendants? We often fail to consider how our actions affect future generations, or how history affects us. I was reared in a Christian family and often recalled how my grandmother would read me Bible stories as a child, wondering why she did so. Did she learn this from her grandmother? Then recently I discovered that she was the sixth-great-granddaughter of the famous Stephen Hopkins, who sailed to Jamestown in 1609 with the job to read daily Bible verses to the passengers. He also sailed back again on the Mayflower in 1620 and signed the Mayflower Compact. Was this Christian heritage handed down from his family for eight generations to my grandmother, who had never even heard of him? Family traditions must have started somewhere. Considering the millions of descendants our forefathers had, we see the importance of their perpetuating our Christian heritage in America.
The Moores offer very insightful reasons for our decline. They write:
“Perhaps Jonadab’s children thought their father’s ways old fashioned...Conversely, today many Christian families idealize the era of the fifties, when childhood naughtiness included chewing gum, not shooting crack, and when secular music streamed more mellow tunes. Sadly, the music of nostalgia has lulled many Christians to sleep when they should have guarded against the dangers of materialism in that era...
“Parents, especially fathers, must set a tone and lifestyle in the family to create a difference for their children. Christians are in the world but are not to be of the world. Some Christians seem to focus on being ‘in the world’ and use this tenet as an excuse to go along in order to get along. The American and Western culture is at war with the family, with Biblical parenting and Christian faith.”
So what is the outlook? Barring nationwide revival, not good. The Moores close with documentation from financial and historical experts predicting the possible collapse of America from extreme debt, both public and private. They write:
“Dark clouds seem to be descending on our society and on our culture. Clearly, our children and grandchildren will grow up, live and work in a world vastly different from our own, a world hardly recognizable compared to our own youth or childhood of play, church dinners, afternoon ball games and family gatherings...[W]e seem powerless to stop the decline of the culture through our behavior, preaching, prayers or protests. We have done well if we set our own family in the narrow way and see them progress in the Christian faith, while the larger society advances toward the ashbin of history...
“The financial, spiritual, moral and cultural decline of the United States is beyond dispute. Liberals and conservatives, Christians and secularists all accept this as true. Where the decline will lead and when it will end is uncertain...
“No political solution appears to exist currently to right the moral and cultural decay in the West. We cannot vote ourselves out of the crisis, lobby our elected officials, nor protest loudly enough to reverse the moral decline...We do not eschew political activity but argue that this approach alone has limited success and does not rebuild and renew a Christ-denying culture. Political activism does not build strong Christian families, necessary to any stable and moral society, yet Western governments grow more hostile and adversarial to the Christian Church and family. Laws being enacted will make further persecution of the Christian Church and family inevitable.”
The Promise of Jonadab is highly recommended for any Christian. It is very disconcerting to consider how God sent numerous prophets to warn Israel of its fate, yet He has sent very few Christian leaders to currently warn America. It is apparent and comforting that the Moores were called by God through their life’s work to write this book for these perilous times. The book is short enough to be read in a few hours but is packed with valuable wisdom from the Bible and complemented with the Moores’ personal experience rearing their family. It will be available soon online at Amazon.com. The book has appeal for everyone and even if you are not married with children it discusses God’s protection of Jonadab’s faithful family through some of the darkest moments in Israel’s history, which should encourage Christians in the troubled times we face.