(Greenville, SC: Ambassador International, 2010)
Once upon a time there was a man who, seeing his country disintegrate culturally, believed the prophets who warned of God’s impending judgment.
To ensure that his family would survive the catastrophe, he devised a set of rules to be followed by one generation after another. His descendants kept the rules, and survived—and were still obeying them 250 years later: at which point God promised them that this faithful family would be preserved forever.
This is the story of Jonadab. It’s from the Bible, best known from Jeremiah, chapter 35. With a little Biblical detective work, Ray and Gail Moore have traced it back to First and Second Kings; and with a little inspiration, they have applied it to the needs of today.
There is a note of urgency in this handsome little book (151 pages). “The tentacles that reached across Israel and seized Judah,” the Moores write, “are not unlike the social malady today in Western culture spreading into the Church” (p. 58). And, “If moral decline continues [in the Western world] without repentance and revival, these nations could experience fundamental changes as a result of God’s judgment” (p. 38).
How fundamental? The inhabitants of Israel and Judah—those who survived the wars and massacres—were uprooted from their land and marched off to captivity in foreign countries. That was the kind of calamity Jonadab planned for his family to escape.
God has not yet told us specifically what form of judgment will overtake the West if its people do not change their ways. But we know from Scripture that judgment will come; and, like Jonadab, we wonder what we must do if our families are to survive it.
Jonadab’s descendants—called “Rechabites” in Jeremiah 35, after Jonadab’s ancestor—followed three family rules (in addition, of course, to obeying God’s laws as given throughout the Bible):
*To abstain from wine.
*To raise herds for a living, rather than engage in agriculture.
*To live in tents, in the open, rather than in houses in a city.
Why such rules? Because Jonadab was convinced that disaster was coming—which it did—and these would help his family to escape it.
*Quick, clear thinking might be called for at any time: hence the need to stay sober.
*Herds of sheep and goats are portable sources of food and income; farms aren’t.
*Tents are portable; houses aren’t.
Jonadab’s rules made sense to his descendants. By keeping them, they escaped from Assyria’s conquest of Israel. Generations later, with Babylonian armies swarming into Judah, the Rechabites were ready to escape again.
The Moores’ purpose is to promote the idea of a “Christian family legacy” (p. 11)—how to start one, how to keep it going, and why such a legacy is desirable. Jonadab is their model—not that they’re advising their modern readers to become nomadic herdsmen.
If a family can live in a godly manner, generation after generation, God will bless them. “Here is the promise of Jonadab; model him if you dare. ‘Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not lack a man to stand before me FOREVER!’” (p. 21).
Jonadab is not the only model given here. We also read of a pastor in Massachusetts carrying on a family tradition that came to America with the Puritans; a multigenerational family of missionaries; an Arab Christian family persisting over many generations in hostile, Muslim Egypt; a Scottish family from the nineteenth century; a German Christian family that survived both Nazism and communism; and the Moores’ own experiences in raising their children. With the exception of the Scots family, these are all people whom the Moores have known personally—so they are writing about something that can and has been done.
A Godly Legacy
So, how do you build a godly legacy for your family? The Moores break it down into five steps.
*First, hear God’s Word. Jonadab wouldn’t have acted if he had not heard God’s prophets and believed them. Those very words are still available, in your Bible.
*Next, cultivate a zeal for God’s holiness. Anyone can hear God’s Word—but godly people respond to it, love it, and delight in abiding by it.
*Order family life around God’s Word. As the Moores explain it, “Each family has a culture created by its own special rituals to instill order and discipline. The believing Christian family incorporates habits of godliness and a clear plan to pass on the Christian faith to succeeding generations as part of the family culture” (p. 56).
It seems so simple and obvious—but this is the very thing American Christians have failed to do! We have behaved as if Christian faith and doctrine could be inherited, like hair color, and did not have to be painstakingly built up and reinforced over a lifetime. If Christianity seemed to be America’s default position fifty or sixty years ago, certainly we treated it as such. We took our nation’s Christianity for granted, did nothing to maintain it or protect it, and have allowed it to evaporate. Hence the true and pressing need for this book.
*Next, set standards for the family, reasonably and sensibly based on God’s Word. Unreasonable standards won’t do: they’ll only invite disobedience.
The Moores are careful to remind their readers that children must see their parents living by the rules. Setting a good example is important, as it always is. If the kids don’t see Mom and Pop reading the Bible, they’ll think they won’t have to read it anymore when they’re adults.
*Finally, protect the family’s godly legacy. The world will always be trying to tear it down. “A modern Jonadab surely would not allow ‘Baal dolls’ in his home, nor would he listen willingly to ‘Baal music’ playing from the local radio station” (p. 49). For “[t]he American and Western culture is at war with the family, with Biblical parenting and with Christian faith” (p. 64).
The Moores stress the need for full-time, comprehensive Christian education for all Christian children, either at a Christian school or in homeschooling. As president of Frontline Ministries and director of the Exodus Mandate, E. Ray Moore has long been a consistent advocate of Christian schooling.
The case against public education cannot be put too strongly; it’s hard to put it strongly enough. One hour of Sunday school can hardly compete with five school days a week devoted to systematically anti-Christian teachings. It’s asking too much to expect a child to keep his Christianity in such a determinedly hostile environment: the fact that some of them do is no excuse.
Facts and figures? Yes, the Moores have them. “Christian children and youth today do not routinely follow the faith of their fathers” (p. 97), as a number of polls and surveys clearly show. Pew Forum research in 2007 showed only 15 percent of church youth—don’t even ask about the kids who are not in church—to be “deeply committed” Christians (p. 88). But by comparison, a 2004 survey of some 7,000 homeschooled children found that 93 percent of them “continued in the Christian faith and practices of their parents through their early adult years” (p. 99).
You simply can’t put your kids through public schools today and reasonably expect them to grow up into solid Christians. Yes, it could happen—but the schools do everything in their power to prevent it. To argue against the wealth of data proving this assertion is to be self-delusional. It may even be a form of moral sloth.
Why Build Godly Families?
Why is it desirable to pass godliness down through many generations?
“[T]he moral and theological freefall of the Christian family in the West is undeniable,” say the Moores (p. 96). That makes godliness a matter of survival. “Although the defense of an ordered society may break down, a hedge can be built around a family for protection” (p. 60).
As America seems to sleepwalk through a minefield of public and private debt, an out-of-control federal government, sexual anarchy and radical moral confusion, blatant sin enthroned as law and public policy, and the willful rejection of Holy Scripture by apostate churches—to name just a few of the perils that beset us—it would certainly seem our families need a hedge of protection. Faithfulness to God, obedience to His Word, and continuity within the family over time: these are the elements with which Jonadab built such a hedge around his family. And we can do the same.
No one knows what will become of Western civilization, which proudly calls itself “post-Christian” even as it slides down the chute to history’s rubbish heap. But as God saved Jonadab’s family during times of crisis, so He will save anyone’s family who puts his trust in Him.
There is another reason for teaching families to be persistently godly. Such families, and plenty of them, are how we may best repair and renew our culture from the bottom up.
It’s a mistake to think we can repair it from the top down, say the Moores. “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 … 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” (pp. 141–142; emphasis added).
One Family’s Rules
The Moores list the “home rules” they’ve established for their family (p. 118).
*Family celebrations and traditions.
*Brothers and sisters regarded as permanent friends. (And how many Christian parents have been dismayed by some of the “friends” their kids picked up in public school?)
*Regular worship, Bible study, quiet time, and Scripture memory.
*Supper together around the table without a television.
*Short accounts when we have sinned.
*Correction for disobedience, disrespect, stealing, and lying.
*Homeschooling or Christian schooling.
*Showing respect for parents and others in authority.
“Raising a family for God does not just happen,” they add. “Children do not arrive on our doorsteps as obedient Christian disciples” (p. 119).
Is any of this easy? Of course not. “Isolation from events is impossible,” the Moores grant (p. 122). Yes—sooner or later, your children are going to want to know what those Twilight books and movies are all about: and they’re going to want to know about worse things, too. “We can ultimately go nowhere on this earth to escape all problems. We must lovingly engage our culture for Christ without being overcome ourselves” (p. 123). A very strong Biblical foundation is indispensible. The corrupt culture in which we all must live never rests from its work of moral erosion. But in the long run, “Our security is in God alone” (p. 123); “God’s justice will prevail” (p. 125); and “The righteous will be rewarded” (p. 126).
The Promise of Jonadab is available on www.amazon.com, or it can be ordered directly from the publisher.
We recommend it because we agree with Ray and Gail Moore that Western culture is in a very bad way, and families had better make a plan to protect themselves. The best plan is to trust in God and live by His Word … generation after generation.
We don’t know what’s coming down the road. It might be destruction; or it might be repentance, revival, and renewal. If we, like Jonadab, put our families in a right relationship to God—and teach our children to do the same for their children—we can be sure that God will bless us.