Does the name Jonadab ring a bell?
God gives him an incredible commendation in Jeremiah 35:19: “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 always.’”
For the Lord to say that an individual will always have a descendant standing before Him is a remarkable sign of God’s favor, one that is only made of two others in the entire Old Testament (Jeremiah 33:17-18): to David, who had a burden for God’s house (see 2 Samuel 7), and to the sons of Levi, who stood on God’s side against sin, even when it meant standing against their own families (see Exodus 32:26-29).
David we know, and the Levitical priesthood is well established. But Jonadab? What did he do to warrant God’s favor?
What’s even more unexpected is that Jonadab’s incredible promise is made nine generations after his passing: that’s right, Jonadab is long gone when the Lord says this to Jeremiah.
So who is he? What did he do to win God’s delight?
No Recognition in Life
He’s an obscure character in the recorded history Old Testament (he appears in only 2 verses during his lifetime, in 2 Kings 10:15 and 23). He accompanies the “great man” of his day, Jehu, but he doesn’t get any credit for the accomplishment of a generation (2 Kings 10:28). As far as history is concerned, we have no reason to ever think of Jonadab again. He’s just the right hand man of another disgraced leader in a long lineage of disappointing kings.
So it’s even more amazing to see that generations after his life ends, the Lord makes a promise to him that He only made to one other man, and one other tribe in the entire Old Testament!
Jonadab Raised Disciple-Makers
What did he do to receive such a promise? The Lord actually tells us in the previous verse:
“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘Because you have obeyed the command of Jonadab your father, kept all his commands 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 always.” ’ ”
Jeremiah 35:18-19 NASB1995
Jonadab raised up a generation of children who not only obeyed his command, but who also had a burden for future generations to obey! It wasn’t enough for his children that they obey; they wanted others to go in the same way. The fact that the ninth generation of his descendants could say that they had obeyed their father’s command “to this day...” (v14) speaks to Jonadab’s passion as a father to raise up wholehearted disciples and to preserve a testimony in Israel.
What do I value?
It convicted me to consider, “How is it with me? Do I sufficiently value the opportunity given to me in raising up disciples? Do I see it as every bit as important as the other “great” things I could accomplish?”
David built the temple - I get that!
Levites were violent towards sin in the midst - I get that!
Jonadab raised children who taught their children to obey - I was a little shocked this was “on par” in God’s eyes!
I’d jump at the opportunity to build God’s house with David. What a privilege to valiantly stand alongside the Levites against sin in the midst. But have I seen the treasure and privilege of raising godly offspring?
Am I content to NOT get to do the outward stuff, if I can raise disciples in private? Jonadab seemed to have been forgotten by history. Is that ok with me, if only I might raise disciples who raise disciples?
Disciple-making in private may not be nearly as flashy as building the temple, or as exhilarating as valiantly rooting out sin in the midst. But it’s precious in the sight of God.
What’s my time horizon?
It was said of David that he “served the Lord in his generation, and then slept.”
We can think, “what more could you ask for?”
But look at his son, Solomon! As far as we know, he went to hell! Sure he wrote scripture - surely an outward accomplishment on par with eradicating the Baals, as Jehu did in Jonadab’s day - but he ended poorly, and the generation that followed was so wicked that the kingdom was divided!!
Would you be satisfied with that, a son who writes scripture but sends the next generation into decline?
Contrast this with the apostle Paul:
“The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”
2 Timothy 2:2 NASB1995
Paul had a multi-generational mindset. Just like Rachel said, “give me children or I die” (Genesis 30), I want that same sort of passion for disciples. I want to take disciple-less-ness as seriously as Rachel took childlessness.
May our prayer today be, “Give me disciples or I die. Give me disciple-makers or I die.”
This is not just a message for parents. Some of us may never have children. But we are all called to have spiritual offspring. What an encouragement it is to remember that the two greatest disciple-makers of all time (Jesus and Paul) never had children!
They both finished their course!
Much of Christendom is focused on quantity. As disciple-makers, we want to focus on quality. Not breadth, but depth, teaching our children and the few disciples we have been given in such a way that they have a burden for future generations of deep disciples.
What a worthy occupation it is to raise children who tremble at God’s Word, to raise up disciples who have a burden for making disciples.
Start with our families! Start with our roommates.
Be prophets in our homes first of all. We should all seek the Lord for a prophetic ministry at home - that we might speak in such a way that consoles and builds up and encourages! (1 Cor 14:3)
“But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”
Hebrews 3:13 NASB1995
The Lord has been reminding me — I must never forget that passing on a passion for purity and Christlikeness starts with me! I can never pass on a passion that I do not possess and actively cultivate myself. What use is trying to make disciples, if I’m not a whole-hearted disciple myself??