In the tenth chapter of the book of Second Kings, we find a fascinating story of how the Lord used Jehu to slay the descendants of, and those loyal to, wicked King Ahab. In the process, Jehu met a man named Jonadab—a man who shared a zeal for the Lord and the heart of Jehu for ridding the land of any residue of King Ahab’s wicked reign. Together, they slew many wicked men and were used of God to fulfill His purposes.
In the book of Jeremiah, we find additional information about Jonadab and the way he raised his sons to honor the Lord. In chapter thirty-five we read: “The word which came unto Jeremiah from the LORD in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, saying, Go unto the house of the Rechabites, and speak unto them, and bring them into the house of the LORD, into one of the chambers, and give them wine to drink.”
We see an incredible story of obedience, loyalty, and respect when the sons of Jonadab said: “We will drink no wine: for Jonadab the son of Rechab our father commanded us, saying, Ye shall drink no wine, neither ye, nor your sons for ever: Neither 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. Thus have we obeyed the voice of Jonadab the son of Rechab our father in all that he hath charged us.”
As we reflect on this story, it is important to note that Jonadab asked his sons to refrain from some things that were not expressly forbidden by the Law, but they were standards—or principles—that this father thought would encourage his sons and their sons while living in a foreign land so that they would not forget their allegiance and loyalty to the Lord.
Jonadab was a godly man, much like David, who had a heart for the Lord and wanted to pass that down to his sons. His sons chose to honor their father, and God was evidently pleased with this kind of heart, not so much about rule-keeping as He was in seeing hearts willing to obey, respect, and honor both Him and their father.
In the eighteenth verse of the thirty-fifth chapter of the book of Jeremiah, these words are recorded: “And Jeremiah said unto the house of the Rechabites [Jonadab’s sons], 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.”
What an incredible blessing, honor, and expression of approval from the Lord! For the willingness of a man to teach his sons to honor the Lord and for their willingness to obey his teachings, God chose to bless them forever. Here we see the incredible value our Lord places on respect, honor, and obedience. We also see the importance of using standards and principles to guide and protect the heart.
Jonadab asked his sons not to drink wine—not just to make a rule, but because he wanted his sons’ hearts to be filled with the Spirit of God instead, to be under control, and to be temperate men who would think wisely. Building houses was certainly not forbidden in the Old Testament, but Jonadab saw this prohibition as a way of keeping them from settling too comfortably in a pagan culture. Living each day in a tent, they would remember this is not their home and God has something better for them—and us.
These young men could have argued and reasoned against their father’s logic, but instead they simply trusted his wisdom and honored his heart, knowing he had lived uprightly himself and shown great zeal for the Lord.
The principle I would like you to see in this story is that having standards and following principles does have great value. There are reasons why we should have standards as we serve the Lord, and in this article I would like to present the first of many.
Everyone has standards or principles which they follow; the difference is where they draw the line and the source they use to develop them. When I say the word standard, I am suggesting a set of rules or guidelines that provide a framework for decision making that supports our values and goals. Again, everyone has them.
People have academic standards, business standards, professional standards, engineering standards, military standards, medical standards, and even moral standards based upon some criteria. As Christians, this is a concept we should not be afraid of—when based on the Bible and held with pure motives.
I am not suggesting we ought to multiply rules and condemn others whose standards might vary from ours by degree. But I am suggesting that there is wisdom and the Lord’s blessing on those who sincerely try to follow the Lord by having standards to guide their decision making and protect their integrity and virtue.
Standards are not something we cling to in order to think ourselves better than others, but fences we maintain to guard our hearts and to honor the Lord. They are not rules to make us self-righteous like the Pharisees, but well-thought out and biblically-based strings that hold our hearts and minds closer to the Lord.
Standards can be abused, and they can also be rightly used to help us honor God. I will be exploring a number of reasons why we should have biblically-based standards in my next article, as well as some safeguards on how to hold them.
May we have the heart of both Jonadab and his sons and, as a result, stand before the Lord in great blessing.