Today I want to talk about a guy named Jabez. I was first introduced to him years ago in Bruce Wilkinson’s book “The Prayer of Jabez.“ This man Jabez is found in the middle of a long list of genealogies that start in 1 Chronicles 1 and for the next 9 chapters go on in detail from Adam to Saul (and everyone in between)! There are brief sections like this one in chapter 4 where there is a bit more information given on one individual or group of individuals before starting off again with a list of more names. Boring, right? Well for me anyway, over the past few years I’ve come to really respect the genealogies found in the Bible. The meticulous way that they are written, and in some places, even exact numbers of both people and animals are carefully recorded. Genealogies are a word picture of God’s love and compassion for His people. Not one is left out.
That brings me to Jabez. He is found nowhere else in the Bible except in these two verses:
Jabez was more honourable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, “I gave birth to him in pain.” Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request. (1 Chronicles 4:9-10)
Verse 9 starts off telling us that he was more honourable than his brothers. What that means we are not told, but it’s significant enough for the author to mention it. The name Jabez means “born in pain,” and in Bible times, the meaning of your name was significant. This did not bode well for Jabez right from birth. (Think of the names of Naomi’s two sons who died in the opening verses of Ruth. Their names were Mahlon and Chilion which mean “sickness” and “destruction.”)
Jabez does not want to live a life full of pain, but a life of abundance, and so he calls out to God. I can imagine him on his knees, desperately crying out the words of the prayer found in verse 10 with tears streaming down his face perhaps. He wanted God’s blessing and he wanted it a lot. So he starts his prayer with those words, “Oh, that you would bless me…” Do you ask God for blessings or does that seem too self serving to you? God wants to bless each one of us, just as he wants us to bless others as His image bearers. So…ask God for His blessing in your life and see if He doesn’t just open up the floodgates!
Next in his prayer Jabez says, “enlarge my territory! “ He didn’t just want a blessing from the hand of God, he was ready to step into whatever “let loose” when God started to bless him! He was ready to be sent out. What would happen if we started to ask God to enlarge our territory? As individuals, as families, as a seminary community, as the Church of God? Would you be willing to step out of your comfort zone, a little bit at a time as God slowly pushes your current boundaries, the church’s current boundaries out, and out, and out? Would you go where God leads and sends you, even if it’s not what you had planned? Are you willing to have your boundaries stretched?
Jabez then asks of God, “Let Your hand be with me…” If God is going to bless Jabez and send him into an enlarged territory, Jabez needs to put on some battle armor. God’s hand is just that. When God’s hand is with us, and His Spirit lives in us we are equipped to take on whatever life throws at us. Without God’s hand guiding and holding us and His Spirit indwelling us, we would be lost.
Lastly, just like Jesus prayed “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13), Jabez prayed “keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” Although Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, I can imagine the shame he may have carried with him every day because of the name that he had. Jabez: Born in pain. Harm in our lives might come in many different forms. Temptations, gossip, slander, distractions pulling us away from God, and idols of every type could fit into this category. Anything that could cause us physical, mental, emotional or spiritual harm and lead us away from God’s presence in our lives. This is not to say that these things will not come, but in praying like Jabez, and like Jesus we are asking that God by His Spirit would lead us away from anything that could cause us harm and cause us to look away from Him and His truth.
Jabez asked for God’s blessing, to be sent out beyond his comfort zone, for God to go with him as he went, and for God to keep him far away from harm so that pain would not enter (or remain) in his life. What would happen if we started to ask God for these same four things too? If we came to God in humility and trust with a repentant heart, seeking Him, and said to Him just as Jesus says in the Lord’s prayer, “may Your will be done?” The Lord honors those who seek Him. Like Jabez. His prayer was bold, honest and courageous. John Ortberg in his book The Me I Want to Be says, “The goal of prayer is not to get good at praying, as many people think. The goal of prayer is not to try to set new records for how much time we spend praying. The goal of prayer is to live all of my life and speak all of my words in the joyful awareness of the presence of God.”1 I think, from reading these two verses that Jabez may just have lived just like he prayed in that joyful awareness, and so these two verses end with one final sentence.
“And God granted his request.”
- John Ortberg, The Me I Want to Be: Becoming God’s Best Version of You. (Zondervan, November 4, 2014).