Today’s reading: 1 Chronicles 3-5.
Jabez has gotten a lot of attention through the years, and it’s no wonder. Smack dab in the middle of a long genealogical list, without mention of mother or father, God drags him center stage and shows him off like a proud papa.
Jabez was more honorable 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
The word translated honorable also means that he was more significant, weighty, glorious, or influential than his kin. But why? God said so, but he didn’t explain directly. Here are some possibilities:
- He was a praying man.
- He had faith in God to prosper him and protect him.
- He depended on God rather than himself alone.
- He wanted to accomplish more rather than accept the status quo.
Perhaps God honored Jabez because of the emotional way he prayed. James said that “the fervent prayer of a righteous man accomplishes much.” Jabez cried out to God in his prayers, and God answered him. Many times we fail to pray, but Jesus was always encouraging his disciples to pray more. It’s true that we can pray for the wrong things or with the wrong motives (James 4:3), but the bigger mistake is not praying at all. Jabez began by praying, and that became the springboard for his success.
Jabez was brought forth in travail, pain, and sorrow, and that could have become the story of his life. Many people are born into unfortunate circumstances, and some of those people give up and become victims of their misfortune. Not Jabez. He knew that God was greater than the pain and sorrow in his life. He looked to the power of God to change his life, and apparently God did change it.
The writer says that God granted his request. Does that mean that he granted all of Jabez’s requests? Blessing, prosperity, God’s presence, and protection. That’s a tall order, but I think God gave Jabez everything he asked for, because these are the very things God wants to give each one of us.
Blessing. One of God’s earliest actions in creation was to bless the man and woman he made. The foundation of God’s blessing is trusting in the LORD (Jeremiah 17:7) as Jabez did.
Prosperity. I don’t mean to say that God is bound to give us lots of money. There are many ways to prosper, and money can hinder as well as a bless. True prosperity consists of health, friendship, family, meaningful work, enjoyment, and seeing others benefit from your life.
God’s presence. Moses wasn’t willing to enter the Promised Land without God, and we shouldn’t enter each new day without God by our side. Even more than his presence, we want his power with us, his hand to guide us, to provide for us, and to protect us.
Protection. Where do we look for security? Sometimes we put our trust in money, thinking that we will be safe if we just have a little more cash. Sometimes we depend upon our own strength, or on the power of a gun, or locked doors. Psalm 91 lays down the principle that if we put our trust in God, he and his angels will be our protection. Jabez prayed for that kind of security, and we can also.
“Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation.” Psalm 91:14-16
Image by Jan Smith on Flickr, CC by 2.0