Cruising Route 66
“You gotta ask…”
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.
I Chronicles 4:9-10
Have you ever met one of those people who when you ask them how the kids or grandkids are doing, instantly pull out an accordion of plastic-covered pictures? Then, after 15 minutes of hearing about every unbelievably precious word any human being could utter, you remember how you had sworn that you would never ask this person about the kids again.
It can be hard to stay interested in hearing about someone else’s kids or about people you will never see or places you will never go. That is the Book of I Chronicles, full of names, most hard to pronounce, of people you will never know, and places most of you will never go. It is not a book that will keep you on the edge of your seat, but it wasn’t intended to be. It will provide you with facts and a catalog of names that were important to God.
What is dry to us is important to Him because they were His kids. He kept their name in a book and He’s at work on a new volume. In the center of the setting of the Book of I Chronicles exists a finely polished gem, that speaks to every life that is reading this blog, and the great potential in each.
The first nine chapters are taken up with more than 500 difficult, and sometimes impossible to pronounce names of the family tree of the Hebrew tribes. After reading the first 20 or 30, I tend to flip through the pages and glaze over the names, while reaching for the TV remote. However, if you trudge along, knowing that God doesn’t jot things down by mistake, you come across an interesting break in this litany of legacy.
Who is Jabez? We don’t know where he came from or who he’s related to. He just shows up. His name is only mentioned in one other place (2:55), and it’s the name of a location not of a man. He is not spoken of anywhere else, just here. Maybe God intended to provide some instruction by including a brief statement about an unknown figure in Israel’s past.
His name literally means, “He causes pain,” yet it opens by telling us that Jabez was an honorable man. Webster defines “honorable” as being honest, virtuous, ethical, reputable, and creditable, all wonderful characteristics that are worthy of God’s attention. The word used here has a rather diverse meaning in Hebrew: kabad = To be heavy, weighty.
In a good sense, it refers to an abundant, rich, and honorable life. In a bad sense, it speaks to one who is burdensome, troublesome, and aggravating.
Looking at the meaning of his name, and the context of the sentence, it isn’t much of a stretch to assume that the boy that was birthed in pain was a pain. If this is the case, how much more does it demonstrate God’s grace and love for us, even when we are a pain, He hears our prayers and answers them.
Go back up and read his prayer, it seems a bit presumptuous, even a little on the selfish side. Remember the rubber bracelets WWJD? Who do you think Jesus would pray for, Himself or someone else? Well, let’s consider what Jesus did say:
“For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:8) “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (Matthew 21:22) “And I will do whatever you ask in My name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.” (John 14:13) “If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” (John 15:7) “Until now you have not asked for anything in My name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” (John 16:24)
Is it possible that God wants us to ask for more? I think He does, but not like some “name it and claim it,” or “blab it, and grab it,” doctrines proclaim. This isn’t a give-me-more request, it’s seeking the supernatural favor that only God’s power can provide.
“Enlarge” – RABAH = To be more. This isn’t a request for things, it’s a personal plea, “Help me be all I can be!” Jabez isn’t content with the status quo, he wants to be more.
“Territory” – GEBUL = He isn’t asking for real estate, but for vision, to expand his dreams. It’s as though he is saying “there has to be more than this, I’m a child of God, and His boundaries are not limited by His resources.
Jabez prays,” Let your hand be with me and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” “Harm” – RAAH = Impairment, Damage, or Evil. Jabez isn’t asking to be exempt from the pain and circumstances of life, but rather to receive divine help in avoiding temptation, and sin. It isn’t a desire to avoid physical pain as much as it is a prayer to avoid the pain of the heart. It’s that feeling we get when our temptations win over our love for God.
We may be honorable, or troublesome, but we have God’s ear. All we need to do is ask. But remember what James tells us about our prayers, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” (James 4:3)
Until next time…