Jabez the Man of Prayer
N. Crampton, Tawa, New Zealand
As we read through the long lists of names in the early chapters of I Chronicles, verses 9 and 10 of chapter 4 suddenly appear as an oasis in a desert. Seemingly unconnected with the genealogy we are introduced to a man who appears in verse 9 and disappears in verse 10 never to be heard of again in scripture. All we know of this man is contained in these two verses.
Jabez - More Honourable
Jabez was from the royal tribe of Judah and appears to have been a man of some standing among his people. It is recorded that he was more honourable than his brethren. From what follows it is evident that the respect he received was due to his known trust in and appreciation of the God of Israel.
Life, however, had not always been easy for Jabez. Some form of sorrow had been associated with his birth or early childhood. This was something that Jabez was unable to forget, for because of it his mother named him Jabez, meaning 'sorrowful' or 'to grieve'. As long as he remembered his name the remembrance of those days would remain with him. However, despite that sorrowful beginning he had risen to a position of honour among the Lord's people. He had not allowed those problems of earlier days to influence his progress in life. So often these days the problems of childhood are being blamed for the waywardness and difficulties of later life and to some extent this may be true of those in the world.
How different it is for those of us who are believers. When we came to know Christ as Saviour we became new creatures in Christ Jesus. We left our past behind and made a fresh start with the Lord - all things became new. 2 Corinthians 5. 17, 'If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new'. Like Jabez we should not allow the problems of earlier days to influence our progress in the ways of the Lord. Clearly he had left his past behind and gone on for the Lord. Paul knew the truth of this when he wrote in Philippians 3. 13, 'Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus'.
Jabez in Prayer
Not only was Jabez an honourable man he was a man of prayer with a clear understanding of who his prayer was being addressed to. He called on the God of Israel - his own God.
It is so easy to become careless in prayer and forget who we are addressing. We then become like the Pharisee in Luke 18. 11 who stood and prayed with himself. It is important each time we pray to stop for a moment and consider Just who we are speaking to and remember that prayer takes us into the throne room of heaven. Before a holy God our words should be measured and intelligent as the preacher reminds us in Ecclesiastes 5. 2, 'Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter anything before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few'. This was true of Jabez' prayer - just 3 3 wel I chosen words. A prayer that takes no longer than 10 seconds yet a prayer that expressed the heart's desire of Jabez.
In his prayer Jabez made five requests.
The first thing he asked for was prosperity, 'Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed'. Jabez was seeking that prosperity that comes from God. The most important thing for him was to know the blessing of the Lord that maketh rich and he addeth no sorrow with it, Prov. 10. 22. How often do we ask the Lord to bless us with spiritual prosperity? It is so easy today to become so busy in seeking the prosperity of this world that we have little if any time to seek after spiritual prosperity. Gaius in 3 John 2 is an example of a man who sought after spiritual prosperity.
There is however a danger in that spiritual prosperity will spoil us for the world. Paul recognized this when he said, 'I am cut off from the world and the world is cut off from me'.
The second thing he asked for was possessions, 'Oh that thou wouldest enlarge my coasts'. Jabez recognized that his inheritance within the tribe of Judah was a blessing from the Lord and his desire was that he might, with God's help, be able to enlarge his share of Judah's inheritance allocated in the days of Joshua. Jabez was enjoying what God had given him so much that he wanted more. As believers we are partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light, Col. 1. 12. We have been blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ, Eph. 1. 3, but are we enjoying what God has given us?
The moment we accepted Christ as Saviour we became heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, Rom. 8. 17. That brought us into the great inheritance of unseen blessings that God has prepared for them that love Him, 1 Cor. 2. 9. How much of this great inheritance have we appropriated for ourselves? Are we, like Jabez, enjoying our spiritual inheritance so much that we are continually asking the Lord for more?
The third thing he asked for was partnership, 'Oh that thine hand might be with me'. Jabez wanted to know the hand of God with him in all that he did as he moved through life. He recognized that in his own strength he could not enlarge his coasts. However with the hand of God with him the impossible becomes possible.
In our life and service for the Lord as believers it is so easy 'to go it alone' and depend on our own strength. Christian life is really a partnership - the Lord and me! We are workers together with Him, 2 Cor. 6. 1. If we want to know the blessing of the Lord in our service for Him we need to know the hand of the Lord with us, Acts 11. 21.
That Paul and Barnabas knew the partnership of the Lord on their first missionary journey is clear from their report to the church in Antioch. They rehearsed all that God had done with them', Acts 14. 27.
The fourth thing he asked for was protection, 'Oh that thou wouldest keep me from evil'. Jabez knew the pressures of life and how easy it was to stumble and fall. He did not underestimate the influence of the evil one to deceive and destroy and he knew that in his own strength he could never overcome. He needed One to help and protect him from the powers of evil and like the psalmist in Psalm 121. 2, he sought help from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
Like Jabez we too need to be daily before the Lord to seek His help and deliverance from evil. When the Lord taught the disciples to pray in Matthew 6. 13, He included the words, 'Deliver us from evil'. How often do we take these words of the Lord to the throne of grace and, like Jabez, seek His protection and deliverance from the evil all around us today?
The fifth thing he asked for was peace, 'Oh that thou wouldest keep me from evil that it might not grieve me'. Jebez evidently had a very tender conscience in regard to sin as it was something that brought sorrow to him. Sin was something that dishonoured Jabez's God, and what grieved his God grieved him! Jabez knew that there was no peace in the pathway of sin and disobedience. As Isaiah says in 48. 22, 'There is no peace, saith the Lord, unto the wicked'.
If we are to enjoy the peace of God in our experience we too must have a tender conscience in relation to sin. We live in a world where sin has lost its shame and as in the days of Isaiah, they call evil good, and good evil, Isa. 5. 20. As believers we need to shun the world's standards and follow after righteousness, Godliness and faith without which it is impossible to please God. The life that is lived in fellowship with God will know that peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keeping both heart and mind.
The outcome of Jabez's prayer was that 'God granted him that which he had requested'. Jabez was a righteous man, his prayer was a fervent prayer and in line with God's desire for him, therefore God gave him the desires of his heart. James reminds us in his epistle, 5. 16, 'The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much'. If we want to know the blessing of the Lord in our lives we too must, emulate the character of Jabez and learn the secret of fervent prayer because Jabez's God is our God.