In our reading of Holy Scripture we must confess that we may bypass the reading of genealogies. There are many in the Old Testament and only two in the New Testament.
Upon reading the first book of the Bible, Genesis, it is not long before we encounter a genealogy, chapter 4 verses 16 to 26 and again in the next chapter. To ignore these parts of scripture would leave us bereft of reading the lovely features of Enoch in chapter 5. Equally, First Chronicles chapters 1 to 9 are mainly genealogies. We could so easily ‘skip’ these chapters where, for many characters, little comment is made concerning them and we may be tongue-tied as to the correct pronunciation! It may be monotonous to read them, yet God in His wisdom presents different characters to make us stop and think, and be challenged. Jabez is one such person. As quickly as he appears in the sacred text he then ‘vanishes’.
The chapter records the names of the sons of Judah, of which there are forty-four. Judah means praise.
Scripture reveals that Jabez was ‘more honourable than his brethren’. An expression recorded five times in the Old Testament.1 Could it be in respect of his wealth or his character? One thing is certain, he rose above his circumstances. He stood out in his day and certainly in this passage of scripture. It is interesting to note that this feature of his life comes before the reason why he was so named Jabez.
His mother bore him ‘with sorrow’. There is a play on his name in his prayer ‘that it may not grieve me’, which literally means, ‘that I may have no more sorrow’. By naming him ‘Jabez’, was it because of the personal or spiritual circumstances of his mother? We cannot be dogmatic but, for whatever reason, he was to carry that name for all his life and, despite this, he was more honourable than his brethren in the character he displayed before God and men and in his communion with God.
Only thirty-three words in the King James Version text. Thus, his prayer is marked out by its shortness, its simplicity, its sincerity and its spirituality.
a) His communion with the living God
The way Jabez is introduced is very different to what has gone before and what follows after. There is the repetition of ‘the son of’ or ‘sons of’ or ‘the firstborn’, or ‘the father of’ but none is recorded of Jabez. What he lacked in human companionship he made up for by communion with his God – the God of Israel.
b) His call
The tenses imply that this was a continuous prayer. It was a prayer from the heart in line with God’s desire in relation to the nation as a whole and the Davidic kingdom in particular. Yet, for us, James reminds us that ‘The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much’, Jas. 5. 16.
c) His conciseness
Jabez recognized the privilege of prayer, as the hymn writer urges us, ‘Take it to the Lord in prayer’. Elihu said to Job of one who had been delivered from sin, ‘he shall pray unto God and he will be favourable unto him’, Job 33. 26. Notice his positive action – he prayed.
His prayer suggests that there is nothing wrong with requesting God to bless us specifically. God delights to bless His people and ‘The blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich and he addeth no sorrow with it’, Prov. 10. 22. Jabez requested that God might ‘enlarge his coast’, to widen his vision and for his boundaries to be extended. He sought God’s provision of the geographical and territorial. There is the challenge for us to pray for divine provision that God might enlarge our spiritual boundaries! He was not content with his spiritual condition. Are we content with ours?
d) His concern
Apart from divine provision, Jabez sought for a sense of the divine presence, ‘that thine hand might be with me’. He demonstrated complete dependence upon God. He may have sought bounties from the Lord but there is nothing greater than to enjoy fellowship with the living God. David acknowledged it when he wrote, ‘Thou art with me’, Ps. 23. 4.
That he might continue to enjoy the divine presence, Jabez also prayed for divine preservation and protection, ‘that thou wouldest keep me from evil’; ‘that it may not grieve me’. He recognized his need. ‘Beloved, follow not that which is evil but that which is good’, 3 John 11.
As Jabez was specific in the expression of his need, it would be good to take note, that our prayers might have specific requests. Remember the principles taught by the Lord when the disciples asked, ‘Lord teach us to pray’, Luke 11. 1, and, in what Christendom calls ‘the Lord’s prayer’, it should be noted, ‘Thy will’, ‘Give us’, forgive us’, ‘lead us’, and ‘deliver us’, mirroring something of Jabez’s prayer.
Our God has not changed. God hears and answers prayer. Eternity will reveal in what ways Jabez’s prayer was answered. God is willing to hear our prayers and answer according to His will and purpose. God honoured his faith. May we feel the challenge that the inspired record of Jabez brings, and reflect upon our prayer life in these difficult times, and be careful to give Him the glory should He see fit to grant our requests!