Old Testament passage for Sunday, July 7, 2013: I Chronicles 4:5-5:17
9 Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him in pain.” 10 And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!” So God granted him what he requested. I Chronicles 4:9-10 (NKJV)
Thirteen years ago, in 2000, Bruce Wilkerson published a small book entitled The Prayer of Jabez. It became an international bestseller and spawned a fad on the scale of WWJD. Many were blessed by the book, and many offered strong criticism. That's the way it is with just about anything that God mightily uses. Jesus is the best example. Many were blessed by Him, but many also criticized him.
The Prayer of Jabez consisted of four requests:
1. God's blessing and favor. "bless me indeed"
2. Expansion of territory. "enlarge my territory"
3. God's hand of strength. "Your hand be with me"
4. Protection against evil. "keep me from evil"
This is good stuff! In many ways, this prayer mirrors the model prayer Jesus taught us in Matthew 6:9-13.
Some have criticized it as a re-packaging of the "prosperity gospel" saying it is totally focused on SELF. I suppose anything in Scripture can be corrupted into selfishness, but this prayer and any other prayer does not NECESSARILY feed self-centeredness. It is not a bad thing to ask God boldly for His blessing! The real issue is where you want to go from there.
It is in this point that I found The Prayer of Jabez to stop short of perhaps the strongest message from these two verses. It is a great little book and focuses almost exclusively on the four requests. But, Jabez himself is, for me, the bigger message. Here are two observations:
1. GOD CARES ABOUT "NOBODIES."
Who is this guy Jabez in the first place? We find him nowhere else in Scripture. In the midst of the genealogies that list fathers and sons (so-and-so BEGOT so-and-so), we do not find him listed -- no father's name and no mother's name. He is dropped in out of nowhere. We can only assume that he is somewhere in the tribe of Judah since I Chronicle 4:1-23 lists that family tree.
2. HIS NAME IS IMPORTANT.
Jabez was born into a painful situation. His name literally means "he will CAUSE pain." His mother named him -- not his father. That's unusual and speaks to some sort of crisis surrounding his birth -- perhaps death of the father, or birth out of wedlock. She named him Jabez "Because I bore him in pain."
In this context, I find the greatest message of this short passage. Jabez seemed destined to live his life out in PAIN. In so doing, he would pass that PAIN on to his family -- his wife, his children, his grand-children.
All of us have a strong tendency to hurt others in the same way we have been hurt. It is an axiom in counseling ministry: "Hurt people hurt people." We pass on to others the hurts we have received.
But, it does not have to be that way! Jabez was "more honorable" in that he was a PAIN STOPPER! He mother unknowingly put a word curse on him by calling him Jabez. She declared that her young boy would CAUSE much PAIN to many others.
As Jabez grew up, he made a decision. He decided to change the negative course of his life. The very REASON for the four requests was not selfishness on his part. Rather, he prayed these things "that I may not cause PAIN!"
The prayer of Jabez is not about self-improvement. It is about REDEMPTION. As such, it is a model for each of us. God wants to bless us so we can be a blessing to others. God wants to enlarge our territory so we can expand His healing grace. God wants to show Himself strong in our behalf so we can bring his power to a broken, pain-filled world. God wants to protect us from evil so we can now go on the offensive spreading His Kingdom to those who are in need.
No matter how much pain has attended our way, God uses NOBODIES to erase pain and release blessing. Generations to come will be glad because we prayed and lived this prayer.