Jabez

 

1 Chronicles 4:9-10

 

When times are dark, God shines more brightly. You could be traveling in the bleak, dark wilderness; and you might have stumbled onto Israel wandering, as they carried the glorious Ark of the Covenant, which housed the very presence of the Shekinah glory of God. It had been over 400 years since the prophets of the Lord closed the canon of the Old Testament – Israel had lived without a voice from God for all that time – and a host of angels brightens the sky for the shepherds to announce the birth of the Savior.

 

It’s that way with our Bible-reading too. Genesis 5 and 11 are among the driest passages of all. But reading them patiently reveals a plan that God had to pass wisdom down from generation to generation. Genesis 5 discloses that Adam lived long enough to be an advisor to Noah’s father. And Genesis 11 discloses that Noah’s son lived long enough to be an advisor to all three of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I like knowing these things.

 

And buried in the top dead center of perhaps the driest passage of all – 1 Chronicles chapters 1-9 – is the story of Jabez. To find Jabez, you have to read this passage. He is mentioned nowhere else in all surviving ancient literature. And he comes and goes in two verses. But the verses are rich.

 

You may be familiar with Jabez through the book by Bruce Wilkinson1. He has authored many other books – but can you name even one of them?

 

The parents of Jabez are two other candidates for a name-the-baby book. Jabez, by reversing two letters and making it jazeb, becomes the common word for “pain.” Verse 9 says he had brothers. But did he have so many older brothers that Ken, Tom and Pat were all taken by the time Jabez was born? I can see the choosing-up-teams scene in second grade recess scene now. The Captain of one team sees Jabez standing alone, and announces, “It gives me great jazeb to have to pick….” And then a squirrel runs by, and the Captain continues, “…that squirrel.” And a fight breaks out because the other Captain didn’t think that was an acceptable selection. Second grade recess is where all the mean kids hang out.

 

I know what that felt like. I had two stations in any draft order depending on whether they were choosing up teams for a spelling bee, or for a non-spelling bee. And I never even got to wear those cool-looking glasses, or one of those great pocket protectors.

 

Jabez prayed to God, “Oh that you would 1) bless me and enlarge my border, and that 2) your hand might be with me, and that 3) you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me jazeb!” Sometimes I read this prayer, and I wonder what he really expected God to do. I’ve sat through seminars where they teach that “Lord, bless me, keep your hand with me, and keep me from harm” is no prayer at all. And, though I confess that at times I might buy into that advice, I wonder what the seminar host really thinks of the Prayer of Jabez.

 

Because God knew what Jabez was praying for. For the Holy Spirit notes that “God granted what he asked.”

 

1I never read the book.

 

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