Some consider prayer to be the means to maintain our Christian life whereas it is the highest form of the work assigned to all believers by the Savior Lord for He intercedes for us in heaven. While here as Immanuel, He prayed for us, finally seeking “another Helper” for us to abide with us to guide, lead and empower us as also to pray with and for us before the Father. God the Father waits to hear and answer prayer of faith to give us “whatsoever we will and whatsoever we ask in Jesus’ name”. There are no qualifying clauses to this but somehow we miss that God means prayer to have an answer and He is willing and “able to exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20). Jabez understood this fact, asked of God in faith and “God granted him his request” (1 Chronicles 4:10).
Why Chronicler recorded genealogies of Israelites? – God had chosen Israel to be His chosen people and Abram was blessed to be renamed as Abraham – ‘Father of a multitude’ and Jacob ‘the supplanter’ was called Israel meaning ‘He who prevails with God’. Further God assigned the priestly duties to Levites and on his deathbed Jacob called his sons to pronounce prophetic blessings on them, where Reuben’s birthright was passed on to Joseph through his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim (Genesis 49:1-28). The Israelites counted tribal identity and individual names as an important part of an individual’s life to establish his relationship with God and others, for the Jews take great pride in their being “a special people chosen by God”. Tribal loyalties and lineage was given great importance and Jeroboam split the kingdom with the support of ten tribes. The Israelites were carried into captivity to Babylon and the returning exiles were required to reestablish their individual identity through their genealogical details.
God established true heritage of Israelites through these details of their tribal lineage drawn from Adam and Abraham to give them an identity of being one family in Adam, one nation in Abraham, one priesthood in Levi and one kingdom under David. The genealogies also reveal their God appointed leaders right up to David, providing them a separate national and spiritual heritage specific to them for the God they worshipped. Finally, these details were a great help to encourage the returning exiles about their great past and to bond them into one single entity. Each of us is more than a name on a list, for God remembers every one of us as His children, a special people, enjoying His great love and mercy individually and also as a group – The Church. Messiah’s earthly identity was given in fulfillment of God’s promise to David for continuance of his reign on earth and Messiah was born in his lineage on both Joseph and Mary’s side.
Jabez was given this name by his mother for the reason that “I gave birth to him in pain” (1 Chronicles 4:9). This pain could be physical pain only in abnormal circumstances whereas she might have suffered extreme pain of the heart for Jabez. The name of his father is not listed in the genealogy and this could be only due to being ‘karet’ or cut off from his tribe and community. This was initially done for not circumcising the son on attaining the appointed age (Genesis 17:14) but later four more acts of omission or commission were added. First, is about sacred time – which was about not observing the three festivals and violating the Sabbath. The second, about sacred substance – misuse of Temple incense, eating blood or unauthorized eating of the bread offered in the Temple; the third, about purification rituals – not undergoing circumcision, purification after touching a dead body and other acts making a person unclean. The fourth is about illicit worship – worshipping idols, Molech or offering human sacrifice while the fifth and the last is about illicit sexual conduct like marital incest – marrying the mother, sister or daughter.
Jabez more righteous than his brothers – The punishment for ‘karet’ was death by stoning, end of family line through removal from tribal genealogy and after death not being buried with one’s ancestors. The wicked person was condemned and prayer to God was made for his punishment “May his descendants be cut off, and in the generation following let their name be blotted out” (Psalm 109:13). Jabez would have suffered insults from his friends (Jewish brothers – not necessarily blood relationship) and others in the community all along his life right from his birth. Such undeserved humiliation causes a person to become an introvert and look to God for answers for his suffering and through this Jabez developed a close relationship with God to be called more righteous than his brothers. Samuel was weaned and left by his mother in the Tabernacle and he developed a close relationship with God to hear His voice.
God does not see who we are, but what we can become and what He desires us to finally become. Rahab was branded as a harlot but she saw and understood was “Lord your God is God in heaven and on earth below and helped the two spies (Joshua 2:11). In like manner Ruth refused to leave her mother in law, Naomi after the death of her husband and went with her from Moab to Israelite territory declaring “Your people will be my people and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16-17). Both were counted righteous by God and are even listed in the genealogy of the Messiah.
What did Jabez seek from God? – The Scripture records “Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother named him Jabez, saying, “I gave birth to him in pain”. Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, saying, “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, and that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me”. And God granted his request” (1 Chronicles 4:9-10). There are four parts to his prayer and one request is a corollary to the fourth.
First, You would bless me indeed – The composition of the prayer with the word ‘indeed’ gives a double emphasis on bless as if saying “Bless, bless me”. The Hebrew word used for ‘bless’ is ‘Barak’ which implies seeking something from a greater power and source which alone can give that bountiful life. the prayer is dependent on the ‘goodness and faithfulness’ of God. It means a God only or God alone centric request where He alone is the recognized source of blessing by the seeker. “Blessed is he who….” (Psalm 1:1) where Hebrew word ‘ashar’ is used as a verb. This word significantly emphasizes a two way transaction – where we do something ‘walk not in the counsel of the ungodly” and in response God does His expected part. Jabez prayed for an unconditional blessing thus recognizing his total dependence on God for everything where the blessing is for and from God for His purpose alone. Thus Jabez not only sought special blessings but also committed himself for obeying God for His purpose.
“Blessings from God are our greatest wealth and our works add nothing to it” (Proverbs 10:22). What, where and when of the blessing is under God’s control and we can do nothing to force God to expedite the blessing. The timing and the quantum of the blessing is left to God. Barak also means to ‘bend the knee’ implying total surrender in humility and service of God where humility and blessing go together. With this prayer Jabez not only committed himself to obey and work for the sole purpose of God but also accepted to be content with the way God blesses him.
Does making specific requests limit God? – No, Detailed and specific prayer requests would reveal the exactness of our need and the prayer. God searches the hearts, identifies the purpose of the prayer and then answers the same – though He is well aware of all aspects of our lives “before we were placed in our mother’s womb”. Psalm writers have opened their heart before God while listing out exact grievances that they wanted addressed through their prayers. Jabez sought blessings to overcome the pain that he was forced to undergo from birth because of his circumstances.
Second, enlarge my territory – Probably because of his genealogical problem, Jabez was left with no land or other assets. He was aware of the love of God for mankind and especially for the Israelites where God confirms that though a breadt feeding mother can forget her child but He will never forget them. God promises, “I have engraved you on the palms of my hands, your walls are ever before Me” (Isaiah 49:15-16). Thus every aspect of our lives is open before God and the walls providing protection to us and the source of our protection is also known to God. This does not mean that God is a peeping tom but that He is ever ready to help whenever we seek Him to guide us to safety. God’s promise is “Ask and it shall be given to you” (Matthew 7:7) and James further confirms this “You do not have because you do not ask” (James 4:2). God is thus not only aware of my work area but also any security breech that is likely.
We feel that our area of operation/influence depends upon my abilities+ experience + training + personality and experience + my contacts +my background and expectation of self and others = my territory. But in actual fact my territory is decided by God on the basis of my willingness + weaknesses + God’s will and power. Our battles are won “Not by might or power but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6). So it is more God working in this than my own power and Jabez sought a miracle from God to increase his boundaries.
Third, let Your hand be with me – Apostle Paul warns all believers not to think of anything being from our own selves, but that our sufficiency is from God (2 Corinthians 3:5-6). Jabez realized that he would never be able to achieve anything without God’s hand of empowerment being on him and expressing his helplessness surrendered to God. Peter and John were brought before the Jewish leaders for preaching the Gospel in the Temple and the leaders were amazed at the clarity of thought of these uneducated fishermen. But then “they realized these men had walked with Jesus” and Lord Jesus’ hand blessed them with extraordinary knowledge and wisdom (Acts 4:13).
Fourth, that You would keep me from evil – Jabez had been harassed by his detractors all his life and had experience the ill effects of this evil treatment on his work and life. He pleaded with God to keep evil away from him so that he could freely work for His glory and honor. Lord Jesus taught the same thing “deliver us from evil” in the Lord’s Prayer for He knows our inability to fight temptations and forces of evil. The Israelites had been protected and led by God for forty years through the ‘Pillar of Cloud’ and the same shifted between them and the Phsaraoh’s forces before they had crossed the Red Sea. Jabez prayed for similar separation and protection from God.
Relevance of genealogies and Jabez’ prayer for us – Apostle Paul understood the misuse of genealogical details to claim superiority over others by the Jews then. Even today the caste system prevalent in India and such segregating practices in many societies could be misused to gain positions of prominence in the Church. Titus was accordingly warned to be careful and genealogies have been listed with “foolish talk, contentions and strivings about the law (Moses’ Law); for they are unprofitable and useless” (Titus 3:9). After rebirth through baptism in the Holy Trinity we are a new creation in Christ and our identity of the flesh is no more while pour spiritual heritage prevails (2 Corinthians 5:16-17). Jabez created his new identity through faith and “God granted what he asked” – God searched his heart, counted him righteous and prayer was answered.
Jabez believed that God could and will make a difference in his life; that his life need not start and end with a curse of ‘causing pain’ to others; took the initiative rather than remaining a passive sufferer and sought God. God is ever willing to move closer to those draw near to Him in faith after repenting of their sins and a genuine change of heart (James 4:8). God meets us at our point of faith and not point of need. Jabez clearly knew what he wanted and asked God to grant that, for he had no fears of complexes to hinder him. God is Lord of Lords, King of Kings and the Almighty God who created everything, so why hesitate to ask big ticket blessings. Jabez did and God granted his request – ask in faith and He will grant, for that is His promise and He is ‘The Truth’.