Both the books of Chronicles reveal a separate identity, heritage and destiny of the Israelites from Adam onwards including their genealogy, royal relationship and the exceptional plan of the loving God for them. Buried deep in the list of names, suddenly one man with no parental lineage appears in only two verses and is not only found righteous but also one who receives from God what he had asked for. Jabez establishes a new identity of his own through his relationship with God and what an identity that anyone would love to have. In the pages of history, his name crops up not because of what he or his parents did but for what God did for him.
Jabez’ name and special identity – The first nine chapters of the book of 1 Chronicles contain long lists of names of people starting from Adam onwards and then open on to a battle scene in chapter ten. In all this detail, which readers tend to skip, Jabez appears in the long line of Judah with no details, no name of father or mother (1Chronicles 4:9-10). The only identifying feature is his being more righteous than his brothers and his mother giving him this name for having borne him in pain. But that was the destiny of every pregnant woman on the earth for God had ordained that a woman will suffer pain during child birth and this became the norm after sin entered the world (Genesis 3:16). The Scripture contains no details of the reason for his mother naming him as such and any speculation is meaningless.
Structure of Jabez’ prayer – There are links to the chain of his prayer which connect to provide the right answers. First, comparative righteousness and God granted his request, which is in line with what Moses had commanded the Israelites as per directions from God. ‘If you fully obey the LORD your God and carefully follow His commands, I give you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth’ (Deuteronomy 28:1-2). Apparently Jabez was obedient to God’s commands given in the Word of God and this was counted as righteousness for him enabling him to receive what he prayed for.
Second, bless me indeed and on the other end keep me from harm – We are given a similar prayer by Lord Jesus in the model prayer, ‘do not lead us into temptation but deliver us from the evil one’ (Matthew 6:13). Right from the day that Adam and Eve faced temptation, mankind has been under attack from the devil and his forces. We need heavenly help to face this continuous onslaught and Jabez linked the blessings to this help.
Third, enlarge my territory and let Your hand be with me – Joshua was chosen by God as a successor to Moses and in the first chapter of the book, he was told five times not to be afraid. 0000000000God categorically assured Joshua that, ‘No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you, I will never leave you nor forsake you’ (Joshua 1:5). Jabez sought a similar blessing from God to help him operate in the extended boundaries.
Each layer has a hidden and connected meaning where first part is about obedience which must precede blessings for disobedience leads to expulsion from God’s presence. There is clear recognition that God is the only source of prosperity in all its forms and when ‘the righteous cry, the LORD hears them’ (Psalm 34:17). Second is about blessings and protection while the used Hebrew word ‘barak’ means ‘abundantly bless, kneel or to give a present’ or to give something valuable to another. God blessed Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:28) and this type of blessing is always from someone greater or from God. Another word ‘ashar’ also means blessed but this is from equals and Lea exclaimed at the birth of Jacob’s second son ‘happy am I for the daughters will call me blessed, and she called his name Asher’ (Genesis 30:13).Aashar is a conditional blessing like one who does not associate with sinners but delights in the Scripture is the one who is blessed (Psalm 1:1).
In his prayer, Jabez uses the word ‘barak’ twice thus seeking exceptional blessings. But it also means ‘humility, service and bowing down’ thus implying that God blesses not on my bidding but in His love. I cannot force Him, only pray to Him, acknowledge Him as Sovereign over me and He blesses then for His purposes. The blessing sought by Jabez and given by God may not be financial or social but only spiritual. Another important aspect is about protection from harm that it might not bring pain where Hebrew word ‘asita –me-raah’ is used to mean keep me from harm. But it is also about seeking God’s help in maintaining a life where one does not succumb to temptations. The words used in the prayer have ‘atsav’ which means pain and ‘le-vetti’ translated as ‘not’ but it also means to wear out or bring to nothing.
So is Jabez asking God to remove pain or sorrow in toil from his life? Probably he sought God’s help to escape from work of needless toil that wears out without results and thus to lead him into work that fulfills God’s purposes and his own desire also. Finally, is the prayer to ‘enlarge my borders’ where Hebrew word ‘raba’ is used and it is the same word used by God to Adam to be fruitful and multiply. The apparent meaning is to seek an increase in physical assets but this word is also used for a type of locust that were sent as a plague over Egypt (Exodus 10:12). The locusts multiply geometrically and that is what Jabez prayed for, to get an exponential increase in his assets.
It is an awesome prayer and Jabez realized the two parts of the blessing, the gift itself and the act of bowing down. His prayer is like saying, “God, I recognize that You are Jehovah Jireh and that all favor comes from you and You are the only source of my prosperity. I also accept that my prosperity includes my submitting to You and thus I bow my knee before Your throne, O God, to do Your will not mine. My Savior God make your blessing exceptionally big so that others realize that Your hand is on me. Bless me and lead me, LORD, to give You my best so that I can receive Your best, not as a reward for my work but as an act of Your grace and mercy!” God’s blessing to Adam and Eve to be fruitful is for others in addition to the two for I become a channel of His grace where I also drenched but it must also pass on to others through me. Jabez is seeking through this prayer not only wealth, health or success but permanence through his works, a legacy and a sense of fulfillment, a desire that every human being seeks every day.
Since God is the source of everything, why should there be a necessity of asking Him for anything? God wants to bless us and use us for His glory but He gives us the option to choose or the given free will of man. This was violated by Adam and Eve and this choice has work also involved with it whereas we want easy options without hard work. God will not like to intrude your option to give something that you do not want from Him and not asking for a thing amounts to not wanting it. “You do not have for you do not ask” (James 4:2).
Two ways to get extended borders – In this world there are two sources that can answer our prayers for extended borders; one is from God and the other from prince of this world, the devil. Some examples of those who received this blessing from God – Abraham was the first to get extended borders through the promise of ‘a land filled with milk and honey’ and was made to move from Haran (Genesis 12:1-4). Moses was called to the burning bush to be sent to Egypt but he raised various doubts (Exodus 3:10-13) but performed various miracles for the next forty years. Joshua was told 5 times to be courageous by God and also by people for he feared the enormous task but then later stopped the sun and moon for a time (Joshua 1:5). David was anointed as king by Prophet Samuel and ‘from that day on the Spirit of the LORD came powerfully upon David’ (1 Samuel 16:12-13) and in that power he killed Goliath. Not only this ‘The LORD gave David victory wherever he went’ (1Chronicles 18:13). Prophet Isaiah was blessed to be in the presence of God in the Temple and volunteered ‘Here am I. Send me’ (Isaiah 6:8). He received revelations about Cyrus 200 years before his birth and about the Messiah Lord about 700 years before His coming and also proclaimed the effects of Lord Jesus’ redeeming sacrifice
From Satan – Satan showed ‘all the kingdoms of the world’ and then promised the Savior Lord ‘All this I will give You, if You will bow down and worship me’ (Matthew 4:8-9). The question asked by most people is “Righteous are You, O Lord, when I plead with You; yet let me talk with You about Your judgments. Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why are those happy who deal so treacherously?” (Jeremiah 12:1). But we tend to forget that Satan is the prince of this world and those who surrender to him share in the spoils of his work here but suffer eternal death finally.
We want to ride on both sides, getting the blessings from God as well as sinning in general. Ananias and his wife Sapphira held on to part of the money from property sale to make Apostle Peter ask, “why has Satan so filled your heart that you lied to the Holy Spirit?(Acts 5:3). Judas Iscariot, only non Galilean disciple among the chosen 12 and as keeper of the money bag of the Lord, used to ‘help himself to what was put into it’ (John 12:6). As a result Ananias and his wife immediately and Satan entered Judas, one of the twelve leading him to betray His Lord and later commit suicide (Luke 22:3).
The two powers operating in the world can use us for their glory but who do we want to choose? We become “slaves of the one you obey – sin which leads to death or to obedience to God leading to eternal life” (Romans 6:16). Jabez sought God’s hand on his extended territories to save him from succumbing to temptation and remain available fully to God. We ask God and He blesses us for use for His kingdom or we simply surrender to temptations and the devil takes over automatically to make us work for his kingdom. In God we have and leave an inheritance for generations to come and under Satan we weary and leave a name like Judas Iscariot. God allows us to choose what we want.
Lessons for us from Jabez’ prayer – All prayers, including Jabez’ are about God and His work and through prayer we surrender to His dominion to be used for His work. Lord Jesus extended the borders for the disciples and after receiving power in the Holy Spirit, they were asked to ‘witness me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth’ (Acts 1:8). Extended borders with power are given by Him for His work and when the disciples moved in obedience ‘and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs’ (Mark 16:20). Saul was chosen by the Lord and appointed Apostle of the Gentiles and he as Apostle Paul preached the Gospel right till Rome. But though he was God’s ‘chosen vessel to witness before Gentiles, kings and the children of Israel’ but this honor also included ‘to suffer for My name’s sake’. He operated beyond borders but had a permanent thorn in his side from Satan.
The acts of saving souls are carried out with power from the Lord ‘over serpents and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy, nothing shall by any means hurt you’ (Luke 10:19). Apostle Paul was fully aware of the Lord’s hand being on him, was bitten by a viper on the hand but he just shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm (Acts 28:3-4) and all inhabitants of the island were saved. In lack or abundance, when full or hungry, Apostle Paul was content for he and we also ‘can do all things through Christ who strengthens us’ (Philippians 4:12-13). God not only extends the boundaries but also empowers us to operate there to bring Him glory, for that is what He desires. Lord Jesus promised us the same ‘whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son’ (John 14:13). All prayers for financial, social or spiritual growth must meet this criteria and He will definitely answer.
Apostle Paul in his Epistle to the Romans exclaimed in awe, after writing great truths in the first 11 chapters, about the ‘unsearchable riches of God’s wisdom and knowledge. And then he acknowledged God’s sovereign status as controller and provider of everything ‘For of Him, through Him and for Him are all things, to whom be glory’ (Romans 11:33-36).
Jabez is mentioned in the book of Chronicles or history of Israel without a lineage, yet he received a distinct identity under the blessed hand of God. We also receive a new identity in the Lord and find mention in His Divine lineage and family by being made a part thereof in faith. After creating everything God did not place any restrictions on their area of operation and tasked them to occupy and dominate the earth. Even today any borders that we have in working for the Lord’s kingdom on earth are manmade and not from God. He guides us on to a definite direction to save and help us in achieving the best results. The singular restriction on our working for God is to give Him glory in everything and He moves ahead of us to straighten our paths. To Him be the glory forever, Amen!