A MAN NAMED JABEZ
By Steve Henry
We live in a society where many want to blame their bad behavior on the dysfunctional family they grew up in. One well-known pastor says he is sick of hearing the term “dysfunctional family” as a way to explain away bad behavior. He also said he grew up in a dysfunctional family and is presently the leader of a dysfunctional family. I believe we would all have to admit that we come from families with varying degrees of dysfunction and those of us who are parents would have to admit to our role in contributing to and leading a dysfunctional family.
From the very beginning God wanted us to function according to His guidelines but when sin entered the human race dysfunction also entered. Man has been trying to do things his way ever since the fall, leading to the problems we see in ourselves and others and will continue to see until He comes to deliver us from these bodies of death in which we presently dwell.
Books have been written; many sermons have been preached about the life-changing power of the prayer of Jabez. We will look at the elements of the prayer later but right now I would like for us to look at the man the prayer was named after. As we think about this man it is intriguing to note that there is something we don’t see in this story that makes what we do see so significant for us, i.e., no mention of a father.
Three chapters of genealogy, two verses about Jabez, and then the genealogy starts again. Nothing else is said about Jabez. Enough begats to drive most Bible students up the wall, but as usual, God has a purpose for what He does. With no mention of a father, it’s almost like the two verses about Jabez are out of place. Nothing else is mentioned about Jabez in the entire Bible. As we study the lives of the great leaders from Adam through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob we also see what would be called in today’s vernacular “great dysfunction”.
1st Chronicles 4:9-10
“And his mother called his name Jabez, saying, Because I bore him with sorrow.” Jabez was no different than his ancestors in the fact that he was born into this dysfunctional line of humanity. His name means “to grieve; sorrowful.” Could it be that he was raised by a single mother who faced the daunting task and all the frustrations of being both mother and father? The word “name” in Hebrew means “a mark or memorial of individuality.” How would you like it if every time your name was called you were reminded of grief and sorrow? How many of us heard our parents say “good grief” when we did something wrong? Some may have heard them say “I’m sorry you were ever born.” It is quite possible that Jabez grew up with a lot of verbal abuse from his peers, maybe even from those closest to him.
“And Jabez was more honorable than his brothers.”
Jabez could have blamed his parents for naming him with such a degrading name. He could have played the blame game for the rest of his life; however, it is apparent, that he chose to turn from everything his name represented to choose the higher path God had in store for him. His name may have reminded him of grief and sorrow, but God’s Word reminds us that he chose a more honorable path than his brothers.
“And Jabez called on the God of Israel”
“Israel” means “he will rule as God”; “to prevail: -have power; “strength.” If Jabez was a student of history, he would realize that the God of all strength had always blessed and used mankind in His eternal plan in spite of all their weaknesses. Maybe God was teaching Jabez the principle taught in Joel 3:10 “Let the weak say, I am strong.”
When we are faced with a difficult situation, we will either call on man with all his weaknesses or God in all His strength. Needless to say, when we call on man (or call up from our subconscious mind some wrong programming of our past) many times we will be disappointed with the advice we receive and the direction the advice will take us. But, calling on His Name changes everything, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). God is eager to hear from us so that He might respond to us and save us out of any trouble we get ourselves into. The choice is always ours.
“Oh, that You would bless me indeed”
The words “bless” and “indeed” come from the same Hebrew word that means “to kneel; by implication to bless God (as an act of adoration).”
It seems like Jabez was declaring, “You, God of all strength, bless me, bless me.” Maybe Jabez never had a daddy that ever blessed him, but He knew God was eager to do just that.
The Apostle Paul declares the same thing about the same God in Eph 3:20-21 “Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, forever. Amen.” In fact, the greatest blessing of all is to discover our true identity in Christ and the benefits we have as depicted in the three chapters preceding this declaration by Paul. We receive the power of God and the subsequent blessings of God the same way Jabez received them, i.e., by calling on the God of all strength.
“and enlarge my coasts”
“Enlarge” means to increase…abundance; be in authority.
“Coasts” means properly a cord (as twisted), that is, (by implication) a boundary; by extension the territory inclosed.
As joint heirs with Christ God wants us to see ourselves as a people of His authority; the same authority that Jesus has, over the boundless territory He has given us, especially the territory of our minds.
Jabez was expressing in his prayer something that our Heavenly Father wants every one of us to get down into the innermost recesses of our being, i.e., THINK GREATER, SPEAK GREATER, PRAY GREATER, EXPECT GREATER. After all, He has promised us to “make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:19) and as mind blowing as it is He has also promised that we would do greater works than Jesus did (John 14:12-14).
“and that your hand might be with me”
“hand” means a hand (the open one (indicating power, means, direction). With the possibility of much dysfunction in his life it might be that Jabez never had anyone in his life to empower or direct him. But somehow, he knew to call on the One that could give him the power, the means, and direction he needed to fulfill his dream of being blessed despite any setbacks he had encountered.
“and that you would keep me from evil”
“keep” means “to do or make”. Obviously, Jabez had come to the realization that his God could help him become who he wanted to be, but he realized also that he had some enemies that only his God could overcome for him. Those enemies were the devil and his sub-conscience mind that had probably been programmed with some very dysfunctional junk. In fact, one of the definitions for “evil” is “to make or be good for nothing.” Do you think Jabez might have ever thought “I’m good for nothing”?
“that it may not grieve me”
“Grieve” means to carve, that is, fabricate or fashion; hence (in a bad sense) to worry, pain or anger. Many have allowed grief and pain to fashion them into angry adults who continually blame their dysfunctional family lives for their lack of success. They continually look at themselves as good for nothing. However, Jabez called on God to change all that. He knew from where his help came and continued to call on his God to rescue him.
The apostle Paul knew this same God when he called on Him as recorded in the seventh chapter of Romans. Keep in mind that he was not a novice in the faith but a man who had walked with the Lord for years, had written a majority of the books in the New Testament, and one who had been through hell on earth for what he believed. He declared “For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do” (sounds like the great apostle Paul had a problem with dysfunctional thinking). Also, he found himself declaring, “Oh wretched man that I am”. But the last verse is the most significant as Jabez would attest to, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The apostle Paul was still struggling with the old programming of his flesh that reduced him to thinking of himself as a wretched man (a man of great dysfunction, if you will), but he was still recognizing and calling on the God of Israel as his source of deliverance. Two thousand years later we still have the same struggles but most importantly, we have the same source of deliverance. He, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).
“And God granted him that which he requested”
“Granted” means “to go or come.” Our God is a God of action, especially when His children cry out to Him. He empowers us “to go” and “comes” to us when the challenges of going get tough.
All this talk about dysfunction in Jabez’s life is speculation on my part. It could have been true about Jabez, or I might be totally off base. But, let me share with you a story about a young man named “Jackie.”
He grew up in a family of great dysfunction. Jackie’s father never knew his father and never had a Godly influence that taught him how to love. Jackie’s father died when he was twenty-two years old. He never heard his daddy say, “I love you son” or “I’m proud of you”. In fact, he never heard much of anything from him unless he messed up.
Because of his feminine-sounding name, he suffered a lot of verbal abuse from his male peers, but worse than that was the intense sense of worthlessness he carried within himself. He never felt worthy enough to be loved or accepted by anyone.
He fought back by developing some very destructive habits “just to prove what a man he was.” He walked in those ways for many years until God and His Church intervened by sharing the good news that Jesus loved him and wanted to save and deliver him from who he was.
Then he called on the God of Israel and everything changed. Some things changed immediately, others took some time, and some things he is still working on.
That was almost fifty years ago, and Jackie has realized many of the blessings of God, especially the blessing of realizing how unconditionally loved and accepted he is by His Heavenly Father.
Unfortunately, he finds himself declaring the same thing Brother Paul declares in the seventh chapter of Romans, i.e. “the evil I would not do I find myself doing” and is even reduced to feeling like a “wretched man” from time to time, but he also continues to call on the only One, his only Source of deliverance, Jesus Christ his Savior.
Thank you, Lord Jesus,
“Jackie” Steve Henry
P.S. I shared with you in a previous story how Satan used this sense of worthlessness to almost destroy me and how God and His Body intervened to save me from the destructive programming of this flesh. My prayer for you is that you will turn from believing Satan’s lies if he has you entrapped in this “worthlessness” prison and call on the One that loves you just the way you are and loves you too much to leave you the way you are. You are of great worth to Him!
God’s Word reminds us of three very important facts about Jabez’ and Jackie’s God that we find applicable for our lives today:
Jabez chose a higher path, the path God wanted for him;
He called on the God of Israel;
God listened and responded to him.
Steve Henry has been a lifelong resident of Burke County. God blessed him with an incredible lady that he has been married to for 43 years. He has also blessed Steve with two wonderful children and two beautiful granddaughters.
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