1 Chronicles 4:9, 10
And Jabez was more honorable than his brothers: and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, Because I bore him with sorrow.…
Jabez was more honourable than his brethren: and his mother called him Jabez, saying, Because I bare him with sorrow. And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he requested. But little is known of this man; known in his generation as a man of prayer; famous for the directness and simplicity of his appeal to God and for the success attending it. Probably he gave his name to Jabez, the town mentioned in 1 Chronicles 2:55, as Bethlehem, Ephratah, Tekoa, and many named in these genealogies did. If so - and the identity of several names in the respective genealogies, and the singular eminence and honour of the man, give great weight to supposition - then we know something of his ancestry and something of his descendants. Of his ancestry; for then 1 Chronicles 2:55 makes him a Kenite, and a descendant of Jonadab the son of Rechab, one of the early sect described in Jeremiah 35., who, probably called into existence by the testimony of Elijah, cultivated simplicity of creed, rejecting all idolatry; simplicity of life, dwelling in tents; simplicity of food, drinking neither wine nor strong drink. A sect ready to help Jehu in his reformation (2 Kings 12:15, 16); respected by those who could not copy them; blessed and honoured by God. And we know something of his descendants; for he was in that case the founder of the school of scribes, who did so much in the later centuries of Jewish national history to revive and maintain the purer worship of God. A sect of married monks, whose only vow was simplicity of life, they seemed to exemplify all the advantages derivable from special callings, consecration, and brotherhood, while free from all their defects. Their earnest faith turned them to the Bible as the best preservative of a people from error. And their simple tent-life gave them leisure. Probably Jabez was a sort of William Tyndale of his generation, bent on giving his people the Bible in their homes. Tyndale by translation, Jabez merely by transcription, both gave the priceless treasure to multitudes who before had lacked it. Assuming these things, there are some lessons from his character and from his prayer that are worth observing.
I. FIRST, A GOOD SOIL HELPS TO MAKE A GOOD PLANT. In all self-denial there is advantage. Power of will, energy of purpose, security against temptation, are all furthered by it. These early total abstainers had some of the vigour marking the class in all ages. The poet had not in their case to lament that "the days of simple living and high thinking were no more." But there they were. The John the Baptists of their time in simplicity of life and profundity of thought and faith. The home moulds the child. Let your children find in their parents' life purity, brightness, love, and they will more easily copy it. Like as Milton and Cromwell rose among the Puritans, so Jabez rose among the Rechabites. Observe -
II. SOME LIVES BEGIN IN GREAT SORROW THAT LEAVE BEHIND THEM GREAT JOY. What the mother's grief was we do not know. It may have been unusual pain and danger at his birth. It may have been (the father is not mentioned) that she lost her husband before she bore her child. And the melancholy of her heart made her despair of any brightness, and give her boy (an unfair thing to do) a depressing name. It is possible, too, that some sorrow may have arisen out of this prayer. If it did, we may observe that a dull morning often opens into a bright day. The early life may be obscure, pressed with disadvantages, all uphill, and yet we may reach a stately usefulness and comfort.
"The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars,
But in ourselves."
III. LOOK AT HIS PRAYER. There are many points about it worthy of remark.
1. That whatever touched his life he took it to his God.
2. That he blends in his prayer the requests for moral and the outward mercies which make up well-being. "That thou wouldest bless me indeed," is probably a prayer for highest spiritual mercies; for God's smile, God's grace, forgiveness, peace. "And enlarge my coast." This was prayer for outward advantage. Large lands not needed for their simple living; probably they were needed only for the increasing number of disciples. "That thy hand may be with me" seems again a spiritual petition; a prayer for guidance pre-eminently, and for God's aid. The worldly don't want God's hand with them; it is apt to stop the flow of their purposes and schemes. But the devout want God to be a partner in all their business. "And to keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me." Here is an illusion to his name. And probably the prayer means, "Disappoint a mother's fears, and let not harm overtake me." In estimating aright the worth of this prayer, the following suggestion may be of value: - Only those prayers are vital and real which, like this, combine requests for outward and inward good. When you pray, say," Give us daily bread, and forgive us our debts." If you omit to ask for the bread, you may be pretty sure it is not the greatness of your spirituality that omits the request, but only the littleness of your faith, which makes you imagine God can do nothing so substantial as bless you in your common needs. What is wanted by all of us is goodness rather than spirituality, and a religion of common life rather than a strained, unnatural pietism. Jabez had grand faith that God ruled in common life, was lowly enough to bless him, and to help him in his work. Observe, lastly -
IV. THE LORD'S ANSWER. It came to him. Came so palpably that all could see it, that it was a matter of history, that it taught others that they had a Friend above, and led them to the throne of grace. Blessed is the circle in which somebody prays! Pray on. You will not need to proclaim the answers you receive; your neighbours will see it for themselves. And your prayer will thus be doubly blessed. It will secure for you the good you desire, and will guide many another to the throne of the heavenly grace, to get there the blessings which they require. - G.
Parallel VersesKJV: And Jabez was more honourable than his brethren: and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, Because I bare him with sorrow.