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.…
Of the man Jabez we have only this brief record. He is only known by his prayer. Yet the prayer is a sufficient revelation of the man. His character is revealed in it, as is the character of every man to him who is able to read man's prayers aright. His name means "He causes pain," and it was attached to him on account of his mother's sufferings at his birth; but it is designed to seal a certain gentleness, lack of vigour and self assertion, and almost melancholy tone, which characterized his whole life. From the occurrence of the same name in 1 Chronicles 2:55, it has been assumed that this Jabez was the founder of the schools of colleges of the scribes. The date at which he lived cannot be fixed with certainty. Possibly the sorrow of Jabez's birth was, that his mother lost her husband when she gained her son. If so, she might well name her fatherless boy "Sorrowful. Yet he rose above the sadness of his birth; he belied his very name by becoming more honourable than his brethren. The shadow which had fallen upon his birth was dispelled by the uprightness, the nobility, the God-fearing, the prayerful spirit of his life. And God made to rest on him gracious signs of his acceptance. Regarding the prayer as giving indications of the character of Jabez, we may see -
I. THAT JABEZ WAS HUMBLE. Estimate the tone of the prayer. He has such a sense of personal helplessness, and such a trembling fear of responsibility, that he asks for guidance and keeping, and the true enrichment of the Divine blessing. He prays for strength, preservation, success, and blessing, as though a very deep sense of his own weakness and insufficiency rested upon him. Such humility" is the marked feature of every truly good and great and wise man; and it is sure to find its fullest expression when, for purposes of prayer, he goes into the presence of God. Illustrate from Abraham's intercession for Sodom, Solomon's prayer at the dedication of the temple, and Daniel's and Nehemiah's prayers for their nation. And, combined with other characteristics, the same "humility" is found in our Lord's great intercessory prayer; and we know that it was a marked and striking feature of his beautiful life. Such "humility" is a first and essential characteristic of acceptable prayer; and the attitude of kneeling is the bodily expression of it.
II. THAT JABEZ WAS INTELLIGENT AND THOUGHTFUL. The prayer shows that he had formed a sensible estimate of life. To him it was a scene of toil and struggle and evil; it seemed to be full of work, duties, responsibilities, cares, and trusts; and for it all he recognized the need of a guiding and upholding hand. Illustrate by our Lord's figure of the man who proposed to build, sitting down first and counting the cost. The man may discover no need for prayer who rushes heedlessly into life, only intending to do the best he can under the various circumstances that may arise. But he who looks thoughtfully out over life, and intelligently anticipates its duties and cares, will be sure to feel the importance and helpfulness of prayer, and, with Jabez, will turn to God, saying, "Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed!" Compare Moses praying, "If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence;" and Joshua's resolve, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."
III. THAT JABEZ WAS, IN A GOOD SENSE, AMBITIOUS. His piety did not crush down the high imaginations and glowing hopes of his young heart. He prays God to help him "enlarge his coast," or landed estate; to extend his possessions, to increase his wealth, and to advance his influence. Religion seeks to sanctify our ambitions, but not to crush them. We may pray to God about our plans and schemes for worldly advancement, if only we keep the spirit of full loyalty to God and submission to his will; and to pray freely and constantly about our common human affairs is the best way to ensure our winning and keeping the right spirit whatever we may attain.
IV. THAT JABEZ WAS HAPPY. In spite of the melancholy tone that was on him; in spite of the sorrow clinging to him from his birth. This ensures our happiness - the accomplishment of our life-aims, when those aims are right ones. "God granted Jabez that which he requested." He had:
1. Success in life given him, so that he might add field to field, and become "more honourable than his brethren."
2. Evil warded off from him. In "going out and coming in," the preserving hand of God kept him safe.
3. God's blessing sanctifying his successes; by that term meaning the satisfying and comforting sense of the Divine approval and acceptance. It may be impressed that such a prayer indicates the personal piety of Jabez, and suggests that he made a full consecration of himself to the God of his fathers in early life. Plead for such a wholehearted decision, and such a spirit of prayerfulness, on the very threshold of life. It is well if, before the foot falls on the first step of life, the heart goes up to God, saying, "Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed!" - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: And Jabez was more honourable than his brethren: and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, Because I bare him with sorrow.