I Chronicles 4:5-5:17
This portion of scripture lists genealogical records, which are often skimmed over. There is a reason that God lists these records in scripture, but it does take in-depth study to figure out their significance. Tucked in the middle is the mention of Jabez. His name means sorrow, but sounds similar to the Hebrew word for pain. It is said that Jabez was more honorable than any of his brothers. What made him honorable? Scripture is unclear, but we do know that he prayed to the God of Israel and that his prayers were answered. He must have been a holy man who loved God.
Jabez prayed for four things. First, he prayed that God would bless him. The original Hebrew word means to kneel, which implies an act of adoration for God, but can also mean the opposite, an act of adoration for man as a benefit. It can also mean to congratulate or salute. Jabez was seeking God’s favor. We can ask for God’s favor. We can ask him to mold us and rid our lives of things that are displeasing to him. Just as a child seeks his father’s smile and approval, we too can seek the same thing from God.
He also prayed that God would expand his territory. He was asking for enlarged boundaries. Some would take this to the bank and teach a doctrine of prosperity. We can ask God to give us greater boundaries, but it will not always involve material wealth. God may expand your ministry to reach more for him. He may seek to give you a deeper walk with him and greater victories in the spiritual realm. And he may very well choose to give you greater material wealth.
The third thing that Jabez asked for was that God would be with him in all that he did. Do we ask God to be with us in all that we do? We know that he is always with us. Scripture says that he’ll never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6, 31:8, Joshua 1:5, and I Kings 8:57). But asking God to join us in all that we do mean our activities will come under his jurisdiction. Praying this prayer takes willingness on our part to have a God-driven agenda rather than a self-driven one. For some, it may even mean giving up a favorite past time that doesn’t conform to God’s standards of holiness.
The final aspect of Jabez’s prayer is interesting. The NIV reads like this: “keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” The King James Version is different. It says, “keep me from evil that it may not grieve me.” When I encounter translations that read so differently, I always go back to the original language. In this case, I busted out my Strong’s Concordance with Hebrew and Greek dictionaries. This is what I discovered. The word trouble in NIV and evil in King James can be translated as adversity, affliction, calamity, distress, evil, grief, harm, mischief, trouble, or wickedness. The word pain in the NIV and grieve in King James means to carve, as in fabricate or fashion in a bad way. It can also mean to worry, pain, anger, displease, grieve, hurt, make, be sorry or vex.
Jabez was most likely asking God to keep him from evil so that he would not be molded or fashioned by it. Wow! He did not want adversity, distress, evil, harm, etc. to mold his character and who he was. From his earlier request for God to bless him, it seems that Jabez was concerned with his character and being a man God would find pleasure in. After his prayer the next sentence tells us that God granted Jabez the things he requested.
Do you long for God as Jabez does? Do you desire to be molded into a man or woman who God can find favor with? Are you willing to live by a God-agenda instead of a self-agenda? If you do and ask God, he may very well grant your request.