Summary: Let us dare to channel God’s blessings.

Someone wrote, “Attempt great things for God. Ask great things from God.” I believe that is embodied in what has become known as the prayer of Jabez. Let’s read 1 Chronicles 4:9-10. “Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, ‘I gave birth to him in pain.’ Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, ‘Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.’ And God granted his request.”[1] I would like to dare you to pray a daring prayer, to ask great things from God. Let us first commit our time to the Lord…

The prayer of Jabez became both famous and notorious when Dr. Bruce Wilkinson released his “The Prayer of Jabez: Breaking Through to the Blessed Life” nine years ago. It sold over nine million copies and became an international bestseller, even topping the New York Times bestseller list.[2] However, a lot of negative reviews attacked the book. Personally, I think they just misunderstood the book and missed its over-all message. It is one of my favorite books and I even taught the companion seminar in different churches. It made a great impact in my life. In fact, years before the book came out, I preached on the prayer of Jabez. Thus, I believe we should not throw the baby with the bathwater. If we would check our Bibles, it is still there. And since it is in the word of God, we ought to take a look at it one more time and experience its blessed truths once again.

Who was this Jabez? We find his name in a list of names called genealogy, tracing the tribe of Judah. By the way, the Lord Jesus belongs to Judah and thus Jabez was His distant ancestor. When Ezra the scribe wrote 1 Chronicles, the Jewish nation just returned from the Babylonian captivity. Most of them were from the tribe of Judah. Here in 1 Chronicles chapter 4, Ezra was going through the list of names from the tribe of Judah. Then, instead of just moving on to the next name, he paused and gave a short tribute to Jabez. In verse 9 he tells us that “Jabez was more honorable than his brothers.” That says a lot about Jabez. Through the example of Jabez and others as well in 1 Chronicles, Ezra wanted “to encourage [Judah] and to remind them that they must remain the covenant people of God. This would remind the Jews of their spiritual heritage and identity during the difficult times they were facing… They demonstrate God’s keeping of His covenant promises in maintaining the Davidic line through the centuries.”[3] That’s why the book contained all these names. It was to give Judah a sense of history. “This book also taught that the past was pregnant with lessons for their present.”[4] Here we have a Filipino saying, “Ang hindi lumingon sa pinanggalingan ay hindi makakarating sa paroroonan.” He who never looks back can never go forward.

We only see his name mentioned three times in our passage and another one in 1 Chronicles 2:55 where it mentioned “the clans of scribes who lived at Jabez”. Scribes were those who “kept the court and government records”[5] or “experts in writing and copying documents”,[6] particularly the Old Testament scriptures. As I have mentioned, Ezra the author of 1 Chronicles was a scribe himself. In fact, he compiled our Old Testament. So, Jabez probably was a scribe, “an eminent doctor in the law, whose reputation drew so many scribes around him that a town was called by his name”.[7] It is said that he taught these scribes and that village was the school’s location. It “was celebrated as the home of scribes.”[8] He was so famous that 1 Chronicles did not bother with so many introductions about him. He just went on and described him as “more honorable than his brothers.” He may be obscure to most of us before “The Prayer of Jabez” book was published. But he was definitely well-known during the Old Testament times.

Verse 9 explains further that “His mother had named him Jabez, saying, ‘I gave birth to him in pain.’” The name “Jabez” means “he causes pain or he caused pain.” We don’t know whether it was his actual birth or the circumstances at the time of his birth that caused the pain. Someone even suggested that Jabez has a handicap. All we know is that there was a crisis at the time his mother gave birth, that his mother chose to memorialize the occasion of his birth by naming him with a name that sounds much like the Hebrew word for “pain”. I believe his mother named him as such to remember both the tears and the triumph.

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