Summary: Let us dare to combat evil.
Yesterday, we experienced the fury of Typhoon Ondoy. It was flooded everywhere. Many families were evacuated. I got a lot of text messages, asking for prayers for friends or relatives caught in the massive flooding. I also had the chance yesterday to pray on the air over Christian radio 702 DZAS for our nation and the victims of the calamity. Allow me to show you a video that Brother Ken took yesterday during the flood at its highest. While I was reflecting on this, I remembered this quote: “A man stood before God, his heart breaking from the pain, sin, and injustice in the world. He cried out, ‘Dear God. Look at all the suffering, anguish in your world. Why don’t you send help?’ God responded, ‘I did send help. I sent you.’” Let us take the time to pray for all of us who were devastated by the storm. May God use our church to be a channel of His blessings to others! Let us pray…
We are now concluding our series on the prayer of Jabez. Once again, let us 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.” Jabez first prayed, “Oh, that you would bless me”. So, I dared you to channel God’s blessings. Then, he prayed, “enlarge my territory”. That’s why I dared you to conquer challenges. Last week we looked at the third request. “Let your hand be with me”. I dared you to connect with His power. This morning we will look at the fourth and final request: “keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” Today I would like to dare you to COMBAT evil.
Verse 9 gave us a glimpse about the meaning of his name. “His mother had named him Jabez, saying, ‘I gave birth to him in pain.’” It was a word play. The name “Jabez” sounds much like the Hebrew word for “pain.” The name “Jabez” means “he causes pain or he caused pain.” We just don’t know what pain he caused his mother that led her to give him a name that rhymes with pain. Thus, it is fitting that Jabez would pray, “keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.”
Literally, his prayer read this way: “that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!” Someone wrote that basically this is what Jabez was asking God: “Let me not experience the grief which my name implies, and which my sins may well produce.” It appears that he is not just praying that God would keep him safe or protect him as he conquers the territory that God allotted for him in Canaan. “It is true that the Hebrew word [for ‘evil’] may mean physical calamity or natural disaster, as well as moral evil. However, both the prayer itself and the larger context of the Books of Chronicles argue that it is the moral sense that is in view. One of the points made throughout the narratives in Chronicles is that many of the kings of Israel/Judah started out well, but at some point committed a moral evil that had disastrous effects on the people as a whole.” For example, it was said of King Rehoboam that “He did evil because he had not set his heart on seeking the Lord.” Looking at this verse, it appears that Jabez had set his heart on seeking the Lord. That’s why instead of doing evil, he prayed that God would keep him from evil. So, the prayer of Jabez was more of a plea for purity. It was a commitment to combat evil. On what are we setting our hearts to seek?
The reason why the Jews had to drive the pagan inhabitants out of the Promised Land was due to their evil influence. Jabez accomplished his part of the mission. But sadly most of the people failed in their mission. In fact, the writer of Chronicles noted that, “There were still some people living in the land who were not Israelites, including Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. These were descendants of the nations that Israel had not completely destroyed.” These people have tempted the Jews to worship false gods. Instead of combating evil, the Jews compromised their faith. That’s one of the reasons why 1 Chronicles commended Jabez as “more honorable than his brothers.” He made a commitment to combat evil.
Remember that the original readers of 1 and 2 Chronicles were those who just returned to the Promised Land. It’s a reminder to them that the reason why God exiled them was “Because they have forsaken the Lord, the God of their fathers, who brought them out of Egypt, and have embraced other gods, worshiping and serving them—that is why he brought all this disaster on them.” It is also interesting the Hebrew word for “evil” in “You would keep me from evil” is the same word used in 2 Chronicles 7:14 for “wicked ways”: “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” So, when they read the prayer of Jabez, it was a dare to them to combat evil.