FFF 11:2 (Feb 1965)
More Honourable Than His Brethren
A list of the descendants of Judah appears in 1 Chronicles 4. However, the list is interrupted about one-fourth of the way through by a brief but blessed revelation concerning one who is mentioned only here in the Bible — Jabez, a man of singular distinction.
The Holy Spirit’s ‘biography of this little-known Old Testament character may be considered from a threefold standpoint, the first being:
The Prominence of Jabez
Jabbez is described as “more honourable than his brethren” (v. 9). A number of times I have stood in the St. Louis County Court House looking at the names of various magistrates inscribed on brass plaques with the abbreviated title “Hon.” before each name. Contemplating the different names I have often wondered how many of those men are really honourable. What was it that made Jabez such an honourable man, and this, in the sight of God? It was not due to anything the world would acclaim. If he was a man of position, possessions, prestige or the like, the Spirit of God makes no note of it. Rather, the Holy Spirit alludes to one characteristic only — Jabez called upon God in prayer. All believers are exhorted to do this (cf. Ps. 50:15; Isa. 55:6; Jer. 33:3), and what a glorious privilege it is, but whether we do so or not is another matter. One thing, such is pleasing to God and always receives its answer in time. Is it your daily habit to call upon Him in prayer?
The name Jabez means “sorrowful’ or “he causes sorrow.” Some particular distress must have accompanied his birth, and so great was this sorrow that the joy of having a son did not erase it from his mother’s mind.
Reginald White suggests that since Jabez comes into this chapter unheralded and unrelated, having no lot, possession, pedigree or ancestry, that perhaps evil ways ruined the family fortunes, broke the mother’s heart, and brought shame and disgrace on the family name, the same continuing to blight the honour and life of the home (They Teach Us to Pray, pp. 53-54).
At any rate, his mother named him “Jabez” perhaps, as Matthew Henry has suggested, to continually remind her to give thanks to God for bringing her through her sorrow; to cause her son in later years to keep in mind that this world, into which she bore him, is a vale of tears (see Job 5:7); and also to remind him to think upon his mother, to love and honour her, and in everything to seek to be a comfort to her who had brought him into the world midst so much sorrow (Commentary on the Whole Bible, p. 436). Whatever this great sorrow may have been, it is evident that any fears she may have had as to how her son would turn out were utterly needless and happily disappointed in later years.
The second thing of particular note is:
The Prayer of Jabez
Although Jabez addressed his prayer to the God of Israel as one who was under the old covenant of the law, it is well to remember that the God of Israel is the God of the Christian today and that there are definite lessons for us to learn from the experiences of those who lived in a past dispensation (see 1 Cor. 10:11).
Someone has anonymously written: “Judging the case within the narrow limits of the history given in verses nine and ten, it would seem as if Jabez started life in an act of prayer. The image is at once graphic and beautiful; think of a young man standing at the door of his house, looking abroad at the unknown and unmeasured world, listening to the conflicting voices which troubled his native air, and then turning his eyes to Heaven and asking divine direction, before he would take a single step from the threshold of his home.”
Matthew Henry has said of Jabez at this point: “He does, as it were, give God a blank paper, let Him write what He pleases: ‘Lord, if thou wilt bless me and keep me, do what Thou wilt with me, I will be at Thy command and disposal for ever’” (Ibid., p. 436).
Though intensely personal, Jabez’s prayer is not selfish if it is under-stood in its Hebrew setting. Five words keynote the content of his fervent supplication, the first being:
Prosperity. Actually, Jabez begins his prayer in the form of a condition, and literally prays, “If indeed Thou wilt bless me… .” The consequence is not expressed. Here was a man who sensed his dependence on God, and who sincerely desired and sought Jehovah’s blessing. The closing words of verse ten confirm the purity of his motive and his readiness to fully submit to the divine will.
Progress. “Enlarge my coast,” Jabez cried. Many of God’s people are content to live on a low spiritual level. Such are still living on milk when they ought to be desiring, delighting in and digesting strong meat (see Heb. 5:12-14). Jabez wanted enlargement. He wanted to go on with God: to grow spiritually. Is this our sincere desire? The Apostle Peter exhorted, “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18).
Presence. “And that Thine hand might be with me,” prayed Jabez. In both the Old and New Testaments the Lord has promised to be with His people (e.g., Deut. 31:8; Josh. 1:9; Matt. 28:20; Heb. 13:5). We can always reckon on the fact of His presence with us, but it would appear that something more is involved here, and so in our own experience. The Lord’s presence should be a force, something definitely and daily sensed in the life; something real to each believer. And dare we set our hand to this or that task except it be with a consciousness that God’s hand is with us (see John 15:5)?
Protection. “And that Thou wouldest keep me from evil.” Thus did Jabez continue to supplicate the living and true God. The great enemies of the believer are the world, the flesh and the devil. How intensely important that we should be guarded from these subtle and sinful influences and be strengthened to resist the attacks of the evil one. Today, by means of the Word of God and the indwelling Spirit of God, every resource of heaven itself has been granted to us in order that we might know and realize victory in the life.
Are we those who eschew evil and truly hunger after holiness?
Pleasure. Jabez closes his prayer with the request, “That it may not grieve me!” God intends that we be glad, not grieved (see John 15:11). Even midst the trials of this earthly scene it is possible to know the joy of the Lord, and this, through prayer (John 16:24; see 1 Pet. 1:6-9).
We come now to the last main thing about this honourable and honoured Old Testament saint, and that is:
The Portion of Jabez
Someone has said, “The greatest saints are the asking saints.” By this standard, then, Jabez was among the greatest saints, for we read, “And God granted him that which he requested.” Would we be honourable in God’s sight? Would we know the blessing of the Lord? Would we live pleasing to Him? Then let us pray as Jabez did — in sincerity and in truth.
To earnestly desire God’s blessing, spiritual growth, a sense of the Lord’s abiding presence, to eschew evil and to experience the fulness of His joy — this is what makes one honourable in the sight of God.
And the Lord has promised, “For them that honour Me I will honour “ (1 Sam. 2:30).