the Church on the Hill
by D. Eric Williams
Pastor, Cottonwood Community Church
Much of what we receive from the Bible comes to us as example. In other words we discover principles in a particular context but must apply those precepts in a very different life and circumstance. For instance, the Bible says, If you come across your enemy's stray ox or donkey, you must return it to him. If you see the donkey of someone who hates you lying helpless under its load, and you want to refrain from helping it, you must help with it (Exodus 23:4-5). I've used this illustration before, but allow me to reiterate that even though we have replaced donkeys with Toyotas, we cannot pretend this law does not apply today. For instance, if the town gossip has lost her purse and you find it, you must return it even though she has done everything in her power to destroy your reputation. If you see her stranded along side the road with a flat tire, you need to pull over and lend a hand. In short, the principal of loving your enemy is set forth in the context of a particular culture and circumstance; we are required to use wisdom in applying the concept to our own situation.
It is the same with the “prayer of Jabez.” As we saw last week, Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother named him Jabez saying, "Because I bore him with pain." Now Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, "Oh that You would bless me indeed and enlarge my border, and that Your hand might be with me, and that You would keep me from harm that it may not pain me!" And God granted him what he requested (1 Chronicles 4:9-10). Rather than view these verses as a formula to be mechanically duplicated we should examine this passage in wisdom and discover how God would have us live it out in this modern age.
When God pronounced a curse upon the woman after Adam and Eve sinned, he said, I will intensify your labor pains; you will bear children in anguish (Genesis 3;16) and since that time childbirth has been attended by much pain. Because this is the common occurrence, it seems the mother of Jabez experienced some unusual pain or sorrow in conjunction with his birth (the Septuagint says, I have born him as a sorrowful one). In light of the rest of the passage, it may be that Jabez was born into a house of turmoil and strife. In any case, the circumstance of his birth was commemorated with a name that means pain and sorrow.
Yet Jabez sought to be a blessing. The Bible says he was a blessing, known as a man more honorable than his brothers, another indication his family may have been characterized by behavior producing pain and sorrow. But what of his pryer? Is it something we should automatically recite, expecting a similar result (and God granted his request)?
Well, the first blessing Jabez asked for was the expulsion of the Canaanites from his inheritance. This is the meaning of enlarge my border (literally, extend my territory). In other words, “get rid of my enemies so I can possess my entire inheritance.”
Secondly Jabez asked God to be with him so he might not experience adversity (literally, evil, misery, distress, injury). He was not asking God to keep him from being a pain, but to give him a life free from afflictions so calamity would not “pain” him (literally to hurt, pain or grieve). Because he was a godly man, God granted him what he requested. This is the key; Jabez was blessed because he was a godly man, not because he prayed a particular prayer.
More In Two Weeks.