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Search for your ancestors?
Searching for your past online is the hot new vogue. But brace your budget for the hit.
The growing urge to investigate one’s ancestors has spawned a genealogy industry that is still growing by leaps and bounds. An average annual cost equates to approximately £15,500 or $20,390 USD. It would seem that ancestor-hunting is a most popular pastime – after gardening.
In the bible there are about 25 genealogies listed – 23 in the Old Testament and 2 in the New Testament, all showing how God protected his covenant people throughout the centuries. Time is well spent in studying each one, instead of ‘skipping’ them as I have often done in the past. So saying, allow the character of Jabez to be presented in this blog. He didn’t spend a ‘shekel’ on searching for his family tree because he knew it off by heart; quickly appearing on the scene in 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 and then suddenly vanishing.
Chapter 4 is just part and parcel of a long list of genealogies with characters that have little comment attached to them, names that get a reader tongue-tied at pronouncing them and the whole attempt is monotonous, yet God in His wisdom presents different personalities to make us stop, think and be challenged.
The chapter begins: ‘The sons of Judah’, and lists 44 of them with our Jabez making his appearance on the world stage in verse 9, ‘And Jabez was more honourable than his brethren’, an expression recorded five times in the Old Testament.1 Could it be in respect of his wealth or his character? How did he cope with a name that meant ‘Sorrow/Pain’?
One thing is certain, he rose above his circumstances. He stood out in his day and certainly in this passage of scripture. It is interesting to note that this feature of his life comes before the reason why he was so named Jabez.
From the narrative, it would seem that his mother, who remains anonymous, bore him ‘with sorrow’. There is a play on his name in his prayer ‘that I may not cause pain’, which literally means, ‘that I may have no more sorrow’. By naming him ‘Jabez’, was it because of the personal or spiritual circumstances of his mother? That is debateable, but, for whatever reason, he was to carry that name for all his life and, despite this, he was more honourable than his brethren in the character he displayed before God and men and in his communion with God.
In passing, notice the way Jabez is introduced. The text is different to what has gone before and what follows. There is the repetition of ‘the son of’ or ‘sons of’ or ‘the firstborn’, or ‘the father of’ but none of these terms reflect this man. What he seems to lack in human companionship he made up for by communion with his God – the God of Israel.
Throughout the whole of scripture there are many examples of prayers that teach us to depend on God and call upon Him, but the prayer of Jabez, only thirty-two words as expressed in the NKJV account ,marks it out to be short, simple, sincere and spiritual and yet at the same time is inspiring and challenging for how we approach God with our requests.
The tenses imply that this was a continuous prayer. It was a prayer from the heart in line with God’s desire in relation to the nation as a whole and the Davidic kingdom in particular. Does this reflect upon ourselves? The Epistle of James reminds us that ‘The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much’.2
Also this son of Judah recognized the privilege of prayer being very specific in the expression of his need, as he called on the God of Israel.
In your imagination, hear the sound of his breathing as he breathes in and then deeply exhales on his first word ’Oh, that You would bless me indeed’… Was there a couple of seconds between the first and second word as he contemplated what to say? Also observe that his prayer suggests that there is nothing wrong with requesting God to bless him specifically, and throughout scripture there is an abundant evidence that God delights to bless His people.
Jabez then continues requesting that God might ‘enlarge his coast’, to widen his vision and for his boundaries to be extended. He sought God’s provision of the geographical and territorial. There is the challenge for us to pray for divine provision, not for territorial gain, but that God might enlarge our spiritual boundaries!
Apart from divine provision, Jabez sought for a sense of the divine presence, ‘that Your hand might be with me’. He demonstrated complete dependence upon God. He may have sought boundaries from the Lord but there is nothing greater than to enjoy fellowship with the living God. He also prayed for divine preservation and protection, “and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!” My preference for the latter part of this sentence is ‘and keep me from all trouble and pain’ which is from the New Living Translation.
The God of Israel has not changed and He is fully aware of our situations and circumstances and only eternity will reveal in what ways the prayer of Jabez was answered.
May we feel the challenge that the inspired record of Jabez brings, and reflect upon our prayer life in these difficult times, and be careful to give Him the glory should He see fit to grant our requests!
Tags: 1 The Bible NKJV Gen. 34:19; Num. 22:15;
2 Sam. 23:19; 1 Chr. 4:9; 1 Chr. 11:21. 2 James 5:16.
The Guardian. BBC News. Precious Seed International.