1 Chronicles 4:1-20 (Part 5 of 5)

Other Descendants of Judah

As some of you readers may know from being with me in my blogs over the past 7 years, I jog and walk in the mornings. I used to do my jogs/walks 6 days a week but now that my weight is in the 180s, here in the last year, I have cut back to 3 days a week. I walk an 1/8 of a mile and jog an 1/8 of a mile for each quarter mile of the 10+ miles I do each time I go out. I do my exercise from 5am in the morning until 7am each time. It is dark and lonely out there each time in this little small town that we now live in. It was difficult at first to figure out how to get that much mileage in within the town limits (where all the streetlights are) but it is doable with doubling back over the same parts of my route in various parts of town.

There are some dark areas of my pattern in parts of town where there are abandoned buildings (as this town is living its post tobacco center years and is still trying to recapture what was once a much more vibrant small town). You see it a lot in the small farming towns of the Pee Dee region of our state. What were once vibrant farming centers with busy little business districts are now struggling with the urbanization of our state. People are leaving the small farming towns and going to the larger cities of our state such as Greenville, Columbia, Charleston, Myrtle Beach and so on. The jobs are no longer in farming and there is less to keep people in these small towns. Lamar is no different. Farming is so mechanized now, there is simply fewer people needed to do it. People leave to go where the jobs are. Although there are many forward thinking, wonderful people in this town, it is at a crossroads in its post-farming development. We must find some type of industry to sustain our town into the future. Right here off Interstate 20 and near Interstate 95, Lamar is perfectly situated for such industry to come, if it would just come. If a manufacturer would see the potential and just come.

In the meantime, there are several places around town where there are abandoned building and even abandoned homes. There is one place at the edge of town where there is an old abandoned building that I run by each time I go on my morning exercise in the dark that just gives me a weird feeling as I run by it. Maybe it’s just me being weirdly paranoid because nothing has even given me a reason to jump as I have gone by this building. No animals have jumped out of the building as I have passed by. No weird noises or anything. But too much Stephen King’s “It” over the years with abandoned buildings, I can blame that! LOL!

But when I pass by it, there is a sense of uneasiness that creeps into my soul each time I pass it. A sense that something evil resides in that dark, abandoned building. Maybe it’s because it’s dark. Because I do not feel that feeling when I jog past this place when I have jogged during the day on my days off from the office at church. But in the early morning dark hours, there is just a sense of something not right, some evil presence when I run past there. Call me paranoid. I know that if I explored the old building I would learn once and for all that there is nothing there. But I don’t have time for that, even in the daytime. So, when I jog past this old dilapidated, decaying, and abandoned building, I invoke the name of Jesus. I chant “in the name of Jesus, He protects me” over and over as I jog past it the first time during my jog and again the second time. There’s a part of me that thinks I am just being overly paranoid and just plain stupid but whatever the reason, even if there is really something evil that dwells there, the uneasiness as I pass this building drains away when I invoke my chant of protection from the mere name of Jesus Christ. It tells us in God’s Word that every knee shall bow at the name of Jesus. Mark 3:11 tells us that “And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, ‘You are the Son of God.’” As we are children of Christ Jesus, He will protect us. When we fully believe in Him, submitted to His leadership of our lives, and fully believe in His power over all things, we are protected.

There is something to be said about having full faith in the power of who Jesus Christ is as we move through this life on this side of eternity. It is when we give evil a sit in the theatre of our hearts that it gains its power over us. With that idea of having full faith in the power of Jesus Christ, let’s read the passage, 1 Chronicles 4:1-20, now:

Chapter 4

1 The descendants of Judah were Perez, Hezron, Carmi, Hur, and Shobal.

2 Shobal’s son Reaiah was the father of Jahath. Jahath was the father of Ahumai and Lahad. These were the families of the Zorathites.

3 The descendants of[a] Etam were Jezreel, Ishma, Idbash, their sister Hazzelelponi, 4 Penuel (the father of[b] Gedor), and Ezer (the father of Hushah). These were the descendants of Hur (the firstborn of Ephrathah), the ancestor of Bethlehem.

5 Ashhur (the father of Tekoa) had two wives, named Helah and Naarah. 6 Naarah gave birth to Ahuzzam, Hepher, Temeni, and Haahashtari. 7 Helah gave birth to Zereth, Izhar,[c] Ethnan, 8 and Koz, who became the ancestor of Anub, Zobebah, and all the families of Aharhel son of Harum.

9 There was a man named Jabez who was more honorable than any of his brothers. His mother named him Jabez[d] because his birth had been so painful. 10 He was the one who prayed to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and expand my territory! Please be with me in all that I do, and keep me from all trouble and pain!” And God granted him his request.

11 Kelub (the brother of Shuhah) was the father of Mehir. Mehir was the father of Eshton. 12 Eshton was the father of Beth-rapha, Paseah, and Tehinnah. Tehinnah was the father of Ir-nahash. These were the descendants of Recah.

13 The sons of Kenaz were Othniel and Seraiah. Othniel’s sons were Hathath and Meonothai.[e] 14 Meonothai was the father of Ophrah. Seraiah was the father of Joab, the founder of the Valley of Craftsmen,[f] so called because they were craftsmen.

15 The sons of Caleb son of Jephunneh were Iru, Elah, and Naam. The son of Elah was Kenaz.

16 The sons of Jehallelel were Ziph, Ziphah, Tiria, and Asarel.

17 The sons of Ezrah were Jether, Mered, Epher, and Jalon. One of Mered’s wives became[g] the mother of Miriam, Shammai, and Ishbah (the father of Eshtemoa). 18 He married a woman from Judah, who became the mother of Jered (the father of Gedor), Heber (the father of Soco), and Jekuthiel (the father of Zanoah). Mered also married Bithia, a daughter of Pharaoh, and she bore him children.

19 Hodiah’s wife was the sister of Naham. One of her sons was the father of Keilah the Garmite, and another was the father of Eshtemoa the Maacathite.

20 The sons of Shimon were Amnon, Rinnah, Ben-hanan, and Tilon.

The descendants of Ishi were Zoheth and Ben-zoheth.

In this passage, we see that Jabez makes his most important petition of all and he saves it for last. None of the other petitions will happen if this petition does not happen. He will not be blessed if he falls into evil. God will not grant him more territory if he falls into evil. As we have seen from Israel, when they began practicing their evil ways, their territory was literally reduced until their nation was no more. If we ask the Lord to be with us in all that we do, we will stray or depart from Him when we are seduced by evil. Thus, this petition is the most important one. To be kept from evil.

I think my own little illustration is an important demonstration of what we believe about evil and evil spirits. We know repeatedly from the New Testament that Jesus had power over demons. They cowered in His presence. It is thus we who gives evil its power in our lives. Movies and books about demons and evil in general try to tell us that evil is equal to or more powerful than the powers of good or the power of God. This is simply not true. In the real world, Satan and his minions are subject to Jesus Christ. They are created beings. Jesus is part of the eternal Godhead that has existed since before creation and it is through Him that all things were made. It is us who gives Satan his power in our lives. It is us who gives evil its stranglehold in our lives.

So, when Jabez makes this final petition, He is committing to keeping his focus on God. He is committing to believe that God has power and dominion over evil and over Satan. He is asking God to help him remember that. He is asking for God’s help to keep him focused on the fact that everything else falls into place when we align our thoughts and hearts with the fact that God is sovereignly supreme over everything in our lives. We will be kept from evil when we keep our thoughts on God. We will be protected from evil when we think on godly things, when we seek to do God’s will. It’s when we take our eyes off Him that we are susceptible to evil.

So, call me whacky. Call me goofy. Call me childish. But when I have uneasiness in the dark, I will continue to invoke the name of Jesus and claim it that He will protect me from evil when I feel scared or uneasy. He is the king of my heart. He is the source of my strength. When I keep my eyes on Him instead of the waves, I will be kept from evil. I will be protected. And I am not just talking about during pre-dawn jogs around town. When I keep my eyes on Him, fully believe in Him, align my will with His, I will be kept from evil. I am reminded of that currently popular Christian contemporary song, King of My Heart, by Bethel Music. Its lyrics go like this:

Let the King of my heart

Be the mountain where I run

The fountain I drink from

Oh, He is my song

Let the King of my heart

Be the shadow where I hide

The ransom for my life

Oh, He is my song

‘Cause You are good

You are good, oh oh

You are good

You are good, oh oh

You are good

You are good, oh oh

You are good

You are good, oh oh

And let the King of my heart

Be the wind inside my sails

The anchor in the waves

Oh oh, He is my song

Let the King of my heart

Be the fire inside my veins

The echo of my days

Oh oh, He is my song

Let the King of my heart

Be the wind inside my sails

The anchor in the waves

Oh oh, He is my song

Let the King of my heart

Be the fire inside my veins

The echo of my days

Oh, He is my song

‘Cause You are good

You are good, oh oh

You are good

You are good, oh…

Oh, Lord,  I pray as Jabez prayed. Oh that you would keep me from evil. In the name of Jesus, He protects me for He is the King of my heart. All things and all beings created are subject to Him. He is the song in my heart.

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 4:1-20 (Part 4 of 5)

Other Descendants of Judah

Yesterday, I began a new sermon series called “An Uncommon Family”. In this series, we will be looking at each member of The Holy Family (Joseph, Mary, and Jesus). Yesterday, we started with Joseph. In that sermon, I spoke about how startling it is that, in a manner of the first two chapters of the Gospel of Matthew, Joseph has a vision from the Lord no less than 4 times. The dude had a hotline to the Lord, it seems. He was in-tune with the Lord enough to have heard directly from an angel of the Lord 4 times. Even more amazing was the faith that Joseph had in the Lord such that he obeyed everything that the angel commanded each time. Because we have made the nativity story so commercialized and romanticized, we forget that Joseph had some tough decisions to make. He did not have the hindsight that we have. He was making his decisions in real time. He did not have the script to the nativity scene as we do. He was living all this out in the present moment. His choices were based on the faith that He had in the Lord. His faith led to immediate obedience to what He had been told.

I reasoned in the sermon that most likely the reason that Joseph heard from the Lord so often was that he was a man of extraordinary faith. He was a man who made the Lord a part of everything he did in his everyday life. I further reasoned that sometimes in our busy 21st century world, the reason that we do not hear from the Lord as often as Joseph is that we are less intimate with the Lord than Joseph. We let the white noise of the world around distract us from being intimate with the Lord. We let mortgages and car payments and appointments and kids sports and our favorite college or pro sports team or NASCAR or whatever it is get in the way of putting the Lord on the throne of our hearts. We are not intimate with the Lord because we don’t pay Him the attention that we should. We may say that we put the Lord first in our lives but, in reality, there are more things ahead of God in importance to us than we care to admit or mention.

That is what is striking to me this morning as I read the phrase of Jabez’s prayer where he asks that the Lord be with him in all that he does. That means Jabez wants the Lord to be part of the everyday things, the day-to-day, hour-to-hour things just like I reasoned that was the case with Joseph. In order for Jabez to have the Lord be a part of everything, he must be the focus of everything that we do from the time we get up until we go to bed regardless of what our vocation or profession is. We must make the Lord primary in everything we do in order for Him to be with us in everything we do. With that idea of making God the primary focus of everything we do, let’s read the passage, 1 Chronicles 4:1-20, now:

Chapter 4

1 The descendants of Judah were Perez, Hezron, Carmi, Hur, and Shobal.

2 Shobal’s son Reaiah was the father of Jahath. Jahath was the father of Ahumai and Lahad. These were the families of the Zorathites.

3 The descendants of[a] Etam were Jezreel, Ishma, Idbash, their sister Hazzelelponi, 4 Penuel (the father of[b] Gedor), and Ezer (the father of Hushah). These were the descendants of Hur (the firstborn of Ephrathah), the ancestor of Bethlehem.

5 Ashhur (the father of Tekoa) had two wives, named Helah and Naarah. 6 Naarah gave birth to Ahuzzam, Hepher, Temeni, and Haahashtari. 7 Helah gave birth to Zereth, Izhar,[c] Ethnan, 8 and Koz, who became the ancestor of Anub, Zobebah, and all the families of Aharhel son of Harum.

9 There was a man named Jabez who was more honorable than any of his brothers. His mother named him Jabez[d] because his birth had been so painful. 10 He was the one who prayed to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and expand my territory! Please be with me in all that I do, and keep me from all trouble and pain!” And God granted him his request.

11 Kelub (the brother of Shuhah) was the father of Mehir. Mehir was the father of Eshton. 12 Eshton was the father of Beth-rapha, Paseah, and Tehinnah. Tehinnah was the father of Ir-nahash. These were the descendants of Recah.

13 The sons of Kenaz were Othniel and Seraiah. Othniel’s sons were Hathath and Meonothai.[e] 14 Meonothai was the father of Ophrah. Seraiah was the father of Joab, the founder of the Valley of Craftsmen,[f] so called because they were craftsmen.

15 The sons of Caleb son of Jephunneh were Iru, Elah, and Naam. The son of Elah was Kenaz.

16 The sons of Jehallelel were Ziph, Ziphah, Tiria, and Asarel.

17 The sons of Ezrah were Jether, Mered, Epher, and Jalon. One of Mered’s wives became[g] the mother of Miriam, Shammai, and Ishbah (the father of Eshtemoa). 18 He married a woman from Judah, who became the mother of Jered (the father of Gedor), Heber (the father of Soco), and Jekuthiel (the father of Zanoah). Mered also married Bithia, a daughter of Pharaoh, and she bore him children.

19 Hodiah’s wife was the sister of Naham. One of her sons was the father of Keilah the Garmite, and another was the father of Eshtemoa the Maacathite.

20 The sons of Shimon were Amnon, Rinnah, Ben-hanan, and Tilon.

The descendants of Ishi were Zoheth and Ben-zoheth.

In this passage, we see that, in this unique side story of Jabez in an otherwise simple recitation of names in genealogies, Jabez asks that the Lord be with him in everything he does. That’s an invitation for intimacy that is more for Jabez’s sake than it is for the Lord. The Lord is with us and around us at all times. He is the boundless, timeless Creator of all things, including each one of us. Therefore, He is everywhere, all around us, all the time. He does not have to be invited to be near us or around is. He already is. He is God. We do not control Him like a valve that we turn to the open or shut position. He is there.

Thus, what Jabez is saying is that he is committing to recognizing the fact that God is there in everything that he does. He is committing to making himself cognizant of this fact at every moment of every day. He is committing to making God the primary focus of his life each and every day in everything that he does. He is going to give God glory for everything. He is going to be intimate with God in every moment of every day. That’s where deep faith begins. That’s where Joseph was in the nativity story. That’s where Jabez is in this prayer. Both men have great faith and that faith results from recognizing God in everything that we do. That comes from making God part of everything that we do. That comes from being intimate with God, recognizing Him in everything and paying attention to Him in everything. Who is on the throne of your heart today? Is it God or is it something of this world?

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 4:1-20 (Part 3 of 5)

Other Descendants of Judah

At this time of year in the world of college football, there are firings of coaches whose teams have underperformed to expectations from alumni and fans. Some college teams that you see out there, it just seems that there are systemic problems that have to be solved. For example, the once mighty programs at Florida State and University Miami and competitive programs like University of South Carolina all seem to be in a state of disarray. There are others out there in a similar state where coaching changes have either been made or need to be made. In each of these cases, the problems run deep. In each of these cases, the culture of the program needs to changed.

For us who are fans of the Clemson University Tiger football program, we are riding high right now. The Tigers are right now in the midst of the possibility of a fifth straight ACC title and a fifth straight trip to the College Football Playoffs. The Tigers have won 6 ACC titles in the last 9 season and have played in the conference championship game 7 times in the last 11 years. We are in the midst of our 10th straight season of 10 wins or more. The Tigers have won 115 or so games this decade. Only Alabama and Ohio State can match that. These are heady times to be a Tiger fan.

But it has not always been this way. The Tigers have had eras of greatness (though not to the extent they have now) during the 1940s, again in the 50’s, and then from 1977-1992. But from 1993 until 2009, they were mired in mediocrity and expectations from those championship days of the late 70s through the early 90s gradually lowered to the point that we no longer even considered ourselves championship material. We expected and we got mediocrity in the program. We no longer saw ourselves as champions. We saw ourselves as a middle of the pack team with no hope of rising to greatness again. We sold ourselves short as a fan base and as a football program. It was not until Coach Swinney became head coach and he started talking about things we no longer talked about. He started talking about championships. He went about changing the culture of mediocrity. It was more than talk. It took several years to get the program back to prominence, but it began with his passion to change the culture of the program. You have to believe you are a winner before you can become one.

When I think about my own church that I began pastoring 6 months ago, I think about Coach Swinney and his “changing the culture” because it applies to small town Methodist church life just as much as it does to a major college football program. Here, before we can become a more impactful church for the kingdom, we first must believe that we can. So often, in churches today, we have come to expect that we can no longer grow. We have come to expect that we “can’t” because we are small. We come to expect that we can’t achieve great dreams because we simply don’t have the people and the resources. When that attitude grips a church, you begin to accept less than excellent. You begin to accept that you are a second-tier bowl team and not a New Year’s Day bowl team. You begin to accept that you cannot do whatever it is. You accept second best. You do not have the belief that the dreams that you have in your mind can become a reality. You accept that the hard work required is just too hard. You have to change the culture.

That is what I have been about these past six months and will continue to be a challenger and a cheerleader for our people. To change the idea that “we can’t” to “we can”. To change the idea of “it’s too hard” to “well, there’s a challenge for sure, but we CAN DO IT!” That’s what I think about when I think of the part of Jabez’s prayer where he asks for his territory to be expanded. With that idea of changing the culture, let’s read the passage, 1 Chronicles 4:1-20, now:

Chapter 4

1 The descendants of Judah were Perez, Hezron, Carmi, Hur, and Shobal.

2 Shobal’s son Reaiah was the father of Jahath. Jahath was the father of Ahumai and Lahad. These were the families of the Zorathites.

3 The descendants of[a] Etam were Jezreel, Ishma, Idbash, their sister Hazzelelponi, 4 Penuel (the father of[b] Gedor), and Ezer (the father of Hushah). These were the descendants of Hur (the firstborn of Ephrathah), the ancestor of Bethlehem.

5 Ashhur (the father of Tekoa) had two wives, named Helah and Naarah. 6 Naarah gave birth to Ahuzzam, Hepher, Temeni, and Haahashtari. 7 Helah gave birth to Zereth, Izhar,[c] Ethnan, 8 and Koz, who became the ancestor of Anub, Zobebah, and all the families of Aharhel son of Harum.

9 There was a man named Jabez who was more honorable than any of his brothers. His mother named him Jabez[d] because his birth had been so painful. 10 He was the one who prayed to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and expand my territory! Please be with me in all that I do, and keep me from all trouble and pain!” And God granted him his request.

11 Kelub (the brother of Shuhah) was the father of Mehir. Mehir was the father of Eshton. 12 Eshton was the father of Beth-rapha, Paseah, and Tehinnah. Tehinnah was the father of Ir-nahash. These were the descendants of Recah.

13 The sons of Kenaz were Othniel and Seraiah. Othniel’s sons were Hathath and Meonothai.[e] 14 Meonothai was the father of Ophrah. Seraiah was the father of Joab, the founder of the Valley of Craftsmen,[f] so called because they were craftsmen.

15 The sons of Caleb son of Jephunneh were Iru, Elah, and Naam. The son of Elah was Kenaz.

16 The sons of Jehallelel were Ziph, Ziphah, Tiria, and Asarel.

17 The sons of Ezrah were Jether, Mered, Epher, and Jalon. One of Mered’s wives became[g] the mother of Miriam, Shammai, and Ishbah (the father of Eshtemoa). 18 He married a woman from Judah, who became the mother of Jered (the father of Gedor), Heber (the father of Soco), and Jekuthiel (the father of Zanoah). Mered also married Bithia, a daughter of Pharaoh, and she bore him children.

19 Hodiah’s wife was the sister of Naham. One of her sons was the father of Keilah the Garmite, and another was the father of Eshtemoa the Maacathite.

20 The sons of Shimon were Amnon, Rinnah, Ben-hanan, and Tilon.

The descendants of Ishi were Zoheth and Ben-zoheth.

In this passage, you will note that Jabez asks God to expand his territory. To expand means to widen, to enlarge, to increase, to add on to that which is already existing. In the history of Israel, Jabez lived just after the dividing of the Promised Land into portions for each tribe.  As he looked over the spread his family had passed down to him, he calculated the potential and made a decision: “Everything you’ve put under my care, O Lord, take it and enlarge it.” He wanted to expand beyond what was known to the present and past generations. He wanted to expand beyond what was even known to him. Jabez, wanted to stretch out for more. Although, it is not recorded why Jabez asked for an expanded territory, nor is it recorded what prompted Jabez to ask God for more. What is recorded, is the faith of Jabez to ask God for enlarged borders. Jabez had the faith to ask beyond his current situation.

What we must have in our church and many like it today is the belief that through God we can accomplish anything. We must believe that God has not assigned us to second best. We must believe that God has great things in store for us. We must believe that God will grant us the resources, the people, and especially the passion to do great things for the kingdom. We must believe that we are capable of being a championship church. We must believe that in striving for the things that seem impossible and we don’t have anything but a belief that WE CAN is where we must have great faith that God will grant us what we need if our desires are in alignment with His designs for our church.

We have come to believe that we must accept second best. We must accept less than because we have sold our God short. God parted the waters for Moses because Moses had full faith in God to pull off a miracle. To be a championship church, we must believe we have championship potential. Back in 2009, when Clemson was 3-3 and mired in mediocrity for a quarter century, a bold brash young head coach said we can compete for national championship again. He had to change the culture of accepting mediocrity, of think “we can’t”. The first step in a journey to greatness is believing that you CAN achieve greatness. It is the same with churches. We must believe that God can still part the waters. We must believe that when we are all fully believing that God can make us an impactful, growing church, even in a small town, that God will provide the miracles. We must believe in our hearts that God can so then WE CAN. We must have championship belief in a championship God. We must not eliminate ourselves from championship contention before the season begins. We must seek and expect greatness. We must seek and expect excellence. Why? Because we have faith in a God of miracles who can expand our territory.

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 4:1-20 (Part 2 of 5)

Other Descendants of Judah

As a full-time lead pastor now, I have to pray publicly quite a bit and I have to pray for families always when I visit them in the hospitals and virtually every time that I visit a family on a regular pastoral visitation in their home. Thus, prayer has been elevated in importance for me not only because I am lead pastor now but also, as a result of that, personally too. I admit prior to taking on this role as the lead or solo pastor here at my “little engine that can” church in Lamar, SC my prayer life just was not what it should have been. I tended to be a person of prayer in times of personal crisis, rather than a person who prays multiple times per day. As with anything else in my journey since the day of my salvation back in December 2001, the Holy Spirit often pushes, make that, shoves, me out of my comfort zone when it is time for me to grow further in my relationship with Jesus Christ. Sometimes, He has to use a metaphorical 2×4 up against my head to get me to grow. Then I go, “Ouch, and OK, I get it now” and start growing in the way the Holy Spirit desires me to grow. Prayer is no different. So, it is kind of ironic that we are now upon the famous prayer of Jabez in this, our walk through each book of the Bible.

The thing that struck me and always has about this prayer (and I am sure that it has for you as well) is the fact that Jabez prays for God not just to bless him but to bless him, indeed! I am not a great Hebrew scholar and we don’t have time this morning for an in depth word study so we will limit ourselves this morning to the English words presented that are in question. I think that we all understand what bless me means. So, it is the word indeed that is peculiar in this phrase. In the Webster dictionary, we find that indeed means “without any question, truly, undeniably”. Thus, Jabez is asking the Lord to bless him in a way that is undeniable and without question that it is a blessing from God.

With that idea of undeniable and without question blessings from God, let’s read the passage, 1 Chronicles 4:1-20, now:

Chapter 4

1 The descendants of Judah were Perez, Hezron, Carmi, Hur, and Shobal.

2 Shobal’s son Reaiah was the father of Jahath. Jahath was the father of Ahumai and Lahad. These were the families of the Zorathites.

3 The descendants of[a] Etam were Jezreel, Ishma, Idbash, their sister Hazzelelponi, 4 Penuel (the father of[b] Gedor), and Ezer (the father of Hushah). These were the descendants of Hur (the firstborn of Ephrathah), the ancestor of Bethlehem.

5 Ashhur (the father of Tekoa) had two wives, named Helah and Naarah. 6 Naarah gave birth to Ahuzzam, Hepher, Temeni, and Haahashtari. 7 Helah gave birth to Zereth, Izhar,[c] Ethnan, 8 and Koz, who became the ancestor of Anub, Zobebah, and all the families of Aharhel son of Harum.

9 There was a man named Jabez who was more honorable than any of his brothers. His mother named him Jabez[d] because his birth had been so painful. 10 He was the one who prayed to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and expand my territory! Please be with me in all that I do, and keep me from all trouble and pain!” And God granted him his request.

11 Kelub (the brother of Shuhah) was the father of Mehir. Mehir was the father of Eshton. 12 Eshton was the father of Beth-rapha, Paseah, and Tehinnah. Tehinnah was the father of Ir-nahash. These were the descendants of Recah.

13 The sons of Kenaz were Othniel and Seraiah. Othniel’s sons were Hathath and Meonothai.[e] 14 Meonothai was the father of Ophrah. Seraiah was the father of Joab, the founder of the Valley of Craftsmen,[f] so called because they were craftsmen.

15 The sons of Caleb son of Jephunneh were Iru, Elah, and Naam. The son of Elah was Kenaz.

16 The sons of Jehallelel were Ziph, Ziphah, Tiria, and Asarel.

17 The sons of Ezrah were Jether, Mered, Epher, and Jalon. One of Mered’s wives became[g] the mother of Miriam, Shammai, and Ishbah (the father of Eshtemoa). 18 He married a woman from Judah, who became the mother of Jered (the father of Gedor), Heber (the father of Soco), and Jekuthiel (the father of Zanoah). Mered also married Bithia, a daughter of Pharaoh, and she bore him children.

19 Hodiah’s wife was the sister of Naham. One of her sons was the father of Keilah the Garmite, and another was the father of Eshtemoa the Maacathite.

20 The sons of Shimon were Amnon, Rinnah, Ben-hanan, and Tilon.

The descendants of Ishi were Zoheth and Ben-zoheth.

In this passage, you will note that Jabez is asking God to bless him in an undeniable way, in a way that raises no questions as from whom the blessing came. When I pray for families and even in corporate pastoral prayers, it has been often laid on my heart by the Holy Spirit to pray that the Lord would make Himself known to those for whom I pray in ways that they will know completely and undeniably that it is God that did whatever we are praying for. That breaks down two ways, I think. One is that asking God to bless a person, a situation, a request for change, recovery, or whatever is for God to do so in a powerful way that is undeniable to us. As well, there is an aspect to that type of prayer is so that others, particularly non-believers, cannot deny or offer up another explanation other than it was God who did it.

For us, we are often dense people who cannot see the working of God in our lives until we look back in hindsight. What we pray for and what Jabez may have been praying for is for God to work his wonders in our lives in a way that we can actually perceive it at the moment. In that moment, we are praying, we are asking God to clear the clutter out of our minds and our perceptions and allow us to see His handiwork in our lives in that very moment that He does it – not some 10 years down the road when we are reflecting on how God has grown us over the years. We are begging God to give us assurance in the moment of happening that He is working on our behalf in that very moment of happening. Sometimes, we just need our Abba Father to give us, the dense human beings that we are, some extra sense of His presence in the moment. There are times when we are down and out and just need an extra dose of knowing His presence is real in our lives and that He has not forsaken us. It is not wrong to seek that from God. I think it is through regular and routine prayer that God prepares our hearts to see what’s been there all along – the way that He is with us through everything – even the darkest moments.

For others, particularly non-believers, we are asking God when we say indeed is to make His presence known to the hardened hearts of non-believers. We are asking that the Holy Spirit soften their heart and they see God at work after years or even a lifetime of having the scales on their eyes when it comes to things of God. We are asking that God make Himself known to these individuals in a way that is unique for each one and thus in a way that this person cannot explain away a true move of God, a true miracle of God in someone’s life. We are praying that such things open their heart up to the Lord. So many times in life, those who do not believe in God will explain away the things of God with such ease that they are closed off to the possibility of a Creator who is actively involved with his Creation. Indeed, undeniably, without question, we are asking God to make it impossible for a situation to be explained away by these folks. That’s a bold prayer. We are not moving God to do something that He is not already doing but we are asking for that person to be unable to explain away something of God so that their arguments are gone and they can begin now to consider that there is a God and that He is worth believing.

Bless me indeed, Lord. Do miracles in our lives and let us be attuned to what You have been doing all along.  Indeed, open our eyes and the eyes of others to what You are doing in ways that are undeniable and without question.

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 4:1-20 (Part 1 of 5)

Other Descendants of Judah

Right in the middle of 9 chapters of genealogies, we find the famous “Prayer of Jabez”. For me, it was a welcome break from the monotony of the genealogies that are rattled off in the first nine chapters of 1 Chronicles. But wait, what is this, why is it here?

“Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother named him ‘Jabez’ saying, ‘Because I bore him with pain.’ Now, Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, ‘Oh, Lord, bless me indeed and expand my territory. Keep Your hand on me, and keep evil from me, that I may not cause pain!’ And God granted him what he requested.” Nothing is known about the man who voiced this heartfelt cry to God. He appears to be a man whose family was erased from Israel’s history. But if the man and his family’s memories were erased, why is he mentioned at all? And why does his prayer appear in a listing of the members of the tribe of Judah?

We may never really know why God caused Ezra, the author of 1 Chronicles, to pause at Jabez and add this “prayer of Jabez”? It was significant enough to cause a pause and write out Jabez’s prayer. Jabez apparently is remembered for his prayer to God. Maybe, it is that we must remember that Chronicles was written to encourage the people of Israel while they were in exile. It was to encourage them that God was still with them, that they were still God’s people, that God would restore them. The book was to remind them that things may look bleak now but God has not abandoned them and that they should keep the faith.

I think that may be why Jabez, a little known character in the Bible, and his prayer are included. Jabez is a little known character and he still prayed boldly to God. His name speaks of disadvantage. He name means “one who brings sorrow and pain”. Talking about “thanks, mom!” Wow. Talk about starting off at a disadvantage. Even his name put him at a disadvantage. But here we are at his mention in 1 Chronicles and he is praying fervently to God in the midst of trouble. He prays with confidence to God in the midst of what apparently is a looming big event, maybe a big battle, ahead. Even though he is a man whose very name means sorrow and pain is believing God for his provision and protection.

That’s the thing that speaks to me this morning as we begin a 5-blog series on this prayer. We will look at what he actually prays in the remaining four blogs but for today, it’s Jabez himself that captured my attention. A man of sorrows, a man of disadvantage from birth, has an amazing faith in God. It reminds me of the powerful faith of the slaves in the South during slavery and of blacks during the period of racial oppression in the South that followed slavery all the way up until the 1960s. How do you still have faith when everything in life puts you at a disadvantage? How do you have faith when everything sucks? Everywhere you turn, there is oppression and there is nothing that you can do about it. How do you have faith in the midst of all that? That’s the thing that struck me about the man, Jabez. He had faith. A man of pain and sorrow boldly praying for God to provide and protect even in the midst of a life that was marked by pain and sorrow from the beginning. Let’s read the passage, 1 Chronicles 4:1-20, now:

Chapter 4

1 The descendants of Judah were Perez, Hezron, Carmi, Hur, and Shobal.

2 Shobal’s son Reaiah was the father of Jahath. Jahath was the father of Ahumai and Lahad. These were the families of the Zorathites.

3 The descendants of[a] Etam were Jezreel, Ishma, Idbash, their sister Hazzelelponi, 4 Penuel (the father of[b] Gedor), and Ezer (the father of Hushah). These were the descendants of Hur (the firstborn of Ephrathah), the ancestor of Bethlehem.

5 Ashhur (the father of Tekoa) had two wives, named Helah and Naarah. 6 Naarah gave birth to Ahuzzam, Hepher, Temeni, and Haahashtari. 7 Helah gave birth to Zereth, Izhar,[c] Ethnan, 8 and Koz, who became the ancestor of Anub, Zobebah, and all the families of Aharhel son of Harum.

9 There was a man named Jabez who was more honorable than any of his brothers. His mother named him Jabez[d] because his birth had been so painful. 10 He was the one who prayed to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and expand my territory! Please be with me in all that I do, and keep me from all trouble and pain!” And God granted him his request.

11 Kelub (the brother of Shuhah) was the father of Mehir. Mehir was the father of Eshton. 12 Eshton was the father of Beth-rapha, Paseah, and Tehinnah. Tehinnah was the father of Ir-nahash. These were the descendants of Recah.

13 The sons of Kenaz were Othniel and Seraiah. Othniel’s sons were Hathath and Meonothai.[e] 14 Meonothai was the father of Ophrah. Seraiah was the father of Joab, the founder of the Valley of Craftsmen,[f] so called because they were craftsmen.

15 The sons of Caleb son of Jephunneh were Iru, Elah, and Naam. The son of Elah was Kenaz.

16 The sons of Jehallelel were Ziph, Ziphah, Tiria, and Asarel.

17 The sons of Ezrah were Jether, Mered, Epher, and Jalon. One of Mered’s wives became[g] the mother of Miriam, Shammai, and Ishbah (the father of Eshtemoa). 18 He married a woman from Judah, who became the mother of Jered (the father of Gedor), Heber (the father of Soco), and Jekuthiel (the father of Zanoah). Mered also married Bithia, a daughter of Pharaoh, and she bore him children.

19 Hodiah’s wife was the sister of Naham. One of her sons was the father of Keilah the Garmite, and another was the father of Eshtemoa the Maacathite.

20 The sons of Shimon were Amnon, Rinnah, Ben-hanan, and Tilon.

The descendants of Ishi were Zoheth and Ben-zoheth.

In this passage, you will note a unique diversion from the normal listings of descendants that you find in the first 9 chapters of 1 Chronicles. At 1 Chronicles 4:9-10, we learn of Jabez. He is remembered for a prayer request rather than some conquest. He is remember for having faith. When we remember the context in which 1 Chronicles was written, Jabez reminds us that no matter our circumstances, no matter if we have lived a life of pain and sorrow from the beginning, God is with us and He will not abandon us.

Sometimes our faith is all we have. Sometimes, life really sucks. Sometimes, we are oppressed on all sides. We have no visible evidence, as did the Jews in Babylon, that life is ever going to get better, but Jabez shouts to us that what we can see on this side of eternity is not a measure of our faith, it is not evidence of how much faith we should have. We believe and have hope in the Lord because of what He has promised us through Jesus Christ in eternity. Our eternal reward for keeping the faith is far greater than what we are experiencing on this side of eternity.

We should keep the faith because the prosperity gospel is false. God never guaranteed us earthly treasures because we believe in Him. He promised us eternal treasure with Him. It is the true test of our faith in God when we still have faith in the midst of when life is crap, when life is sliding downhill, when everything is sucky. We must have faith in God not because of what we see but because we believe in God’s provision for our lives and that he will never abandon us. Remember, the Apostle Paul singing in prison. He had a serious faith that allowed him to have joy in the midst of trouble. Does this mean that we accept oppression and trouble, no. But we should never see oppression and trouble as a sign of a lack of faith and that if we just believed a little more that God would bless us with prosperity.

This man, Jabez, whose very name means sorrow and pain, prays a prayer of man who has full faith in God regardless of circumstance. He prays to God as a man that believes in the joy of the Lord regardless of whether he has been blessed with a good life or not. He trusts in the Lord no matter the circumstance and prays boldly as a man with great faith.

May you and I have the faith of Jabez. No matter what. We pray boldly to God and fully believe that He will provide us with what He thinks we will need. And therein we find the joy of living. Not obsessing over what’s wrong but believing that we have a God that is building something in us and through us. That is the way to contentment. Knowing that God’s got our back no matter what the circumstances are.

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 3:10-24

Descendants of Solomon

To my daughter, Taylor: This one’s for you. Sure, I am disappointed in the path that you have consistently chosen in life. I will not deny that. You had and still have the potential for so much more than the hand to mouth existence that you have chosen for your life to this point. You are one of the smartest people that I know. I have often said that of our little remnant of a family unit (me, you and your sister) that you are probably smarter than your sister and your dad put together. Even with our degrees, you have a high degree of just natural intelligence. Where your sister and your dad have to study hard to capture concepts in our brains, it has so often come to you easily, without effort. You have the quickest wit of anyone I know. You can roll off witty quips without thinking whereas I often am like a second or two behind you with the quip or the sarcastic comedic remark. You are incredibly funny.

The thing that disheartens me is what could have been for you. The thing that makes my heart ache is I know what you are capable of. The choices though. The choices. They have taken you down paths that I bet 10 years ago you would not have expected your life to go down. The thing that keeps me awake at night at times is wondering what could have been and, often, whether I will get “the call” this night. The call that will tell me of some jam you have yourself in and I will have to show you tough love. The call that will tell me that your life ended way too soon. I sit awake at times wondering what that may feel like so that I can be prepared for the second option described just now about “the call.” What if that happens? What will I feel? Will you have had the chance to turn your life over to and in submission to a Savior, Jesus Christ? Will I be dogged by that question if I get “the call”?

The thing that I know and frustrates me sometimes is that no matter what you do, I still love you. There is always the hope that there will be that moment of realization that you don’t want to live your life the way you are living it now. There is always hope that you will find salvation and seek His help in chasing your demons away. There is always hope that you will turn it all around, through Christ, and reclaim your potential and be able to turn your mess into a message, a message of redemption, a message of reclamation. There is always hope.

That’s the rush that came over me this morning when I was researching this passage, another genealogy in the first 9 chapters of 1 Chronicles. This one, 1 Chronicle 3:10-24, is about the descendants of Solomon. The thing that struck me is that God was so ever patient with His chosen people. He was so ever hopeful of His people to return unto Him. Even in the things that He showed tough love to them (by allowing the gradual reduction of influence and eventual conquering of Israel), there was a maintaining of the promise of hope of the messianic line. There was always hope. There was always a hope of the restoration of God’s people.

The way God was with Israel with His hope and the way I am with my own daughter with my hope, it is the very same with God when it comes to each one of us. There is always the hope that we will return unto Him. He is ever patient. He wants to return to Him. He knows our potential when we are fully in Him. He aches for us to return to Him and find our true potential. Let’s read the passage now:

10 The descendants of Solomon were Rehoboam, Abijah, Asa, Jehoshaphat, 11 Jehoram,[a] Ahaziah, Joash, 12 Amaziah, Uzziah,[b] Jotham, 13 Ahaz, Hezekiah, Manasseh, 14 Amon, and Josiah.

15 The sons of Josiah were Johanan (the oldest), Jehoiakim (the second), Zedekiah (the third), and Jehoahaz[c] (the fourth).

16 The successors of Jehoiakim were his son Jehoiachin and his brother Zedekiah.[d]

17 The sons of Jehoiachin,[e] who was taken prisoner by the Babylonians, were Shealtiel, 18 Malkiram, Pedaiah, Shenazzar, Jekamiah, Hoshama, and Nedabiah.

19 The sons of Pedaiah were Zerubbabel and Shimei.

The sons of Zerubbabel were Meshullam and Hananiah. (Their sister was Shelomith.) 20 His five other sons were Hashubah, Ohel, Berekiah, Hasadiah, and Jushab-hesed.

21 The sons of Hananiah were Pelatiah and Jeshaiah. Jeshaiah’s son was Rephaiah. Rephaiah’s son was Arnan. Arnan’s son was Obadiah. Obadiah’s son was Shecaniah.

22 The descendants of Shecaniah were Shemaiah and his sons, Hattush, Igal, Bariah, Neariah, and Shaphat—six in all.

23 The sons of Neariah were Elioenai, Hizkiah, and Azrikam—three in all.

24 The sons of Elioenai were Hodaviah, Eliashib, Pelaiah, Akkub, Johanan, Delaiah, and Anani—seven in all.

The line of royal descent from David, is now rapidly carried down in these verses—first, as far as good King Josiah, sixteen generations in all (omitting, quite consistently, Athalia, who reigned by her own usurpation for six years on the death of her son Azariah); and then, by four successions (two brothers, sons of Josiah, and a grandson and great-grandson of Josiah), to the Captivity. It is especially worthy of notice that, according to his promise, God preserved the Davidic line among all the changes through which the kingdom of Judah passed; and this became a public testimony to the Divine faithfulness, and a constant plea against them when they publicly broke their side of the conditions of the national covenant.

In a sermon online about this passage by R. Tuck, he states, “For some of the kings of Judah were rebellious and idolatrous; some, as, for instance, Ahaz and Manasseh, so very bad that we marvel at the mercy which held back judgment on the Davidic dynasty. Exactly what we have ever to wonder over is the Divine long-suffering towards us, towards his Church, towards men. God is infinitely protective of the honor of his Name as the Promise-maker and the Promise-keeper, and we may even think of God as infinitely hopeful concerning his people, waiting on and on, bearing long with them, quite sure that they will yet turn to him and live. But every new impression of God’s patient mercy made upon our hearts only shows up the more hatefully our sin in keeping on and ‘despising the riches of his mercy.’”

God will never abandon us. He is the Father in the Prodigal Son in the parable. He is the dad who waits, hopes, and prays for a child to find their way to Jesus and to find their true potential when it is not clouded by the demons of the soul covered up by addiction. God waits. He is patient. It is never too late. He keeps His promises of redemption through Jesus Christ. God is our Father who hopes with every passing second that we will find our way to Him. God is patient with all of us til we come to that moment in life where we get sick and tired of being sick and tired and say, “I want something more than this!” God is long-suffering. God is patient. It is never too late to come to Him. Just as the father in the prodigal son parable looks out in the distance for his son, so, too, does God look out over the horizon for you to come home to Him. He always hopes. He is patient to forgive. He waits for you to make your decision to come to Him.

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 3:1-9 (Part 2)

Descendants of David

You always hear about these patriarchs of wealthy families and the reading of the will to distribute a vast fortune. There is intrique and there is jockeying for position. There are those surprise offspring that no one knew about. These things are often the subject of fictional murder mystery novels. That was the same kind of intrigue that descended upon the kingdoms of Israel and Judah after David and Solomon. You had to have a play card to know how many different women by which David and Solomon had children. There’s an old saying in our time about men who have multiple wives and/or mistresses is that “they just couldn’t keep in their pants!” That is the impression emerges of David and Solomon. They were great men of God but they had their kryptonite sin (that sin that we can’t seem to kick, that sin that defeats us every time, that sin that we don’t see as sin until it’s destroyed us) and it was sexual sin.

It was that sexual sin that was one of the root causes of the ruination of the future of Israel. The multiple lines of ascension to the throne because David and Solomon couldn’t “keep it in their pants” was one of the main causes of all the intrigue and infighting that decayed Israel from within. All the infighting and intrigue led to a nation taking its eyes off guard and begin living for themselves and preserving their claims to the throne. The people of Israel and Judah imitated what they saw – look out for number one. They were not being led in worshiping God as God intended for the leaders of his people to do. Thus, sexual sin led to them taking their eye off the ball.

Is it not similar in our nation today? Sexual sin in all its various forms has caused us to take our eyes off God. It has destroyed family units and caused tears in the fabric of the family unit. We have children who don’t know who there father is or have fathers who are not part of their lives. With the destruction of the family because of our sex for sport is my right philosophy that we now live by, there are children with no fathers in their homes and no authority figure to raise them according to God’s Word. Sexual sin has destroyed our nations view of family. We continue to redefine normalcy of family to accommodate that our nation’s preoccupation with “making ourselves happy” as expressed through multiple marriages and alternative sexual lifestyles. We continue to redefine what is right in our own eyes to defend what we want. In the process of pursuing our own desires, we must therefore either redefine what the Bible says or state that the Bible is no longer valid. That’s how we drift away from God. Making what we want and desire as our God and saying that God is either antiquated or we redefine what the Bible says so as to make our desires biblical. This is true for all of us sinners in the 21st century or in ancient Israel.

There is a tie-in of the multiple lines of heredity in the multiple wives and children sired by David and Solomon with the Christ Child’s story and then on into the 21st century here in America where we suffer from the same issues as did ancient Israel and Judah. Let’s read this passage once more, 1 Chronicles 3:1-9, once more and then we will continue discussing these tie-ins:

These were the sons of David born to him in Hebron:

The firstborn was Amnon the son of Ahinoam of Jezreel;

the second, Daniel the son of Abigail of Carmel;

2 the third, Absalom the son of Maakah daughter of Talmai king of Geshur;

the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith;

3 the fifth, Shephatiah the son of Abital;

and the sixth, Ithream, by his wife Eglah.

4 These six were born to David in Hebron, where he reigned seven years and six months.

David reigned in Jerusalem thirty-three years, 5 and these were the children born to him there:

Shammua,[a] Shobab, Nathan and Solomon. These four were by Bathsheba[b] daughter of Ammiel. 6 There were also Ibhar, Elishua,[c] Eliphelet, 7 Nogah, Nepheg, Japhia, 8 Elishama, Eliada and Eliphelet—nine in all. 9 All these were the sons of David, besides his sons by his concubines. And Tamar was their sister.

In this passage, we see that David had many more children than just the 17 sons whose names were written here, and just ONE of those sons—Solomon—had over 1,000 wives, you can see why Herod was panicked and ordered all the children killed at the appearance of the Magi for Jesus’ birth. By Herod’s time there were most likely THOUSANDS of people that could claim a direct lineage to the throne back through David, all of which would be perceived by Herod to be a potential threat. And in that sin of David and his son as king, the taking of multiple wives and having children with many of them, we see the mess that this creates for the kingdom. From this, you can see that the design of God was for one man to be married to one woman for a lifetime. Any deviation from God’s plan for mankind only brings heartbreak and sorrow. In the “Slaughter of the Innocents” by King Herod, one of the causes was the innumerable claims to the throne of Israel and Judah caused by kings taking multiple wives and having mistresses that bore them many children. In Herod’s extreme paranoia over his position as king of Judea, he pretty much had to eliminate any potential rival for the throne. Because David and Solomon and their lineage could not abide by God’s design for sex, there 1,000’s of legitimate claims to the throne when there really should not have been.

Satan wants us to take our eyes off God by saying to us that we ought to be able to pursue whatever relationships we want to pursue. If this relationship is not meeting my needs, find another one. If one is good, two is better. Satan has gotten our eyes off the ball when we see sex as way to seek personal fulfillment. Satan gets us to take our eye off the ball when he gets us to think about sex and relationships in ways that twist God’s desire into “God just wants me to be happy, right?” I lived that life myself before Christ came into my life. If this relationship no longer meets MY needs then I deserve another one. Satan wants us to start worshiping ourselves and what we want instead of worshiping God. He starts that with the basic idea that we should have whatever relationship we want. That’s how it starts. That was how it started in Israel and Judah. That led to almost a thousand years later, a king trying to kill off any and all rivals to the throne, including the Christ Child. That leads to what we see in our society now.

There’s lessons to be learned about sexual sin from David and Solomon that can be instructive to us today. We can learn this simply by looking at the genealogies in an Old Testament book. Most of us want to gloss over this stuff. But, man, David’s genealogical tree has much to tell us!

Amen and Amen.