1 Chronicles 4:1-20 (Part 1) – Jabez: A Man Born of Sorrow & Pain

Posted: December 2, 2019 in 13-1 Chronicles

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.

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