I imagine the extreme pain she felt delivering him for that name to spill from her lips.
“Jabez!” She looked up from the newborn in her arms to those attending to her birthing needs.
Their eyebrows raised.
She raised her chin a notch, determined to lay her pain on her newborn’s head. “Because I bore him in pain.” I Chronicles 4:9b. (ESV)
The names we give someone mean something, especially in those days. With a name like pain, did the villagers take a step back when he walked down the dusty road?
I’ve been called many things in my lifetime. My childhood produced a bumpy ride of tormenting labels.
From kindergarten to second grade classmates called me “Cripple.” I wore braces on my twisted legs from my waist to my feet, that could only be removed to bathe. When finally my stubborn feet stopped talking to each other, and I became free of my shackles, Momma placed me in a new private school out of town, so I’d have a fresh start. They didn’t know me as Cripple there.
Throughout my youth, the “n” word slapped me often because of my nose, eyes, and dark skin growing up. I’ve had sneering girls ask me if my daddy was black. If you know who I’m married to, you see the irony in this one.
Other labels I’ve overcome due to my ADD are “flighty,” “stupid,” “naïve” … the list goes on and on. (Notice I refuse to capitalize any of these names.)
Some names take time and work to peel off. Some names adhere so close to the skin, it’d be more painful to rip them off.
What names stick to you? What names have you applied to yourself?
The names we endure have the power to barricade us from achieving our calling in Christ Jesus.
The Meaning Behind Jabez’s Prayer:
I believe that’s what Jabez’s prayer was all about.
“Jabez called upon the God of Israel saying, ‘Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain!’ And God granted what he asked.” I Chronicles 4:10 (ESV)
I’ve read, often, people’s interpretation on the prayer of Jabez. At one time, many businessmen and women passed it around the water cooler as a recipe for success. If you want material expansion, just pray the prayer of Jabez and money will flow from heaven. But that’s looking at it through the lens of our materialistic culture. I don’t believe Ezra stopped in the middle of his genealogy list in the book of I Chronicles to mention this tiny detail—to pass us the keys of material prosperity—instead we find the keys of spiritual expansion.
Examine the components of the Prayer of Jabez:
- He starts by asking God for His blessing.
Blessing is not about being wealthy, living a comfortable lifestyle, or even enjoying good health. Instead the blessing Jabez prayed for was God’s favor and goodness. How does God’s favor and goodness manifest in our lives? Through internal peace during external turmoil, mercy through tribulation, protection from spiritual warfare, deliverance from trouble, children are all mentioned as blessings.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus Christ names not only God’s blessings, but the attitudes they’re bestowed upon.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:3-12 (ESV)
Under the New Testament promise, the ultimate blessing comes from God’s grace given freely through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
- Secondly, Jabez asks God to enlarge his border.
It’s difficult to move beyond our labels. If you’ve felt rejection, you may see yourself as a reject. How hard would it be to walk into a room of strangers and share the love of Christ? If you’ve experienced racism, you may filter your entire belief system through the lens of your race, and it could affect your actions and speech when ministering to someone outside of it.
I believe this is what Jabez is praying for regarding enlarging his border. He’s asking for God to move those borders out of his way, so he can claim the abundance in his spiritual calling. Jabez asks for God not to allow his name to erect a hedge by the assumptions of others, and not to allow himself to believe in a label unearned. Jabez feared his name could become a more powerful influence over his life, than the name of Jehovah.
My name is Tammy. For years, I’ve had to put up with pats on the head from my male bosses for a job well done! Due to my name (and probably my appearance) I’ve had to work to overcome the assertion that I’m this cute, little white yapper, and work hard to make others see me as a regal thick-coated German Shepherd. Coming from the Hebrew name Tamar, my name means “palm tree.” One morning, I asked God to show me the symbolism behind the palm tree, and I journaled this passage:
“The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree,
He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
Those who are planted in the house of the Lord
Shall flourish in the courts of our God.
They shall still bear fruit in old age;
They shall be fresh and flourishing,” Psalms 92:12-14 (ESV)
I’d just recovered from a double mastectomy to rid my body of breast cancer, so you can see how “flourish” gave me so much hope for my future. If Tammy means “flourish” bring on the head pats. I’ll grin and bear it.
- Thirdly, Jabez asks God that His hand might be with him.
Jabez didn’t want to move beyond his borders without God. He wanted to be empowered by God in His will. This is so important. Jabez recognized that without God ,his influence would be ineffective and produce nothing of value.
We have a tendency to become comfortable and satisfied by things that are not eternal, the small things that don’t last. But God’s less concerned over our comfort and more interested and focused on the stretching of our faith. We shouldn’t settle for our small plots but ask for God’s power in expanding our work and influence for His kingdom.
Within the New Testament promise, and as a believer in Jesus Christ, we are blessed with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, who empowers us and speaks the will of the Father to us in a way we comprehend, so we complete the calling on our lives.
“When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth, for He will not speak on his own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak, and He will declare to you the things that are to come.” John 16:13 (ESV)
- Lastly, Jabez asks God for protection from harm and pain.
Obviously, Jabez believed in the prophetic message of his name. He feared a life of pain and sorrow, but he also believed in a name greater than his…the name Yahweh—The Lord Jehovah. He knew God being more powerful than any curse put upon him, is the great restorer, protector, expander, and healer. He can deflect any curse and remove any label.
Surrendering Your Labels:
Do you have a name you need to surrender to the Father in order to move beyond it? Do you cling to your labels… “divorced,” “rejected,” “sick,” “not enough,” “alcoholic,” “cancer,” “poor,” “uneducated,” …. et al.?
I’ve surrendered my “cripple,” “n,” and “stupid” on the throne of the Most High, and He’s adorned me with Redeemed, Chosen, Daughter, Loved, Equipped, Free, Flourisher. Aren’t those much more spiritually useful?
As we face the uncertainties of 2021, and seek a godly vision for our year, let’s include praying the simple prayer of Jabez over our lives. We should boldly ask God for his blessing, to expand our borders beyond our labels, and for His hand of power and protection, so we may move into the spiritual abundance God has prepared for us.
See you in February where we’ll slide into our next theme for 2021, Relationship.