1Ch_4:10. And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he requested.
REMARKABLE is the honour which God puts upon prayer, and numberless are the instances which are recorded of its efficacy. Jabez is here mentioned in a long catalogue of names; but while the names only of others are recorded, he is particularly noticed: he is even declared to have been more honourable than all his brethren. This distinction indeed might be given him on account of his primogeniture, but it was certainly still more due on account of his piety; like the patriarch Jacob, he “wrestled with God, and prevailed”—
The prayer he offered,
The subject-matter of it—
[In its primary sense it evidently related to temporal blessings. God had promised his people an inheritance in Canaan, but they were not able of themselves to drive out the inhabitants. Jabez therefore, sensible of his insufficiency, prayed to God for help. He begged for the blessing of God upon his own endeavours: he desired to be preserved from the dangers to which his military exploits would expose him; and to have, through the divine interposition, an enlarged inheritance in the promised land. These requests he urged with a significant and earnest plea [Note: Almost all Hebrew names had some peculiar signification. Jabez signifies sorrow: the name was given him in remembrance of the unusual sorrows his mother endured in childbirth. And it was in reference to this that he deprecated the evils to which he was exposed; “Keep me,” &c. lest I be Jabez in my experience, as well as in my name.].
But there is reason to think it had also a spiritual meaning. The earthly Canaan was typical of the heavenly kingdom. The enemies also that were to be driven out, were typical of the enemies with whom the Christian has to contend. Moreover, the assistance, which God rendered to his people, was intended to shew us what aid we might expect from him. And what evil will a child of God deprecate so much as sin? Surely nothing is so “grievous” to him as the prevalence of corruption [Note: Rom_7:24.]. Well therefore may Jabez be considered as looking beyond this world, and as imploring a secure possession of his heavenly inheritance.]
The manner in which it was offered—
[It is the sentiment, rather than the expression, that gives excellence to prayer; but in both respects we may admire that before us.
It was humble. He felt his entire dependence upon the power and grace of God. This is intimated not merely in the petitions offered, but in the very manner in which they were offered—“Oh that,” &c. Such humility is absolutely necessary to render prayer acceptable. The more we abase ourselves, the more will God exalt us. Let this be remembered in all our addresses at the throne of grace.
It was importunate. He enforced his request with a very earnest plea. Nor, in reference to sin, could any plea be more proper for him. But we may also properly deprecate sin as “grievous” to our souls. Yea, a disposition to do this is both an evidence of our sincerity, and a pledge of the divine acceptance.
It was believing. The title, by which he addressed the Deity, argued his faith in God. It expressed a confidence in God as the hearer of prayer [Note: Gen_32:28.]. It is in this way that we also should approach the Deity. Without such faith our petitions will have but little effect; but with it, they shall never go forth in vain [Note: Mar_11:24.].]
Prayer possessing such qualities could not fail of success:
The success with which it was attended—
We have no detailed account of God’s kindness towards him, but we are informed that “God granted him all that he requested,” and this speaks loudly to us—
It shews us,
That we ought to spread all our wants before God in prayer—
[We have seen how comprehensive the prayer of Jabez was. And ours also should include our every want, temporal, spiritual, and eternal. There is nothing so great, but we are at liberty to ask it; nor any thing so small, but we must acknowledge our entire dependence on God for it. In fact, there is nothing great or small, either before God, or in reference to ourselves: for, as all things are alike easy to him, who formed the universe by his word, and watches over the very hairs of our heads, so there is nothing, however minute, which may not prove of the utmost possible importance to us, as every part of the inspired volume attests. The direction of God to us is, “In every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God [Note: Php_4:6.].”]
We should urge our petitions with an importunity that will take no denial—
[So did Jacob; “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me [Note: Gen_32:26.].” And so it should be with us. We have, in fact, a better plea than Jabez was able to offer. We may go in the name of Jesus Christ, and plead all that he has done or suffered for us. We may look to him as our Advocate with the Father, and assure ourselves of the acceptance both of our persons and our prayers through his continued mediation and all-prevailing intercession. The conduct or King Joash should be a warning to us. The Prophet Elisha told him that he should smite the Syrians who had sorely oppressed the whole Jewish people: and he bade him to smite the ground with the arrows which he had in his hand, and thereby to express the desires and expectations which he felt in reference to this great event. The king smote the ground only thrice, when he should have smitten it five or six times; and thus by his own want of zeal he restrained the exertions of Almighty God in his favour [Note: 2 Kings 13:29.]. And thus it is that we act. If we were more earnest in our desires, and more enlarged in our expectations from God, there would be no bounds to the mercy which God would exercise towards us. “We are not straitened in him, but in our own bowels.” Were we to “open our mouth ever so wide, he would fill it [Note: Psa_81:10.].” We might ask what we would, and it should be done unto us [Note: Joh_14:13-14.].]
We should ask in faith nothing doubting—
[A doubting mind will rob us of all blessings, and make our most urgent prayers of no effect [Note: Jam_1:6-7.]. We must “believe not only that God is, but that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him [Note: Heb_11:6.].” Yea, we must “believe that we do receive in order that we may receive.” And “according to our faith it shall be done unto us.” In fact, there is a kind of omnipotence in the prayer of faith, and, if I may so speak, God himself cannot, I may surely say, will not, reject it. He speaks as if it had a commanding power [Note: Isa_45:22.]. Of course, this idea must not be pressed too far: but we are sure that, as God never did, so he never will, say to any of the seed of Jacob, “Seek ye my face in vain.”]
[Is there then any Jabez, any son of sorrow, here? Go to God, the God of Israel, and say, “Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed! Let me be strengthened by thee for all my spiritual conflicts. Let mine enemies, my indwelling corruptions, be slain before me.” And let me be put into full possession of the heavenly Canaan, where I shall rest from my labours, and be for ever happy in the bosom of my God.” Then, brethren, shall your every request come up with acceptance before God, and return in blessings upon you to the full extent of your necessities.]