There was a man named Jabez who was more honorable than any of his brothers. His mother named him Jabez because his birth had been so painful. 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. 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 NLT
About 15 years ago, Bruce Wilkinson wrote a book based on this passage. Two simple verses right in the middle of the genealogy of Judah.
I’ve often heard others discuss the prayer of Jabez. Most people focus on the “bless me and expand my territory” phrase. We all long to have God pour out his blessings on us. We all want to have position, influence. We want to be used in mighty ways.
Unfortunately, sometimes the “bless me and expand my territory” prayer becomes self-centered, prideful. It’s about building us up, making a name for ourselves, much more so than pointing the world back to Christ.
Don’t get me wrong: I pray God will bless me. I pray God will expand my territory. But, we need to look closely at the passage, at other portions of Jabez’s prayer and his life.
Notice first that Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. He lived his life according to God’s ways. He walked in integrity. He sought to please God in everything he did.
Matthew 5 tells us blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God (v 8). God looks at our hearts. He sees our motives, our intentions. He knows when we are seeking glory for ourselves and when we are seeking to point the world back to him. When our hearts are pure, we see God. We see him in our circumstances. We see his hand moving. We see his blessings. We see his activity in the world all around us.
When we are pure in heart, we live honorable lives, lives God can bless and use for his kingdom.
Perhaps my favorite part of Jabez’s prayer, however, is when he asks God to “keep me from all trouble and pain!” At first glance, it seems as if Jabez is simply asking God for an easy life. Definitely something we would all love to have. But, if we look a little closer, we see something different.
Biblical names carry more meaning than names today. Jacob’s name means deceiver, which was appropriate for how he dealt with his brother. Esau’s name means red because his skin was ruddy. Abraham’s name means father of a multitude. We could go on and on about biblical names and how they define a person.
The passage tells us that Jabez mother chose his name because his birth was so painful. Jabez means pain. So, when Jabez prayed, “keep me from all trouble and pain,” we could actually translate it, “keep me from Jabez.” Jabez asked God to save him from Jabez.
Perhaps a better translation is, “Lord, save me from myself!”
Have you ever needed God to save you from yourself? If we are honest, we all need to be saved from ourselves. From our selfish motives. From our self-centered pursuits. From our emotions. From our stupidity.
I know I’ve made foolish decisions, rushed ahead of God trying to make things happen on my own instead of sitting back and waiting for him to open doors and lead me into the future he has planned for me.
I’ve rushed into relationships because of my emotions, my loneliness, my frustration with this season of my life.
I’ve attempted to manipulate circumstances to enlarge my territory before God was ready to pour out those blessings on me, before I was ready for the responsibility.
I’ve lived my life on my terms, in my way, instead of trusting God and following his plan.
And you know what? It never works out. It leads to pain and devastation. It leads to death and destruction. It leads to heartache and despair.
I so often have to ask God to save me from myself! Lord, save me from Dena! Save me from my emotions! Save me from my selfishness! Save me from self-glorification! Save me from my pride! Save me from myself!
I’m so glad God hears and answers my prayers! He may allow me to suffer the consequences for my choices. He may choose to discipline me for walking away from his path for my life. He may let me suffer loss because of my decisions.
But, when my heart is pure, when my motives are right, he always saves me from myself. He saves me from going to the point of no return. He pursues me relentlessly, leaving the 99 faithful sheep to come find me, the one who has wandered away. He chases me down, lovingly calling me home. He will not rest until I am safely under his care.
His love for us is so great, far beyond what we can imagine. His tender mercies are poured out over us, new every morning. Great is his faithfulness!
Are you walking down the wrong path? Are you following a path away from God? Are you following your emotions instead of his gentle voice? Have you rushed into a situation, a relationship, without seeking God?
You are never too far gone for God. He’s just waiting for you to cry out to him, to cry out, “Save me from myself!”
It’s a prayer he always hears, always answers.