Jabez called out to the God of Israel: “If only You would bless me,
extend my border, let Your hand be with me, and keep me from
harm, so that I will not cause any pain.” And God granted
his request. 1 Chronicles 4:10 HCSB
The book of 1 Chronicles opens with a genealogy, an extensive genealogy - one of the most extensive in all of Scripture. In fact the first eight chapters of 1 Chronicles are one long series of genealogies. In the midst of all these genealogies we find an aberration. In the genealogy for Judah (from whom David and Jesus both hail) we find a lone son whose father is not listed, only his mother. His mother has named him Jabez. Jabez means "sorrow" or "pain." It is quite likely he arrived in his mother's life at a very difficult time - perhaps even after the death of his father. We can assume if he had no living father that his life would have been characterized by sorrow and difficulty; a single mother in those days would usually have lived among the poorest of the poor. Yet despite the hardship we are told that Jabez was honorable, more honorable, in fact, than all of his brothers (i.e. relatives). It is in this setting that we see Jabez cry out to God, "If only You would bless me, extend my border, let Your hand be with me." He cries out from the axis of hardship and toil. He asks God to be with him.
The Hebrew word for blessing used here is barak. It literally means "to bend the knee." It is an expression of honor, of praise and magnification. We bless the Lord through our worship, everything that we do in submission to Christ and for His glory. "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." (1 Corinthians 10:31) In light of this verse it isn't necessarily very difficult for us to understand how we bless God. But how does God bless the human race? How does God “bend the knee?” How does He bless us?
In most instances where we see God blessing humankind in the Old Testament it is associated with fruitfulness and multiplication. (See Genesis 1:28, 17:20, 22:17-18, 26:4,12, 24, for example) The blessing to the patriarchs was always associated with the "seed" or "descendant," whom we now understand to be Jesus. In an excellent sermon on Jabez' prayer my pastor, Dan Nold says that God “bends the knee” and blessed us when He sent Jesus into the world. When God blesses His people it is always in association with Jesus. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ." (Ephesians 1:3 - emphasis mine) Every blessing we have comes through Jesus. Every. Single. One.
Jabez has figured out what the blessing is all about. He asks God, "Let your hand be with me." He wants more of God! I have so often heard emphasis placed on Jabez' request to extend his border - “Go ahead and ask God for more!” as if more stuff would bring greater satisfaction. But Jabez was more honorable in God's eyes. He's not asking for more stuff! We can only truly understand this prayer in light of the fact that his prayer was included in these long genealogies because Jabez didn’t make a selfish request. His desire was for more of God. More. God. And that is never selfish.
As we pray for our sons this week let’s remember that the greatest blessing we can pray down upon them is that they experience “more” God. May their hearts be turned to Him. May they lean on Him as they add the complexities of regular college life to their daily routines. May all of their satisfactions be met in Him. There is no greater blessing we can ask for. Pray that as God touches them they would experience greater relational integrity within themselves and within their circles of influence (including the football field!) as a result of a deepening relationship with the One who has “bent the knee” for us all.