Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him in pain.” And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!” So God granted him what he requested.
1 Chronicles 4:9-10 NKJV
1 Chronicles chapters 1 to 10 write all about genealogy. But when it comes to a man named Jabez, there is more being told about him. This is done with a certain purpose. When we read the Bible, if we read paragraph by paragraph or event by event, we would only be able to find a message within that scope. However, if we read the entire Bible and understand it in its entirety, there is a message being conveyed through the structure of how it is written. Thus, this man’s story being mentioned purposely in the middle of the genealogy is with a definite reason, and moreover, there is a message intended through that. This is how we need to understand it.
We also need to examine the context of when this book was written. The Book of Kings was written during the time when Israel was being driven out of Jerusalem and asking, ‘What is the reason that we are being divided like this? We believed that God is with us, and yet why are we going through all of this?’ Then, after living seventy years in Babylon, they returned. Though it seemed they were totally destroyed, the people of God returned, didn’t they? So they thought, ‘How should we live from now on? God gave us another chance. What have we lost all this time? What is it that we need to recover?’ And the Book of Chronicles was written during that time. The reason the record of the genealogies is written is that it is not just a regular genealogy but the genealogy of faith.
That is why the twelve sons of Jacob are mentioned too. Although Reuben was the eldest, he does not come first in the genealogy, but it speaks of Judah first because it is a record of the genealogy of faith. And out of the tribe of Judah comes this man, Jabez, suddenly. This shows that even in this passage of faith, the genealogy of faith, he is a figure who demonstrates the essence of faith. In that sense, this is very important. What it is demonstrating is this: ‘Jabez is the man we must take after, since we have returned from Babylon! His faith is what we ought to have!’
Yet, it is not even clear who the father of this man is. Jabez just pops up here out of nowhere. But there is God’s will behind this. It is incredible. Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him in pain.”
Normally, who names a baby? The father does. But in this case, his mother named him. Why? Nobody knows. But we can speculate that he does not have a father, that he passed away. It is very likely that he died while his mother was pregnant with him, or he could have possibly gone away somewhere far. We do not know, but his mother was alone when she had the baby and had to raise him all by herself. It would have been very tough, wouldn’t it? In those days, God’s Law was not fully implemented as it was the pioneering period. Therefore, the women really had a hard time. How tough would it have been without a husband having to raise a child all by herself? She particularly had a hard time when she was giving birth to him. That is why she named him Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him in pain.” From birth, Jabez gave his mom a hard time, and she would have had it tough thereafter as well. Life itself would have been hard. How is it when you have a baby? It is hard, isn’t it? So she gave him that name, saying that her life was truly tough since having him, almost to the point that she wanted to die. Similarly, his life was full of ordeals. And this is the same situation that mankind is facing. Man lost his father. God created mankind, but man lost God and is suffering in the hands of the devil, like a fatherless child. So, this is also illustrating the state of mankind.
Then Jabez requested God, saying, “Oh, that You would bless me indeed.” When we read this, we should not be bound by the grammar of the language because Hebrew is different from our language. If you break up the verse, it can be understood like the following: “Bless me indeed. Enlarge my territory. Your hand be with me. Keep me from evil. Help me not to be in pain!” The rest of the conjunctions were added by the translator, for that is how he interpreted it. “Oh, that You would bless me indeed…” There is an emphasis on the blessing. “Bless me!” He earnestly wants the blessing. What is that blessing called? It is Abraham’s blessing. The blessing with which God promised Abraham. And to whom did this man earnestly ask? To the God of Israel. Thus, the blessing that God gave to Israel is namely “the blessing of Abraham.” So what did He promise? He said to Abraham, ‘I will give you land. I will give you many descendants. I will be in their midst and be their God.’ This is the promise God made.
The part where He said, ‘I will be their God’ is easy for us to say now, but remember how we searched through all the verses in the Bible regarding it? If you have not heard that sermon, please request and hear the sermon about “the blessing of Abraham.” There is a lot being said when He said, “I will be their God,” but the fundamental point in being their God is “to abide with them.” Thus, the Bible verses say, “I will dwell among the children of Israel and will be their God”; “My tabernacle also shall be with them; indeed I will be their God”; “I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God.” Thus, to abide with each other is the prerequisite. What would He do by being with them? He would protect them and let them enjoy everything that God possesses. These are the two main things: to protect them from the enemy and to share with them everything that God has. How happy would they be?
In this way, God promised to be with them. What is the precondition? In order for this to be fulfilled, Abraham needed to have descendants. Even if he does not see the promise being fulfilled in his lifetime, he has to have children in order for them to conquer the land. So, the next step was to have many children. Thus, for that, Abraham tried very hard to have a child. Jacob had many children. In order to take possession of the land, what did he do? When Abraham was treated as a guest in Hebron, his wife died. The people of that region said to Abraham that they would lend him the land so that he could bury his wife. But what did Abraham do? He bought the land. He bought the land. Even though they offered to give him the land, he refused and bought it so that they would not be able to say otherwise later on. So why did he bury his wife’s body in someone else’s land? Why did he buy it? Why do you think he did that? Because he was certain that the land would be his later on. In the end, he was also buried there and his descendants thereafter. It was by faith he did that. He believed, ‘This land will be mine.’
And then, with Jacob, when his older brother tried to kill him, he knew that he could not have any children if he died. So, he first needed to save his own life. For that, he needed to flee. If he flees, he would have to leave that land, which means the land will not be his, right? So, as he was running away, he prayed, and his prayer was about only one thing. “Let me return to this land. Then I will know that God is with me and that You will bless me indeed. And I will give a tenth of everything.” He made a vow as he left, and later, he did return. On his return, he prayed, saying, “Unless You bless me, I cannot let You go!” Thus, he was blessed and was able to return to the land. So, what is the blessing he was after? He was longing for the blessing which God promised Abraham. So even he also prayed, saying, “Bless me indeed!”
Later on, when the people of Israel moved to Egypt, what were the last words of Joseph? “Take my bones to Canaan.” Why? He already knew that the people were not going to live in Egypt permanently but were going to return to the land. He knew that they would recover that land.
All of these people are not just being greedy about the land. People without faith are probably going to perceive it that way. “Oh, those people are just greedy after the land.” People who do not have God’s inspiration are going to look at the land as only a form of asset, as money and just land. But the reason Abraham, Jacob and Joseph were so obsessed with the land was not because of the land itself but because they were earnestly seeking the blessing – “Grant me the blessing which You promised to Abraham!” That earnestness is faith. The earnestness to take possession of the land. They are not blinded by money but blinded by the blessing. They are only seeking after the blessing of being one with God.
The people of Israel were led by Moses to enter Canaan. Moses was unable to enter and died beforehand, so God led them through Joshua afterward. While Moses was still alive, they divided the land amongst the people – how they would apportion the land once they went in. They were already thinking about how they would divide the land amongst themselves when the people of that land were not relenting to give up their land. As they were casting lots to see who would get which part of the land, thankfully, the tribe of Judah (who was blessed through Jacob that the Messiah would come through him) was given the part of the land, which was Hebron, near Jerusalem. Jerusalem and the surrounding region were allotted to the tribe of Judah as their portion. That part of the land is the most important. The rest of the tribes were also given their portions. But was it easy for them to conquer that land? It was not easy at all. Would the occupants of the land be saying, “Please come in and take our land?” Those people had been living there for many generations, so why would they give up their land? They would fight for it with all their life. Now, the first tribe that went to battle in order to take over the land was the tribe of Judah. Since the tribe of Benjamin was small in number, they offered to help Judah by giving some of their men to fight with them in exchange for the tribe of Judah helping them out when it was their turn to fight. So Judah went first, and in the end, the tribe of Judah conquered that part of the land. And it was there that they built the Jerusalem temple later on.
The rest of the tribes also fought one after another, taking over the land. But the tribe of Dan failed to conquer and was scattered about in the end. That is how hard it was. What happened to the other tribes? Although they were supposed to go in, destroy and drive out everything and everyone, the tribes that did not do that were later swallowed up by the evil that was in the land. They accepted their idols. Why? Because the women in that land were beautiful. So they were enticed by the women there and got married with them, which is why they had no choice but to let them live. As a result, they accepted all the pagan traditions and became idolaters in the end. If you have a read of Judges, you can see that they do not even have God’s word; none of them serve God properly and are in utter mess. They became a great big pit of sin. In the book of Judges, there is a passage where they say, “Bring out the man to us that we may know him carnally.” And the man says, “Take this woman instead.” And the people rape her and leave her dead. So, her master takes the woman and divides her body into pieces and sends them to the other tribes. And they destroyed the tribe that was responsible for such a deed. In this way, sin and evil were everywhere at that time. Therefore, this shows that they had not been successful in conquering the land.
And it was in such a situation that Jabez was praying like this. Jabez of the tribe of Judah was praying. Although he belonged to the tribe of Judah, it is reckoned that his ancestors were the Kenites, who were Gentiles. We can conjecture that from his name, Jabez. There is a place named “Jabesh-Gilead,” and the people who live there are the Kenites. Originally, they did not have faith, but they were amalgamated with the tribe, so that they came to have faith. And among them was Jabez, who longed for the blessing of Abraham and prayed in this way: “Help us, the tribe of Judah to conquer the land which we ought to.” Some people were indifferent about it, and some people were doing something else. This is just like how some people willingly stand up to protect the church. Even though others are not stepping forward, their hearts are moved to stand by the church. In the same way, this man had such earnestness. “The tribe of Judah must take over this land!” And he prayed. “Lord, I want to make the blessing of Abraham, my blessing. Bless me! Bless me! Bless me!” We say, “Be blessed O my soul!” but how many times do we say it? Three times. Just as we repeat it three times to emphasize it, he was also emphatically asking, “Bless me indeed!”
If he was given the blessing, there needs to be evidence. They need to first take over the land. That is why he prayed, “Enlarge my territory.” In other words, “Let us take over this territory.” This is not because he was greedy for the land, as if he is thinking, “I need this land quickly so I can make money!” Rather, it is for the fulfilment of the promise – “God is with me.” He also said, “Your hand be with me.” This means “the Lord be with me.” In the Chinese translation, it says, “The Lord be with me.” It is Immanuel. In other words, he was saying, “I want the blessing of Immanuel fulfilled.”
What happens when God is with him? He will protect him from evil. Thus he said, “Keep me from evil.” This evil is the same evil as in the fruit of good and evil, “good and evil.” He prayed, “Keep me from evil.” So Jesus prayed like this. “Deliver us from the evil one.” In other words, if God is with me, then protect me from the power of the devil. ‘Why is everything so hard? Why is your life so painful, troubled and tough? Why are you without your father? It is because of the devil.’ That is why he prayed that he may be kept from the power of evil.
After that, he prayed, “Help me not to be in pain!” What do we call the state free from pain? It is peace. So, what is the first thing that Jesus gave us by faith? Peace. What is next? Receive the Holy Spirit. Next? The power to forgive sins. So, his prayer is asking for peace. The state of being with God is peace. This is what God has. To put it differently, it means, “Share with me everything that You have, O God.” What is the name of God? It is Jesus. That name has all the authority of heaven and earth. At the same time, that name means “God who saves His people.” Thus, whoever has that name, whoever has that peace, will not be still. He will become a source of blessing and make others blessed. Hence, when he prayed, “Do not cause me pain,” he is praying, “Let me be at peace through the peace of God, and bless many people through that peace.” This man is totally seeking the blessing of Abraham. And what did God do about it? He granted him what he requested.
So, they call him an ‘honorable’ for this reason. He is more honorable than his brothers. His brothers have interests elsewhere. They might be concerned with acquiring land. However, this person was interested in these very promises of God, and he prayed to achieve this. Then he acted; he fought. God answered his prayer.
This is a demonstration of the state of humanity. Man is oppressed by the devil and living in pain. But Jabez became more honorable than any of his brothers than any other creation. He became the one who is with God and who gets to share in all the glory of God. Aren’t we thankful? The prayer of Jabez is the prayer that you must be praying for. As you seek restoration, this is what you must seek. Though our church has gone through many great trials, we will be restored, won’t we? When everything is restored, what we would have to seek is this. Let’s become a source of blessing. If we do not have this desire and just have the knowledge of the Picture of God’s will or just study Berea Academy, the end result would be the same as what is happening right now. This is imperative right now. I need to first know the blessing. If I want all the nations to be blessed, this is what I need to have. If not, we are forsaking the most fundamental point.
Our purpose is very clear. Let’s quickly read 2 Peter. 2 Peter 1:3. It says, “Him who called us by glory and virtue.” Then, it continues to “add to your faith virtue.” And then verse 9 says, “For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness.” Such a person cannot see very far. And what happens to him in the end? He “has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.” Isn’t this the basics? Isn’t this the starting point? But such a person forgets about this. To your faith, you need to add virtue. What is virtue? It means to share with others what is good. But because people lack that, their knowledge, their perseverance, their godliness and brotherly kindness are all in vain. And because they lack these things, they would even forget that they were cleansed from their old sins. They forget even the fundamentals.
“Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election.” God has not only called but also chosen you for this purpose. Therefore, when we say, ‘I have received grace, I have received grace,’ let us not stop at that. Rather, let us focus on receiving His choice and being concerned about the work we have to do. By doing so, we do not need to worry whether we might stumble or whether we will make it to heaven. He grants entrance generously.
Therefore, just as it says, “Let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance,” we need to long for the blessing. Lord, make me a source of blessing that all peoples may be blessed through me. This is the reason why we are supplying our books to more countries, to more people, to many more souls so that they can hear the Berean teaching, this word of truth. “Enlarge our territories! Help us to reach more people and more areas. Help many more nations to receive this word!” Why? We want the promise of Immanuel that has been given to us to be fulfilled.
We have suffered a great deal until now, just like the one born in pain. So there is that son. In the song of Jabez, it says, “I was in pain in my mother’s womb.” That was exactly our state of being. We are suffering a great deal in the womb of the mother who is to birth Jesus Christ. You are really toiling hard. So, when we look at this situation, it does not look like we are the source of blessing. Our life appears to be cursed instead. But keep earnestly seeking and asking. Do not give up. Lord, fulfil to me the promise that I will be the source of blessing and all peoples will be blessed through me!
Do not try a little bit and turn to something else. Do not say, “The sermon I heard today was interesting,” and then tomorrow say, “That other sermon is more interesting.” We should be unchanging. Do not turn your interests elsewhere, but determine yourselves to seek to be a source of blessing. What is important is not how you are going to do your mission work in your language group. Rather, this point is the most important. Let’s call “Jesus” once and pray that each of us can become a source of blessing!
Father God, help us so that each of us can bear the fruit of the blessing of Abraham, which You have given us in Jesus Christ. Let those fruits be produced throughout the church. Also, help us to cooperate and support the fruit produced through Semuon. Thus, let many nations on earth receive this blessing we have received. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Sermon by Pastor Ki-Taek Lee
The Director of Sungrak Mission Center
Sermon on November 6, 2012
Translated by Sungrak Mission Center English Team