Who would like to confess with me that sometimes we don’t give the genealogies enough attention? I read them, but the names are strange and I skip from line to line scanning over the list. Maybe it’s just me, I have had a few pokes from the Holy Spirit about people and their significance as I read Matthew and again this morning continuing through 1 Chronicles where Jabez made himself known.
9 Jabez, whose name commemorates his mother’s labor pains, was more honorable than his brothers. 10 He asked the God of Israel, “Please bless me and extend my territory. Let Your hand be with me and guard me from harm so I will not experience pain as my mother did.” And God did just that..
The name Jabez sounds like a Hebrew word for pain or sorrow. Can you pity this poor man? Every time anyone called his name he and his mother would be reminded that his birth had caused her such tremendous pain that she literally refused to forget it. I’ve given birth and I know it hurts but holding the result, cradling your newborn usually produces such a rush of love that the pain is forgotten or muted. Otherwise, trust me, women wouldn’t do it more than once but the reward of a baby is sufficient to balance out the pain.
But Jabez mother refused to forget and reminded her son, herself and anyone within earshot that she had suffered. Can you imagine walking through life with a name like that? We know more and more that names, words can build up and tear down. I made a great attempt never to call my children stupid when they did something stupid because of the effect of curses like that. We become what we are named.
Jabez was more honourable that his brothers the verse says, it doesn’t tell us how or why but it says he asked God to break the curse of his name. How awesome is that? He didn’t ask God to change his name but to remove the effect. God is a great name changer – Abram, Sarai, Jacob, Simon, Saul – but in this instance He doesn’t change Jabez name He just removes the effect. I don’t know why the name remains but it is encouraging.
Encouraging? Yes, because it tells me despite circumstances, despite surroundings, despite limitations or restrictions God can and will still work. People would still call Jabez’ name, maybe his brothers tried to tear him down ‘Hey pain boy… hey you who tortured our poor mother… hey you, you bringer of sorrow… you ruiner of our mother’s life…” You know the type of accusations levelled against us. But God had removed the pain AND extended his territory.
There are things in my life I can’t change. There are things in all our lives – sometimes enormous physical things as well as emotional or psychological things. God can deal with us and remove them or God can deal with us and make us more than conquerors within those situations.
Maybe Jabez didn’t experience pain as his mother had because he chose to trust God. It’s not easy, I’ve longed for that ‘magic wand’ that removes all problems but the process of trusting builds faith, it proves God is who He says He is. Job; Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and Paul all have it right – He is worthy to be praised and worshipped and He never leaves nor forsakes us. He can change a name, He can change a heart but He always changes the ‘game’ so we come out on the winning side.