Another Look at The Prayer of Jabez and Blessings

Prayer of JabezIt seems as if the church-world today is obsessed with the idea of being blessed by God, so much so that many are praying to God for God to bless them! To legitimize their prayer to be blessed, they often cite the prayer of Jabaz. So, I thought it would be a good idea to take a fresh look at the prayer of Jabaz in its biblical context. The prayer is found in 2 Chronicles 4:10, where we find Jabaz praying to the God of Israel. The King James Versions reads: “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.” (1 Chronicles 4:10 KJV)

Now at first glance, this seems to be a simple prayer request for God to bless Jabaz, to enlarge his territory, to be with him, and to keep him from evil so that it (evil?) would not grieve him. But let’s take a closer look and see if it’s really just that simple. First of all, in order to get the proper context, we need to back up to verse 9, which reads: “And Jabez was more honourable than his brethren: and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, Because I bare him with sorrow.” (1 Chronicles 4:9 KJV) Since verse 10 is joined to verse 9 by the conjunction; “and” we know that these two verses are conjoined in thought. So together they read: “And Jabez was more honourable than his brethren: and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, Because I bare him with sorrow. 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.”

A key to our understanding of the text is an understanding of the meaning of Jabez’s name. The name; “Jabez” meant; “sorrow, to grieve.” According to the text, his mother gave him that name because she bore him in sorrow. Apparently, Jabaz’s birth came after a hard and grievous labor or birthing process! Hence, his name was indicative of the hard labor his mother went through when he was born. But look at the text again! Right before we read about how his mother bore him in sorrow, we read: “And Jabez was more honorable than his brethren.” Now what in the world does the fact that Jabez was more honorable than his brethren have to do with his birth being hard and grievous labor? There seems to be no correlation! Taken side by side, the two statements seem to have nothing to do with one another! What does the fact that Jabez was more honorable than his brethren have to do with his mother having pain at his birth? At first glance; nothing! Unless. . . . we’ve missed something in how we have traditionally translated the text! Let me show you what I’m talking about! In verse 9, the English word “honourable” in the Hebrew text is the word; “kabod.” It has a variety of literal meanings, such as; “to be heavy, be weighty, be grievous, be hard, be rich, be honourable, be glorious, be burdensome, be honoured.” Now, we have traditionally translated the term in the text to denote “honor.” But what if the author really meant to denote weight or heaviness? What if the meaning the author really wanted to convey was the idea that Jabaz weighted more and was therefore “more heavier” than his brothers, thereby causing his mother more pain and grief in his birth than his brothers had caused her in their births? And as a consequence, she gave him the name; “Jabez (Sorrowful)” to signify the distress, pain, and grief she had in birthing him? If we accept that translation, the two verses together make perfect sense!   

But, wait a minute! If we do accept that translation, then that throws a “monkey-wrench” into the theological implications many have taken from the prayer of Jabez! If we accept that translation, then we must conclude that the prayer Jabaz prayed was really a simple request that God would not allow him to live up to (or down to) his name! Maybe, instead of asking God for the abundance that most modern-day readers think he was asking for, maybe Jabez was just simply asking God to bless him to the point that he would not fulfill the destiny that his name implied!

I raise this point because I think it is dangerous to try to set or establish a theological principle on just one or a few verses in the Bible! Aside from this text and the occurrence of Jacob holding on to a wrestler in Genesis 32:26, the Bible gives no other indication that we should be praying for a blessing or blessings from God! In fact, the Bible is filled with the idea that God blesses us, not because we ask God to bless us, but rather because it’s just God’s nature to bless. In the creation account in Genesis 1, there is a constant refrain: “And God blessed them.” They did not pray for God to bless them, God blessed them because it was and is just God’s nature to bless God’s creation!

Not only is it just God’s nature to bless, the Bible also indicates that God blesses or makes people blessed not as an answer to prayer, but rather in response to obedience! In Genesis 12:1-3, we read: “Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” (Gen. 12:1-3 KJV) God promised Abram that he would be blessed as a result of his obedience to the commands of God! We might also note that God didn’t bless Abram just to bless Abram! God blessed Abram so that Abram would also be a blessing! The same principle is found in Deuteronomy 28:1-2: “And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth: And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God.” (KJV) Note in this text, Moses told the Children of Israel that if they would just be careful to be completely obedient to the word of the Lord, the blessings of the Lord would “come upon them and overtake them!” We’ve got it twisted! It is not God’s will for us to be seeking blessings; it is God’s will for blessings to be seeking us! David said in Psalm 23:6: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” (Ps. 23:6 KJV) What most English readers don’t realize is that the Hebrew word in that verse that is translated as “follow” is actually a Hebrew word that means; “to pursue, or to run after.” So the picture David was portraying was not that of goodness and mercy (blessings) passively following David like a little puppy-dog following his master, but rather it was that of goodness and mercy (blessings) actively and aggressively pursuing after or hunting David like a wild animal hunting its prey! The same idea is expressed by Jesus in Matthew 6:31-33 where Jesus said: “Therefore take no thought, saying, ‘What shall we eat? Or, What shall we drink? Or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (KJV) In the KJV translation, to “take thought” is to be anxious or overly concerned about. Jesus said that if we would just make the Kingdom of God the top priority in our lives, the blessings we need in life would come as a matter of course!

There is a pre-occupation today by many Christians with what the Bible says shouldn’t be a concern at all! We’re stressing for blessings when the Bible says we shouldn’t be stressed at all! If we would really seek God with the same intensity that many are seeking to be blessed by God, then we would indeed be blessed! Perhaps we would do well to remember that nowhere in the Bible are we instructed to “seek His hand” but we are instructed to “seek His face!” Yes! If we would honestly seek Him, then we would automatically receive all the blessings He has for us!

 

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Can I Get A Witness?

witnessMost of the time when we hear of the concept of being a witness, we think about someone who testifies about what he has seen, heard or has knowledge of. Certainly, this is also one of the meanings the Bible means when the term “witness” is found. However, there are some other aspects and meanings of the term that would also enlighten and enrich our understanding of the concept of being witnesses if we properly understood them.

The first occurrence of the word in the Old Testament is in Genesis 21:30, but I’m going to start the citation at Genesis 21:27 and go through verse 32 for context: “And Abraham took sheep and oxen, and gave them unto Abimelech; and both of them made a covenant. And Abraham set seven ewe lambs of the flock by themselves. And Abimelech said unto Abraham, ‘What mean these seven ewe lambs which thou hast set by themselves?’ And he said, ‘For these seven ewe lambs shalt thou take of my hand, that they may be a witness unto me, that I have digged this well.’ Wherefore, he called that place Beersheba; because there they sware both of them. Thus they made a covenant at Beersheba: then Abimelech rose up, and Phichol the chief captain of his host, and they returned into the land of the Philistines.” (Gen 21:27-32 KJV) Note that Abraham said that the seven lambs were a witness that he dug the well. Of course, we know that the lambs could not talk, therefore they could not testify of what they knew, seen, or heard, so obviously, they were a witness in another context of the term. So how were they a witness? Abraham used the term; “witness” to mean, evidence or proof! The Abraham gave the lambs to Abimelech so that they might serve as evidence or proof that Abraham had dug the well and as evidence or proof of the covenant the two of them made concerning that fact. So it is indeed interesting to note that the first introduction of the concept of witness or witnessing in the Bible is not about testifying, but rather about evidence or proof!

The concept is used in a similar manner in the Greek in James 5:3, where the author wrote to the rich men of his day: “Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days.” (James 5:1-3 KJV) Note that whereas the sheep couldn’t talk in our Old Testament example, but yet they served as a witness, here, the inanimate rust of the rich men’s gold and silver served as a witness! Again, the idea is not that of testifying, but rather that of being evidence or proof!

witness crossNow, I cited these two examples of the use of the word “witness” in its Hebrew and Greek origins to emphasize the point that being a witness in the Bible was not always just about testifying or speaking! Sometimes, it was about being evidence or proof! Could it be, that when Jesus spoke to his disciples about being “witnesses unto me” in Acts 1:8, in addition to their verbal testimony, he may have also had in mind  that they would also be physical, living proof and evidence that he was indeed who he said he was? That seems to have been the idea in our Lord’s High Priestly Prayer recorded in John 17. He prays to the Father in John 17:20-23: “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” (John 17:20-23 KJV) Do you see the connection? Jesus prayed that his disciples would be “one” just as he and the Father were one because that unity would serve as proof to the world that he was sent by the Father! Yes! According to Jesus, the unity of his disciples past, present, and future was and is the witness; the evidence and proof to the world that he was sent by the Father!

It is also interesting to note that the Greek word translated as “witness” is a word that means; martyr! A martyr was one who proved their faith to Christ by suffering a violent death! In the New Testament, the word; “witness” was, in a sense, a synonym for one who died a violent death!

So these are some things we should be mindful of the next time we hear somebody asking in church: “Can I get a witness?” They may just be asking for an “amen” or some form of acknowledgement to something they said. But when the Lord asks the question: “Can I get a witness?” I think the Lord is asking for a whole lot more! The Lord is asking for someone who will not only just confess with their mouth, but also who will be an example, proof, and evidence of the presence and reality of Christ! The Lord is asking for someone who is willing to die for the faith! No! “Can I get a witness” is not just a simple call for an “amen.” “Can I get a witness” is a call to be true disciples and followers of Christ! Can I get a witness?

All Dogs ‘Don’t’ Go To Heaven

all dogsIn an age of political correctness and moral inclusiveness, talk of the concept of Hell is passé and distasteful, even in the church and in religious circles. It seems that there is a prevailing belief today that it does not matter what is done in life or what type of life one may live, when one dies; there is an automatic admission into Heaven. In other words, the prevailing belief is that all dogs go to Heaven!

I was confronted with this common belief that everyone goes to Heaven when they die when I viewed a Facebook posting not too long ago. It was a memorial posting in memory of someone who had been murdered, who during their life-time, was a known drug-dealer and gang-banger. I would have passed the post up were it not for the artistic rendition of the deceased drug-dealer, hovering in the clouds with angel-wings and a gold chain around his neck! Among the many comments to the posts were comments like: “Rest in Peace Hommie!” and “I know you’re in a better place now!” Now, I am not one to judge whether or not this person actually is in Heaven or not; that’s not my call. All I’m simply saying is this: You can’t die a devil and be raised a saint! If he did not accept Jesus as his Lord and Savior, he is not resting in peace and neither is he in a better place!

I know we don’t like to talk about it, but if the Bible is true, then we must accept the fact that there are people in Hell! We must accept the fact, no matter how distasteful it might be, that all dogs DON’T go to Heaven! If that were the case, then Jesus came and died for nothing! If everybody goes to Heaven anyway, then there really is no sense in church, morality, or even right-and-wrong! If all dogs go to Heaven; the Bible and the idea of God, is a lie!

Now, people like to think that God is a God of love and that such a loving God would not send people to Hell! And they are right! That’s why the Bible says: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16 KJV) God loved us so much that he sent His only Begotten Son. The Son loved us so much that he gave his life on a cross. The problem today is that people want to go to Heaven on their own terms! And they are upset and they reject the idea of a Holy God who would dare to put restrictions upon their desire to live a lifestyle that is pleasing to their immoral nature!

But the bottom line is this: No matter how people try to deny it, ignore it, or explain it away; Hell is real! At least Jesus said it was! In fact, he talked more about Hell than he did about Heaven!

God and Heaven paid the ultimate price to keep us from going to Hell! So if there was no chance for us to go in the first place, then the redemption process recorded from Genesis to Revelation is one big fairy tale and if that’s true, it was also a colossal waste of time!

The greatest demonic trick of all times is deniability! Satan wants humanity to disbelieve his existence! But even if you don’t believe in something, your disbelief does not negate its reality! I’m reminded of what I heard a young man say to an old preacher! The young man said: “I don’t believe in Hell!” The old preacher replied: “Your disbelief will not keep you from going!” No! No matter how we might try to deny it or try to “angelize” people who live sinfully, the truth of the matter is this; all dogs don’t go to Heaven!