Bless Me

In Jewish culture, names are significant. Some names reflect the mother’s pregnancy or birthing experience. Others give praise to God. Names are also a way for parents to express their hopes and dreams for the child’s future. Jewish parents want the name to capture the child’s personality and set the path of their life.

The first nine chapters of I Chronicles contain lists of names. Starting with Adam, they record generations of names covering about 2900 years. Very little explanation about the lives of the people is given. We read about some — good and bad, choices and traits — in other parts of the Old Testament, but here the focus is on their place in the genealogy of God’s people.

But in the middle of these lists, two verses stand out:

Jabez was more honorable than his brothers; but his mother named him Jabez, saying, “Because I gave birth to him in pain.” Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that You would indeed bless me and enlarge my border [property], and that Your hand would be with me, and You would keep me from evil so that it does not hurt me!” And God granted his request. (I Chronicles 4:9-10, AMP)

God did not tell us what made Jabez more honorable, so we must not need to know. We can be assured that Jabez’s character and life were pleasing to God. It was so pleasing that his prayer is recorded among hundreds of names representing 2900 years’ worth of lives.

The name Jabez appears to be an unpleasant burden. Although God viewed Jabez as honorable, his mother associated him with pain. We are not told why she made this connection; the Hebrew word for pain (otseb) can also mean sorrowful, wicked, or even idol. Perhaps it was a difficult labor and delivery. Perhaps there were negative circumstances in her life that she blamed on him. Whatever the reason, his name served as a constant reminder of that pain.

At some point, honorable Jabez had enough. He called out to God from his distress and made some bold requests:

Oh that You would indeed bless me… Jabez’s prayer begins with an appeal. He is desperate for God’s blessing. He acknowledges God as his provider, protector, and authority. He looks to God alone for His needs and wants. He knows nothing is impossible for God. Jabez knows God can reach beyond his name and pain to bless him.

and enlarge my border (property)… We do not know how much land Jabez owned, but he asked God to give him more. As an honorable man, it seems safe to assume he was wanted more than personal riches. More land would also bring more influence, responsibility, and productivity. Jabez wanted to do more, to become more, for God. Jabez was born into the tribe of Judah, which had received the greatest blessing from the Israelite patriarch, Jacob. Jabez boldly asked for the opportunity to be entrusted with more of God’s treasure and blessing.

and that Your hand would be with me… God’s hand represents power, guidance, help, and direction (Psalm 18:35; Psalm 21:8; Psalm 119:173; Psalm 139:10; Proverbs 21:1; Daniel 4:35). Jabez asked for more than just material blessing. He wanted to be blessed with God’s approval and help as well. He wanted a closer connection to God and to witness God’s work in his life. He wanted to experience God in action.

and You would keep me from evil so it does not hurt me. Jabez also wanted to rise above his name and the expectations it carried. Rather than being known as a man of pain, Jabez wanted to be known as a man blessed by God. He wanted to be as far from evil — and as near to God — as possible. He trusted God to protect him rather than his own strength, wealth, wisdom, or tribe. He wanted his life to be characterized by righteousness rather than sin. He wanted to rejoice in God’s work rather than be overcome by pain.

This prayer indicates that Jabez wanted far more life. He asked for a deeper connection to God that would impact every aspect of his life. Jabez knew his request would glorify God. And God shows His agreement by granting the request. This implies that Jabez’s life became a picture of God’s goodness, grace, power, and provision. God’s invisible qualities became visible to others; I believe Jabez gave God all the credit. God Almighty blessed the man of pain. God generously expanded the man of pain’s territory. God’s hand helped and guided the man of pain. God’s righteous instruction and provision protected the man of pain from evil.

By answering the prayer of Jabez, God showed His compassion. Although his life was hidden in the midst of generations spanning 2900 years, God noticed Jabez. God heard. God responded. God blessed. And He notices each of us, too. Especially when we, like Jabez, are asking for far more life.

Far more life is a blessed life. Sometimes it is blessed by pleasant circumstances. But it is also blessed by a connection to God. Blessed with stewardship of the gifts He gives. Blessed under the protection and guidance of God’s hand. Blessed with righteousness. Blessed to see God at work. Blessed with joy.

“Oh that You would indeed bless me and enlarge my border [property], and that Your hand would be with me, and You would keep me from evil so that it does not hurt me!” (I Chronicles 4:10, AMP)

Sisters,
What does your name communicate about you?
What do you think it means for God to call someone honorable?
Have you asked God to bless you? Was your motive honorable? How did God respond?
Would you want God to enlarge your border?
How have you seen God’s hand with you?
Have you asked God to keep you from evil so it could not hurt you? What happened?
Follow the example of Jabez this week as you ask God to bless you with far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso

Spiritual Slaves

…Teach older women to be holy in their behavior, not…enslaved to too much wine… (Titus 2:3, NCV)

The Christian life is filled with competing desires. We have 2 natures within us, fighting for control: the Spirit-filled nature and the sinful nature. The fight is evident in how we pursue pleasure and minimize pain.

When we find something that brings us pleasure or decreases our pain, we want more of it. What starts as an indulgence — something rare and special — can easily become an over-indulgence. We are hard-wired to create habits — and the habits we form often bring us pleasure or relieve pain. But how do we know when we have crossed the line from healthy to enslavement?

When we cannot be happy, satisfied, or functional without something or someone (besides God), we are wise to ask ourselves if we have become enslaved. Another warning sign is if our thinking changes from “I like this” or “I want this” to “I NEED this”. Christians are not exempt from enslavement, but far more life helps us recognize and overcome it.

We are tempted to think that faith in Christ is all we need to drive away sinful habits and compulsions. So when we struggle with or give in to sin, we may be tempted to think it is because we lack faith. And plenty of people with bad doctrine will confirm that false belief. So we do more of all the things we think will increase our faith: we go to church more; we study the Bible more, maybe even memorize parts of it; we pray more; we try harder to be good people. But working hard to grow your faith usually does not overcome an over-indulgence that has enslaved you. Why? Because lack of faith is not the problem. Even the Apostle Paul, a man of great faith, wrestled with this:

So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. (Romans 7:21, NIV)

It would be great if a switch was flipped when we accepted Christ. That switch would turn off the pleasure we receive from sin, impure thoughts, anger, anxiety, fear, and pain.  It would turn on peace, patience, and a desire for only pure hobbies, entertainment, and fun. But that is not what God chose for us.

…It is God who is at work within you, giving you the will and the power to achieve his purpose. (Philippians 2:12, PHILLIPS)

Accepting Christ delivers us from the penalty of sin; we will never be punished for our wrongdoing (Romans 8:1). And it delivers us from the power of sin; we now have a clearer understanding of right and wrong and His Spirit living within us gives us power to choose what is right (2 Peter 1:3). But it also increases our awareness of sin; we realize things we thought were okay are actually displeasing to God, and some are actually enslaving us (John 9:39-41). We will spend the rest of our lives becoming aware of actions, thoughts, feelings, and beliefs we have embraced that are contrary to righteousness. There is no need to feel shameful about this; it is God’s plan for us. Far more life is being alert, honest, and humble about these areas.

But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin…having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:17-18, ESV)

We live as spiritual slaves, either to sin or righteousness. The Greek word translated slave, doúlos, means “someone who belongs to another”. So plugging that definition into the above verse reads, “…You who once belonged to sin…now belong to righteousness.” We want to be independent, self-determined, our own masters. But spiritually speaking that is simply not possible:

…Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. (I Corinthians 6:19-20, NIV)

God, our Creator, owns us. Although we originally rejected Him and chose sin, He paid a high price for a restored relationship with us: the blood of His Son. God is our rightful master. And once we become His through Christ, nothing can separate us from Him; we belong to Him for all eternity (Romans 8:38-39). We have security as a slave to the righteousness of our perfect, loving Heavenly Father. This is hard to grasp, but there are benefits of being a slave to righteousness:

But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. (Romans 6:22, NIV)

As slaves of God, we become a new creation. Our new nature desires to please God. We want to do what He says is right, to be holy like He is holy. We want to live in awe and reverence to Him. As new Christians, we see some changes right away and eagerly pursue more! We experience unconditional love and want to share it with others. We find purpose and meaning that satisfies us. We gain true pain relief through embracing His truth. We get a taste of far more life!

Sisters,
Think about what brings you pleasure; are you walking in the Spirit-filled nature or the sinful nature when you pursue it?
What do you do to avoid (emotional) pain? Which nature does that reinforce?
What do you NEED to be happy, satisfied, or functional? Is this healthy or could it indicate enslavement?
How do you feel about being a slave to righteousness? Does that feel different from “belonging to” God? If so, why?
Thank God for the benefits of being a slave to righteousness. Far more life is one of them!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso