1st Chronicles 3-5
When we began 1st Chronicles two days ago we likened the beginning of this book to a family reunion. It was written for the people of God who were returning to the Holy Land after years of captivity and living amongst foreign people who did not worship God (which had been their punishment for forsaking God). Now, they were returning and receiving a history lesson on what it means to be God’s people. If we listen in, I believe we can also benefit greatly from this lesson.
In today’s reading our list of genealogies is broken up in chapter 4 with a passage about Jabez. In two short verses we learn: “he was more honorable than his brothers”, “his mother had named him” – PAIN (in Hebrew Jabez sounds like pain), he prayed to be blessed, “and God granted his request.” (1 Chronicles 4:9,10). Makes you wonder why we don’t have any babies today named Epidural?
Seriously though, I hurt for this man Jabez. It doesn’t seem very nice of his momma to pass along the brief pain she felt at childbirth (I know, in the midst of it, it doesn’t feel brief) to her son to bear the name PAIN the rest of his life. Can you imagine the jokes he heard from the neighborhood boys? We also know it can be very painful growing up with less than honorable brothers.
It could have been a rough life for poor PAIN/Jabez. BUT – it wasn’t. Even though he had a few strikes against him in his early years, he knew to cry out to God. And, perhaps because of Jabez’s honor, and I am guessing his heart was in the right place, God was ready, willing and able to fulfill his request.
Just what was his request? “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me and keep me from harm so that I will be free from PAIN.” It is a touching prayer knowing his background. Other versions have slightly different interpretations – I especially love the NKJV, “Keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain.” It sounds so much more noble. But, either way, he cried out to God and God “granted his request”.
Does anyone else get a vision of a genie, or is it just me? Jabez cried out (with a list of 4-5 wishes) and his wishes were granted. Poof. Who wouldn’t take a God like that! I can fill a whole book with my wishes and cry out to God and all my wishes will be met. Never mind what God requires of His children. Never mind the timeline and big picture that God is working with in His infinite wisdom. Never mind the growth, compassion and character that develops in the midst of trials. I want no pain. I want it now. Give it to me, God.
I would love to read the rest of Jabez’ story – the daily details, his life’s timeline. I highly doubt that he never felt ANY more pain – never stubbed his toe, never lost a friend or family member, never needed to cry out to God again. But, we know that God was faithful. He blessed Jabez and He answered his prayer.
God wanted the returning Israelites to know the story of Jabez. He wanted them to know of God’s faithfulness and the good gifts that He brings to His children who are honorable and cry out to Him. Likewise, God wants you and me and the world today to know the story of Jabez. God takes us in our pain and gives us blessings. God is good. God is powerful. God is love. God is faithful.
BUT don’t be fooled. God is no magic genie. In fact, He is so much more.
Our history lesson continues. Keep reading, in chapter 5 (verses 23-26) we meet the half-tribe of Manasseh. They were God’s people. God had already fought their battles and given them land. They had prospered and become numerous. Their leaders were “brave warriors, famous men, and heads of their families” (1 Chronicles 5:24). It sounds so good. It looks like they were leading a charmed life. God’s goodness and power have provided for these people. We see God’s blessings – but do they? NO! “But they were unfaithful to the God of their fathers and prostituted themselves to the gods of the peoples of the land” (1 Chronicles 5:25). In their pampered state they turn from the One who has blessed them. They leave their Provider and Protector to run after false gods. They chase what the ungodly society calls good – rather than clinging to their Creator, the God of their fathers.
And, their foolishness comes with consequences. They don’t get more wishes granted. What they have is taken away. God uses the Assyrians to remove them – to place them into exile in a foreign land. They have earned themselves a Big Time-Out which will last several years, until God prepares the way for the exiles to return.
God wanted the returning Israelites to know the story of the half-tribe of Manasseh. He wanted them to know of the serious consequences that He puts into action when His children flaunt their waywardness. Likewise, God wants you and me and the world today to know the story of the half-tribe of Manasseh. God has given blessings, how will we respond? God is just. God is powerful. God is faithful. His loving kindness requires our faithfulness, too.
Today’s reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Chronicles+3-5&version=NIV
Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be Psalm 73, & 77-78 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan