This is a guest post by author Dr. Frank Chase Jr, Th.D
Scripture Reference 1 Chronicles 4: 9-10
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 (NKJV).
Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez saying, “Because I bore him pain.” And Jabez called on Yahweh and asked Him to enlarge his territory and to be with him. So what’s the backstory that would necessitate Jabez and his mother to pray this way?
The title, What’s in a Name, is an important question to ask in answering the question. Most people don’t consider how significant a name is, what names mean and the impact names have on our lives and future. First Chronicles begins with a genealogical account of the family of Judah. As biblical fact, the Old Testament and the New Testament devote entire chapters to genealogy and family history often overlooked by Bible readers, but family history is an important factor in knowing and understanding your lineage. It is important to know where we come from in our natural family and the spiritual influences that have impacted the family line as it relates to God’s purpose for our lives.
Like a well-performed play, the genealogy in 1 Chronicles gives a detailed account of God’s impact in the family history of Judah. Verses 1-8 details the generations of the sons of Judah, his grandchildren and great grandchildren. Without notice, God turns a curve and allows the cat out of the bag with a two-verse family history lesson about a man named Jabez. God abruptly takes a break from the genealogy and introduces or should I say remembers Jabez’s entrance into the world and inserts a sidebar in the text about his difficult birth. The introduction of a sidebar means an important fact must be make known. People in the Bible often choose names for their children with thoughtful intent and taught their children to understand the purpose of their name as they live out their lives.
To extrapolate from this verse to help single or married mothers, we never see Jabez’s father mentioned in the text. Was he alive or dead when Jabez was born? Though his mother’s birth was full of pain, could we contemplate that a financial problem might have existed with raising a son alone? Maybe she named him Jebez because in her pain she knew the struggle involved as a single parent and wondered how she would provide for his day-to-day care. This analysis may not be hermeneutically sound, but allow me to think outside the lines for a minute. To all mothers, let me encourage you to never name your child based on painful experiences. Children should never bear the pain or the aftereffects of a name we give them because of the unwise choices we’ve made. Children need names with purpose and identity that connects them to their history which sets them up for an expected destiny.
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!” This is powerful because it is apparent that Jabez was aware of his mother’s words that he caused her such pain that he would ask God to not let him cause pain to anyone. I could not image a child carrying around such feeling about his birth. But in his prayer, God recognized his plight and granted his request. His actions prove that Jabez did not let the circumstances surrounding his name affect his destiny. In fact God knew his destiny and stopped the genealogy report to give breaking news that Jabez was more honorable than his brothers despite the fact his mother gave him a name that represented pain. What an amazing compliment from the God of Israel to stop the genealogy report to make an announcement about this young man to answer his prayer request. The question is, did not Jabez know what tribe he came from and the exploits they performed with God’s help? Did he not know the powerful people of the tribe of Judah, like Caleb, a faithful spy, King Solomon and many other kings to include King David? And if that’s not enough, Jebez is in for a surprise because the Messiah descended from the seed of David who comes from the tribe of Judah. It is for this reason God began 1 Chronicles with the genealogy report to set the family record straight to make sure Jebez knew who he was in the family of God, and yes the same is true for our families as well. If Jabez didn’t know his bloodline or family history, God revealed it to him and changed his life.
Perhaps you don’t have a problem with your name or an identity crisis like Jabez, but there are people who deal with the crisis of being labeled by other people. The power to define is the power to determine destiny. If someone can define your life, they have the power to determine your success and what you can achieve. When we accept definitions and labels people hand out, we convince ourselves that we are what they say about us. But that can’t happen if you know your history and God’s purpose for your life. God made a clear statement about Jabez and his word is final.
Some people don’t like their names nor their family history, but God changes names and history to set new paths in people lives. In God’s relationship with Abram, his life changed when God changed his name to Abraham. So whether it’s labels or what people say, God is there to set the record straight only if we ask like Jabez did. As Jebez asked God to enlarge his territory, he will answer our prayers as well. The context of enlarge my territory refers to land in Jebez’s request to God. Jabez wanted God to keep him from evil and prevent him from causing pain and disappointment to anyone around him. But after his prayer, his life changed. If our natural family history has a painful history we’d like to forget, God can change the afflictions of the past and give you a new family history that is much different.
God answered and granted Jabez everything he prayed for. His life story is amazing because I have never read a scripture text where the text suddenly breaks and inserts a story in the middle of a genealogy report. I’m glad Jabez didn’t think too long about the circumstances around his mother’s reason for naming him Jabez and become a man who causes sorrow and pain but prayed for change. And as the breaking news story ended in the text just as it began, God finishes the genealogy report of Judah in verses 11-23 so all would know the blood line of Judah.
The bottom line is, “What’s in a name?” You name is only what your make of it. In a crisis, we can all do as Jabez did. This story motivated me to find out what my name meant. The name Frank means, “Free Man.” The spiritual connotation of my name means, “Shining.” The very nature of my name suggests that I’m supposed to live my life in such a way that it displays my free man shine status. For the scripture says, “Whom the son sets free is free indeed.” But I have to admit that that there is one thing I lack and that is a connection to my forefathers from the land of the blacks, which is now called Africa, named after a Roman General, Africanus who defeated Hannibal and renamed the land after himself. I can identify with Jabez, and I hope one day I can connect with my ancestors who were stolen from their land many eons ago. It is my hope and prayer that I discover who I really am culturally in the homeland of my ancestors where I can truly feel like a free man that shines.
In the future, my prayer will be that God speaks to me like Jabez and stops the presses to reveal that I come from a long line of great kings and queens from a great civilization. And so I look forward to God finishing the story of my family lineage and genealogy. And on the journey I will discover that my purpose determines my potential; my purpose determines my passion; my purpose determines my design; my purpose determines my capacity and ability; my purpose determines my natural abilities; my purpose determines my natural desires; and my purpose determines my fulfillment and personal satisfaction.