Keep Me From Evil
Dr. Joe Temple

We read from I Chronicles, chapter 4, verse 9:

I Chronicles 4

9And Jabez was more honourable than his brethren: and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, because I bare him with sorrow.
10And 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.

I would like for us to notice particularly verse 10, which I trust has become somewhat familiar to us:

Particularly in this verse of Scripture I would notice with you the last request of three that are mentioned when Jabez prayed, “…and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me!…''. Notice the words again, “…and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me!…''.

You will remember that in the early part of this year, God gave me verse 10 in response to my annual request to Him to give me a verse by which I may live during the year. As I pointed out to you, for the last number of years God has given me such verses, and they are marked in my Bible with the year beside the verse. I have had wonderful experiences with the Lord as I have lived in the light of those verses.

God gave me this verse for 1963. I passed it on to you, encouraging as many of you as would to make this verse your verse for the year as well.

I told you that as God taught me this verse, I wanted to pass on some of the things that He taught me in relation to this verse, so that you too might enjoy them. When I speak about God's teaching me the verse, I'm not talking about His teaching the verse by rote so that I might give it from memory, but about God's teaching me the full depth and the full meaning of the verse.

As He has taught me these things, I have endeavored to share them with you, not in the sense of sermons, because anyone who is familiar with homiletics will realize immediately that what I'm going to say to you is not prepared well from a homiletical standpoint. What I am going to say to you represents some of the things that God has said to me in relation to the third part of this verse, for we have thought about the other portions of it before.

You will remember that the book of Chronicles represents what people would ordinarily think of as a list of names, a series of genealogies, because you read one verse after another, one phrase after another, one name after another, and you think, “My, when is this going to be over?''

As you get to chapter 4, suddenly in the midst of a series of names, there is a name no different from the others, but you realize something is different because instead of reading of this man begetting someone and that someone begetting someone else, you read:

I Chronicles 4

9And Jabez was more honourable than all of his brethren:…

Immediately you want to know the reason for it. As you seek the reason, you find in verse 10 that Jabez was more honorable than all of his brethren because he was a man of prayer. He was more honorable than all of his brethren because he learned how to get hold of the heart of God.

Now, as we pointed out to you, this phrase concerning Jabez, that he was more honorable than all of his brethren, is not a phrase that suggests that he had his name in the headlines of the newspaper or that he had received some medal of merit from some official. Really, the word honorable means weighted down with blessing , and what this verse of Scripture says is that Jabez was more weighted down with blessing than all of the men of his generation.

When you read that, you find in your own heart a deep desire to be weighted down with blessing more than anyone you might know. When you say to yourself, “How is it that Jabez could be more weighted down with blessing than anyone else?'', you realize that it was his prayer life. You say, “What kind of prayer life did he have?'' We look at verse 10, and we find that he knew how to talk to God, because we read that Jabez called on the God of Israel.

As we pointed out to you before, there are a number of titles in the Bible that are related to God. Though God in His mercy and in His grace will not insist on perfection in language every time we approach Him, there are a number of instances in the Bible where people did not get what they asked for because they didn't approach God in the right manner.

Remember the Syrophoenician woman who came to the Lord Jesus Christ one day and asked for help for her daughter? She was approaching in entirely the wrong way. With gentleness and firmness, the Lord Jesus Christ brought her to the place where she could ask Him in the right way, and then she received her request.

Jabez prayed, “Oh God of Israel,'' and if you are familiar with that term, you remember that it is a term which describes the God who is willing to bless only when we come to the end of ourselves, only when we reach the place where we know that there is nothing more we can do. Then we are able to receive from God's hand that which He pleases.

You will remember, too, when we looked at this verse that we told you that this very first petition, “Oh, that thou wouldest bless me indeed,'' is all wrapped up in the one word bless . The word bless comes from an original Hebrew word which conveys the picture of an individual's falling on his knees before his sovereign Lord with extended hand saying in utter, complete devotion, “Lord, I need you; Lord, bless me now because I can do nothing for myself.''

Jabez prayed about three things; we are now looking at the third one. In order that you may be familiar with the others, you remember he prayed, “Oh that thou wouldest enlarge my coast, that thou wouldest push back the boundaries; that thou wouldest deliver me from this feeling of claustrophobia that I have. Don't fence me in any longer, Lord. Push back the boundaries and do great and wonderful things.''

We believe by faith that God is going to enlarge the coasts of this testimony this year, and I believe we have even seen the beginning of the blessing. We have seen the rays of dawn and the first drops of the shower. We suggest that you claim this for your life too. Don't be content with just a little; get everything that God has for you.

“Oh that thou wouldest enlarge my coast,'' and then he said, “that thine hand might be with me.'' We examined that and we pointed out to you that in the first book of Chronicles, chapter 29, we are reminded that everything is in the hand of God, in the palm of His hand. We showed you by looking with you at the book of Ezra that the measure of blessing in a man's life is commensurate with the weight of God's hand on him.

Just as God's hand is on a man's life, God's blessing is on a man's life. We suggested to you that this request of Jabez was that the hand of God might rest upon him, that the hand of God might be very real every moment of the way.

Are you conscious of the hand of God in your life? You need to do a little heart searching, perhaps. It would pay to do it, because if God's hand is not on your life, you are never going to be able to enjoy to the full all that God has for you. Oh, yes, you may get along; you may do fairly well, but only as God's hand is on you can you expect the rich blessing of God.

What Jabez Prayed for

That brings us to the third request which Jabez prayed: “That thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me!'' Let me suggest to you that we examine, first of all, what he prayed about. Then we will notice how he prayed about it, and finally we will notice why he prayed about it.

“Oh Lord, that thou wouldest keep me from evil.'' What in the world was he praying that way for? Well, if we may say so, he was praying scripturally. When the disciples asked the Lord Jesus Christ to teach them to pray, He presented to them what is commonly referred to as the Lord's Prayer . You will remember that one of the things that He told them to pray was, “Lord, deliver me from evil.'' That is exactly what Jabez was praying: “Lord, keep me from evil; deliver me from evil.''

You are probably aware of the fact that in both the Old and the New Testaments, in both the Hebrew and the Greek, there are basic words for evil —two basic words. There are many forms of those two words, but there are two basic words for evil .

One of the words for evil refers to natural depravity or human depravity, and it is that word that we think of when we talk about sin and when we talk about immorality and when we talk about wrong doing.

There is another word, a word that has nothing to do with sin at all. It is a word that describes that which is hurtful, that which is harmful. When Jabez was praying, “Keep me from evil,'' he was not praying, “Keep me from sin.'' And when the Lord Jesus Christ told His disciples to pray, “Deliver me from evil,'' He was not saying to them, “Ask Me to deliver you from sin.''

There isn't anything wrong with praying like that, and in other places in the Word of God, such prayers are found. For example, you will remember that in Psalm 19, David prayed, “Keep back Thy servant also from presumptuous sins.'' So, it is all right to pray that God will deliver you out of sin, but that isn't the message of our present text.

The prayer of our text is that God would keep Jabez from hurtful things, that God would keep Jabez from things which would be a definite detriment to his life.

This is an exceedingly selfish prayer. How many times have you been told and how many times has it been suggested to you that you should not pray selfish prayers? I would like to remind you today that here is an instance of a man selfishly praying, and even praying what I like to call an anticipatory prayer . The things had not yet happened, but he was saying, “Lord, don't let them happen.'' He knew that in the natural course of events in relation to living, these things could come into his life.

To Be Kept From Adversity

As we examine what he prayed about, I am going to suggest that we turn to a number of passages of Scripture in which we will find this same word for evil translated in a number of different ways.

Turn in your Bibles, please, to the book of Ecclesiastes. In chapter 7 of the book of Ecclesiastes, verse 14, the wise man said:

Ecclesiastes 7

14In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: God also hath set the one over against the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him.

If you will look at that verse again, you will notice the word adversity in contradistinction to the word prosperity . What was Jabez saying? He was saying, “Lord, keep adversity away from me.'' That is the meaning of the word evil . “Keep adversity away from me; God, don't let it come my way.''

Have we a right to pray that way? Well, Jabez did, and the last statement of the verse is, “God granted him that which he requested.''

Turn, please, to Psalm 34 and notice verse 19:

Psalm 34

19Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all.

David wrote these words, and David was giving a personal testimony. He said, “I want to tell you something. I've endured a lot of afflictions, but the LORD delivers the righteous out of afflictions.''

Well, Jabez went him one better. He didn't say, “Lord, deliver me out of afflictions.'' He said, “Lord, keep them from me. Don't let afflictions come my way.'' The word for evil in the original text is the same word as the word for afflictions in this particular verse of Scripture. “Lord, don't let afflictions come my way.''

Pray Before Adversity Comes

I sometimes wonder if we do not pray too late. I sometimes wonder if we don't wait until the afflictions and the troubles come before we ask the Lord to do something about it when if we were on our tiptoes, we could pray that it wouldn't even happen.

Turn, please, in your Bibles to Psalm 71, where you find three different translations of this same word. Notice verse 12, where the Psalmist said:

Psalm 71

12O God, be not far from me: O my God, make haste for my help.
13Let them be confounded and consumed that are adversaries to my soul; let them be covered with reproach and dishonour that seek my hurt.

Notice the very last word of that verse—the word hurt . The Psalmist said, “Lord, do something with these people who are trying to damage me. I'm no match for them. Do something with these people who are seeking my hurt.''

But Jabez went David one better, and said, “Lord, don't let them get started. I've got too much to do for You to be worried about people who are seeking my hurt.''

Look down at verse 20 in that same Psalm:

Psalm 71

20Thou, which hast shewed me great and sore troubles, shalt quicken me again, and shalt bring me up again from the depths of the earth.

Notice the word troubles in verse 20. It is the same word again. Here is David saying, “Lord, you have shown me great and sore troubles, but I believe, Lord, that You are going to bring me out of my troubles, and I believe that You are going to start me out right again.''

Well, it is good to pray that way if God has permitted troubles to come into your life. It is good to ask God to do something about the troubles, but Jabez did something better than that. Jabez said, “Lord, don't let those troubles come.''

Do you see why I say to you that I think sometimes we wait too late to pray? Oh, if we could conserve this power of prayer, and use it wisely and not too late.

What did Jabez pray about? He prayed a very selfish prayer. He prayed about adversity; he prayed about affliction; he prayed about hurt; he prayed about trouble. If time permitted, we could go through the Word and show you that he prayed about distresses, and he prayed about being wretched and discouraged. He just prayed that none of those things would ever come in his direction. He prayed, “Lord, keep me from evil.''

Trust In God's Performance

Now, I would like for us to notice together how he prayed about these particular things. You know what he prayed about; he prayed about these very particular things. Now, how did he pray?

If you will go back to I Chronicles, chapter 4, and notice verse 10, you will hear him saying, “That thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me.'' If you will look at your Bibles, you will notice that the word “me'' is in italics, which means that it is not in the original text. It is put in by the translators to help us in our understanding. Now, many, many times that helps tremendously, but sometimes, I think, it takes away from the force of the actual Word itself in the original. Actually what you are reading here is, “That thou wouldest keep from evil, that it may not grieve me.''

The reason I am making this suggestion to you is that this word keep in the original language is a rather strange word. It is used in this way only in this one particular place. Everywhere else in the Bible it is translated by the word performance , which leads us to believe that this is not something that we can do anything about;it is something that God has to do.

I would like to give you an illustration or two from the Word of God. Turn, please, to the book of Jeremiah, chapter 1, and notice verse 12:

Jeremiah 1

12Then said the LORD unto me, Thou hast well seen: for I will hasten my word to perform it.

Isn't that a strange thing for God to be saying? “I will hasten my word to perform it.'' Very literally what He is saying is this: “Now, Jeremiah, you be my mouthpiece. I don't have any mouthpiece on the earth. You be my mouthpiece. You give out the Word, and I'll get behind it and give it a shove. I'll add emphasis to it. I will add force to it. I will cause it to accomplish what needs to be accomplished.'' Isn't that an amazing thing?

Now, here is Jabez saying, “Lord, all these troubles are in the world. They are all around me. Lord, I don't have any ability to do anything about this at all, but I am trusting You to perform whatever is necessary.'' That is the real meaning of the thought: “Perform whatever is necessary to keep me from these things.''

Turn, please, to the book of Isaiah, chapter 9, and notice verse 6:

Isaiah 9

6For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
7Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. [Notice] The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

See that word perform .'' It is the very same word that Jabez used for keep . Do you see what we are saying here? Here is a promise; God said that He is going to send His Son to the earth and one of these days the government of the world will be upon His shoulders. When Isaiah wrote these words, there was nothing farther from possibility than that. The idea of that suggestion was beyond anyone's imagination, and they had a right to say, “Well, how can that be?'' And Isaiah said, “I don't know. All I know is that the zeal, the power, of the Lord will perform it.''

Jabez said, “Lord, You keep me from these hurtful things. Keep me from adversity, from affliction, from trouble, from distress, from discouragement. Lord, don't even let them come into my life.''

Someone said, “Jabez, how do you think God is going to do a thing like that?'' And Jabez said, “I don't know, but He is going to perform it. It is in His power to perform this thing.''

The thing that I would like to leave with you is that Jabez was not looking at circumstances; he was looking at the performing power of God. Jabez was not looking at his own heart, at his own life, because he saw nothing there that would warrant any blessing from God. But he was looking at the performing power of God. And I say to you today that if this request is to become a reality in your life, then you, too, must look at God's performing power.

Reason for Jabez' Prayer

The third thing we want to know is, why did he pray this way? You say today, “Has anyone got a right to pray a selfish prayer like this?'' Well, perhaps if you pray it for the same reason that Jabez prayed it, you will have a right to pray it. If you will go back to I Chronicles, chapter 4, verse 10, you will notice again what he said: “That thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me.'' Look at that word grieve . “ord, keep me from evil that it may not grieve me.'' This word grieve is a very interesting word. It is translated a number of different ways by the Word of God.

One of the ways it is translated is by the word sorrow . It is another word for sorrow . If you will go back to verse 9 of this chapter, you will see the reason he prayed this way.

I Chronicles 4

9And Jabez was more honourable than his brethren: and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, Because I bare him with sorrow.

When we were looking at this verse originally, we told you that the ancients followed a practice of giving their children names that had definite significance.

This particular boy was called Jabez because his mother looked into his little face and said, “He is not going to know anything but sorrow. These are trying days in which he is born, and I'm afraid that his is going to be a miserable life.'' Or perhaps as she looked into his little face, there was something related to his life and experience that caused her to know that he was going to have a particularly hard time. And so Jabez, instead of being born into the world with a silver spoon in his mouth, was born into the world with a proclamation of sorrow over his head. And it hung over his head all of his life.

I believe that when Jabez was praying, weighing heavily upon his mind was what his name implied. Perhaps he said, “Oh God, I know that nothing but sorrow and heartache is my lot in prophecy; I know that nothing but sorrow and heartache has been prophesied for my life. But, Lord, I want You to overrule this thing. I want You to change it. I want You to make a difference.''

Recognition of God's Overruling Providence

I'm going to suggest to you today that the prayer of Jabez was prayed because he recognized the need for the overruling providence of God in his life. Do you believe in the overruling providence of God? What do I mean by that? I mean that God can overrule circumstances. I mean that God can overrule anything that is according to the natural course of events.

Here is an individual who has absolutely no capabilities at all to witness for Christ, and God can overrule those incapabilities and turn that individual into a flaming witness for Jesus Christ.

Here is a person whose circumstances are such that you can't even begin to think that anything would happen, but God can overrule the circumstances.

Permit this little aside, but sometimes a concrete illustration is more effective than many words. We have been mentioning to you that we personally, and we trust that some of you, are trusting God to enlarge our coast, to provide more adequate space here to do the work that God wants us to do. This word was passed on to another individual some weeks back, and this man laughed and said, “Well, that is real nice, but you haven't got anyone over there who could build a church. You haven't got any money over there to build a building, so why even talk like that?''

The first man reported it to me and said, “Now, what have you got to say about that?'' I said, “Nothing. Except that when Jabez prayed this prayer, he believed in the overruling providence of God.'' True, there is nothing about this place that would indicate that God could do any of the things that I am suggesting, but we have a God who is able to overrule. I believe that.

Here is an individual on whom the sentence of death has been placed. The doctors have made their diagnosis; they say that this is the way it is and there is no use to expect anything else. This is the way it has to be. These are prominent men, imminent men; they know what they are doing. They know what they say; there is no use to question their diagnosis; there is no use to question their wisdom. It is all true. But don't forget the overruling providence of God. Don't forget that you can pray as Jabez prayed, “Lord, even though this thing ought to happen according to the natural course of events, don't let it happen.''

Why did he pray this way? Well, he prayed this way not only because there was a need for the overruling providence of God in his life, but he prayed this prayer that he might not be grieved in the process of his experience with God. You see, Jabez realized something that most of us don't realize, and that is that anything that moves creates friction. Any child of God who makes any advancement for God at all can expect the very forceful opposition of the Devil.

Now, you can expect that, and Jabez knew it. So, really what he was doing was praying against the Devil. He said, “Lord, I've got so much to do for You in relation to the enlarging of my coast that I don't want to be grieved by all these things I'm praying about.''

Vexation From the Devil

Now, this word grieved is translated in chapter 66 of the book of Isaiah, verse 10, by the word vex . And he said, “Lord, I don't want things to vex me.'' Do things ever vex you? Well, I'm going to be perfectly frank with you. When I get to the place where things don't vex me, I expect to be in my coffin. I don't expect to be alive. Things vex me; they get in my way. I don't want to be bothered with them.

Well, Jabez was saying, “Lord, don't let these things vex me. Don't let them come around to irritate me.'' The Devil can send a lot of vexations your way, you know. Just about the time you think you are going to get something done for God, you get sick in the bed. The Devil stands off in a corner, and says, “Good. I've put him out of the running for a little while.'' And it vexes you. Well, don't put up with those vexations; you don't have to.

Just about the time you think you are going to be able to do something good for God, you lose your money. And the Devil says, “Good, now he can't do what he thought he'd do. I made him lose his money.'' Well, don't put up with those vexations. Pray about them before they ever occur.

This word grieve is also a word that has been translated by the word twist . “Lord, don't let things come into my life that are going to upset my plans, that are going to twist me, that are going to twist things out of shape. Lord, I want everything to run smoothly as an oiled machine is able to run.''

I dare say that you have never heard a more selfish prayer than this, have you? Why, he just didn't want any trouble, did he? He didn't want anything unpleasant to happen to him. He didn't want anything to occur that would upset his plans.

You say today, “Well, I don't think a person ought to pray that way. I think trials are good for you. I think tribulations are good for you.'' They are, if God sends them. Let's not blame everything on God.

Conclusion

The Devil is irritating the people of God, and to be perfectly frank, I'm irritated with him for doing it. I think it is high time that we challenged the Devil in this thing, and I think it is high time that we put the Devil in his place through prayer and asked God to build a hedge about us that these things may not grieve us.

I thank God that I have learned to pray the prayer, “God, keep me from these evil things that they may not vex me.'' And I fully expect God to do it.


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