A Request for Blessing
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Please open your Bibles to I Chronicles, chapter 4. While you are turning there, may I remind you that if you looked at the first chapter of I Chronicles and glanced through most of the chapters, you would decide that it was about the most uninteresting book in the Word of God, and you would wonder why it was even there. However, if you realize that the truth of God's Word is not based upon spur of the moment thinking, but on the great heritage of the nation of Israel, you would know the reason why the books of Chronicles, both first and second, are included in the Word. There is a need for them for the overall foundation of truth which has come to us from the nation of Israel by the grace of God.

I think quite often when we run across a book like this in the Word, we are prone to glance at it and go on. Such certainly was my custom until the Lord directed my attention to these two verses here in I Chronicles, the fourth chapter. Everything before them is the same. So and so begat so and so, and so and so begat so and so. And everything afterward is practically the same. But nestled in the midst of this so called genealogy or record of events, which is what the book of Chronicles actually means, is nestled this gem of truth. Notice:

I Chronicles 4

9And Jabez was more honorable 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.

A Divine Designation

Isn't it interesting that here among a great number of people of whom nothing is said other than their birth and death is the statement of a man whom God described in a way that is certainly worth our attention? For God said concerning this man that he was a man more honored than any man in his generation. Now that is a tremendous statement. I have called it a “divine designation.” It is an amazing statement, in the light of the ninth verse. If you look again at the ninth verse, you read what I have just said: “Jabez was more honorable that his brethren.” Then you read, “And his mother called his name Jabez, saying, because I bare him in sorrow.” And the thrust of that verse was that in spite of his life, his birth, and the age in which he was born, he was the most honorable man in the whole generation.

You may say, “Where is there any information about him and his birth, and the place he was born?” Well, it's all involved in the name “Jabez.” Individuals in Bible times gave their children names that had some significance. They didn't name them for aunts or uncles always. They didn't name them for their favorite personages. They named them either because of what was occurring at the time of their birth or because of what they anticipated their children might do in the generation in which they lived. We are told that the mother of Jabez called him Jabez, because she had borne him in sorrow. Now the word “Jabez” actually means “sorrow.” We do not know whether this reference to his birth was related to the pain and suffering that might be related to his birth or not. She may have died at the time of his birth.

You will recall Rachel and her child, Benoni. You don't know him as Benoni. You know him as Benjamin. But she called him “Benoni” because her heart was broken with the realization of the fact that she was going to leave him. She called him “the son of my sorrow.” But after she had departed this life; and the father of Benjamin–Jacob–had to live and raise his children without her, he said to himself, “This isn't a good name. I don't want to go about calling him the 'son of my sorrow.' That just leaves a lasting memory of what we've been through. I'm going to change his name to Benjamin, 'the son of my right hand'.”

I give that illustration to say that Jabez was born with some sad events related to his birth. It could have been that that mother, like many of us parents today who bring children into the world, was concerned about the kind of world in which they are being born–not with the idea that we should not bring them into the world, but with concern. Certainly I think that you will agree that the generation in which I reared my children was not as dramatically bad as the generation in which young people are rearing their children today. Please don't take up my time by saying, “Oh things are always the same.” That simply is not true. The Word of God teaches us that the age is getting worse. So I say, she may have given him this name because she knew of the age in which he was going to be born, and it wasn't a good age. It was an age somewhat similar to our age. As a matter of fact, one of the relatives of Jabez was what we would refer to as a munitions manufacturer today. He was preparing those about him for war.

Now this individual, Jabez, I say, was born with what you might say was a burden of sorrow upon his head. And yet, with all of that, God said he was the most honorable man in his generation. I would like to remind you today that though what I said a few moments before is absolutely true concerning the age in which we live, you need not be discouraged. You need not say, “It's terrible. There's nothing we can do about it.” Remember there was one man who lived in one generation about whom God said, “He was the most honorable in all his generation.”

A Man Most Blessed

I don't know that that interests you particularly. It certainly did not interest me when I read that he was the most honorable man, because honor has never particularly interested me. When I launched out into the deep, as I discussed with you the first year verse in this series, I determined then that God was going to have first place in my life. When I slipped a bit away from that and God brought that second verse into my life that I mentioned to you, “Seek ye great things for yourself? Seek them not.”, I settled once and for all that the honor of man is not worthy of my attention.

So I say, I was not particularly interested when I read in this verse that he was the most honorable among all his generation. And yet I knew that God had brought this verse to my attention and increasingly reminded me that I should claim it as my year verse for 1963. So I began to wonder what God meant, and as I searched the Word and the original text, I found that the word “honorable” does not refer to the honor that is given to men. As a matter of fact, a more accurate translation was, “Jabez was the most blessed man in all of his generation.” He was blessed of God more than any man in his generation! And that interested me. I wanted God's blessing in my life, and I wanted to know why it was that Jabez was the most blessed man in his generation.

Desire for God's Blessing

As I pursued the study of this verse with that thought in mind, I realized that Jabez was the most blessed man in his generation because he had a deep desire for the blessing of God. Notice verse 10:

I Chronicles 4

10And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed…

Jabez expressed in these words a desire that was the greatest desire he could possibly have. “Oh, that thou wouldest bless me indeed.” The word “bless” is a word that describes a man who is kneeling before a superior with his arms outstretched saying, “I want whatever you have for me. Whatever you have for me, I want.” He was waiting on God.

Now it's interesting to me that the Scripture records that he called on the God of Israel. Those of you who are familiar with your Bibles know that there are many names for God in the Scriptures, many titles. It is significant that you learn what those titles are for the most part, so that you might be able to pray intelligently. I don't want to leave you with the wrong impression today, and tell you that God's not going to hear you if you don't have the right words, but I am going to tell you that God thinks it's important that you learn them so you can use them.

Why was it important for Jabez to call upon the God of Israel? Do you know who the God of Israel was? Go back in your mind to the 28th chapter of Genesis. Review in your mind that wrestling match that day when the Angel of the Lord wrestled with Jacob. Sometimes when we talk about that, we put the emphasis on the idea that Jacob wrestled with the Angel. That wasn't true. The Angel there, actually “the Angel of the Lord,” was the Lord Jesus Christ. It was only when he touched Jacob in his loin, the source of his strength (and Jacob was a cripple for the rest of his life after that), that Jacob's will was surrendered. Jacob quit struggling and said, “Bless me. As a matter of fact, I'm not going to let go until you do bless me. I want your blessing more that anything else.” You recall that God said to him, “What's you name?” He said, “Jacob.” God said “Yes, that's 'deceiver, liar, cheat'; you're not going to be that any more. You're going to be a prince in Israel. Your name from here on out will be 'Israel'.”

Need for Surrender

Do you see what I'm saying to you? You must recognize when you pray this prayer that Jabez prayed that God is a God who is able to bless you only when you surrender yourself completely and fully to him. And this is what Jabez said, “Oh God of Israel, bless me indeed.” Another interesting thought, in some of the translations is the phrase, “Oh that thou wouldest bless me, indeed,” the word “indeed” is left out. What is recorded that he actually said in the original was, “Oh, that thou wouldest bless me,” and there's a pause, a blank, just as though he was saying, “Here is my life. It's a blank check for you to fill in in whatever way you want to accomplish your purpose.” That is real surrender, and that is what is needed if the blessing of God is going to be such in your life that you will be blessed in this class of people who are blessed more than the average man in the world.

What was it that Jabez wanted? Jabez, when he asked God to bless him, and God moved his heart to pray further, asked God, in four requests, for three things. The first thing he said was, “Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coasts.” I like to use the word “prosperity” to describe that request. He said to God, “Enlarge my coasts. Push back the border, and give me a wider opportunity.” When God used that to speak to my heart, my request was exactly that: Lord, push back the border and give me a wider ministry.

In 1963, we were meeting in what is now part of the fellowship hall, and the building was crowded. The Sunday School rooms were crowded. And I said that day, when I brought that message, “I'm going to believe God to enlarge the borders of this ministry.” I invited all who wanted to believe God with me to do so. I said as well during that day, that “I believe God is going to enlarge the radio ministry. I believe God's going to give us a television ministry.” At that time, the television ministry we had was sporadic. The stations here used to give free television time, and I would get my week like all the other preachers in town. I loved it, and I loved the opportunity, so I went to the managers of the stations; and I said, “I know some of these men are very busy, and I'm not. If for some reason they can't fill their week, call me; I'll fill it.” And so I've had the opportunity of preaching on television since the beginning of television stations here.

I used to drive out to Cedar Gap Mountain, where they had a little control room, and fight the wasps as I preached on television. It was an opportunity; and I said, “I believe God is going to give us a television ministry,” and I believed that He would. Then I said, “I believe God is going to add to our missionary program, and I believe that God is going to enlarge the radio ministry.”

Recital of Blessing

Time will not permit us to review all of these blessings of God, but let me just say for your encouragement today that God did enlarge the coasts then. God gave us the television ministry that we have now that has been a blessing. God raised up folk to start the printed page ministry, which has gone around the world. When I said that I would want God to increase our missionary ministry, I was thinking of maybe one missionary. But God works in strange ways. That year five couples left this ministry and went out as missionaries in the United States and in other parts of the world, some not in an official way. I mean by that not going to a mission board and getting their approval, but in the service; they went for the purpose of being missionaries. The service was a conveyance which they used. God gave us an enlargement of borders as far a building is concerned which would not seem much now, but it was then, because He enabled us to knock out another wall and add some more Sunday School rooms. All that He did then in 1963 has been torn down and moved out so that we could worship in this place that God has given us.

You see, when God starts something He doesn't stop. I believe the very reason we are sitting in this lovely building today is because God believed our request when we said, “Enlarge our coasts.” You may have a desire today for your coasts to be enlarged, and time does not permit me to suggest to you the areas in which that enlargement might be, but please believe me today. That was 1963 that I first began to trust this promise. Here it is 1989, and I can tell you over all these years that God is able to enlarge your coasts. You say, “Doesn't that seem kind of selfish to be praying about things like that?” Well, I don't know. God said we could do it. You may need a better job. You may need a larger house. I don't know what you might need, but believe me today, trust God. He is able to enlarge your coasts.

Request for God's Power

You will notice the second request that Jabez made of the Lord down there is verse 10:

I Chronicles 4

10…Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me…

I like to describe that request with the words, “the presence of God or the power of God.” He said, “Oh God, you want to know what I want for my blessing? I want Your hand to be on me all the time.” Those are just words unless you understand the Scripture. You will remember that when David was praying about the temple that God had permitted him to accumulate the material for but would not permit him to build, and his son was going to build it, in I Chronicles, chatper 29, David said, “Oh God, it is in your hand to give power. It is in your hand to give might.” What David said that day established a principle and reiterated the truth that has never failed. “Oh that God's hand might be on my life,” Jabez said, and I said the same thing.

When you have time you should read carefully the book of Ezra–a beautiful little book. It's been preached from this pulpit. You recall the key verse in Ezra's life: “He made up his mind; he sanctified his heart in order that the hand of God might be with him.” He purposed that that would be the theme of his life, and you will remember in the book of Ezra over and over again the hand of God, the hand of God, the hand of God. He stood before a heathen king and said, “I want to go back and build the temple that your ancestors tore down.” Who would dare to do that? He wasn't anybody, but the hand of God was on him, the record said. And the king not only let him go back; but he sent word ahead to his treasurers, “If this fellow needs anything, give him what he needs.” You see, there isn't anything that you cannot do within the will of God, if the hand of God is on you.

It is normal for us in our human thinking to want the approbation of man, and sometimes we are very comfortable when we are in some circumstance where we need the help of others; and a friend, a Christian brother, says, “I'm going to stand with you in this.” We all ought to practice that more. A Christian brother says, “I'm going to stand with you in this.” You go home say to your wife, “You know, everything's going to be all right; he's going to stand with us.” That's wonderful, but don't forget this: Whether anybody stands with you or not, the hand of God can rest upon you; and the hand of God resting upon you can give you all the power that you need. Is God's hand resting on you today?

Request for Protection

There was another request here. Look at the verse again:

I Chronicles 4

10Jabez 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!

Thou wouldest keep me from evil that it may not grieve me. One request that is two requests in one, and I like to use the word “protection” to describe that request. Did you notice what he said? “Oh God, keep me from evil.” There are two Hebrew words that are translated “evil” in the Scriptures. One of them refers to what we would describe as the natural depravity of man, the sinful nature. Another describes difficult times, troubles. For example, if we had time to follow this word through the Word of God, we would find that this word “evil” stands for adversity. It stands for affliction. It stands for trouble. It is translated by the words “adversity,” and “affliction,” and “trouble” in several different passages in the Word of God.

Do you see what Jabez was praying? “Oh, God keep me from adversity. Lord, don't let me get sick. Keep me from affliction. Lord, don't let me get into trouble. Give me sense enough to know how to live so that I won't.” You can elaborate on that and make it as full as you want to make it, because that was his request. I call this anticipatory praying, and I don't think we do enough of it. We do pray after we get in trouble, don't we? I've always been thankful, and I've said this many times, that it's never too late when you're in the trouble. Go ahead and pray.

Anticipatory Praying

Do you remember what David said about that? “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and delivered him out of all his trouble.” I'm so glad that that's in the Word of God. You know what we do most of the time. Sometimes our children come to us because they're in trouble, and the first thing we say, “What did you do it for? You know better. How in the world did that happen?” But God never says that. “God, I'm in trouble. It's my fault, and I don't know what to do. Help me!” God delivers. Isn't that wonderful? Well, here's something wonderful, too. God says you can do some anticipatory praying. You can say, “God, don't let me get into trouble. Build a guard about me that I won't. Don't let me be afflicted. Don't let the times of adversity come.” Somebody says, “Doesn't the Word say, 'Count it all joy when you fall into divers testings'?” Yes, but if you read that in context, it's when God brings the testings, not when the Devil does. You see, this passage of Scripture could read, “Oh God, don't let the Devil get in my way. Oh, Lord, keep me from the evil one.” We deal today not only with evil as an abstract thing; we deal with evil as a personality in the person of the Devil who goes about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. We have every right in the world to pray, “Keep me from evil.”

I want you to look at that word “keep” for a moment. When we think about that word “keep,” we usually think maybe about a hedge or some abstract protection, a barrier that will keep the enemy out; but this is the only place, interestingly enough, that this Hebrew word is translated “keep.” Everywhere else in the Scripture it is translated by the word “perform.” Do you remember what God said to Jeremiah? He said, “Jeremiah, you be my mouthpiece. You be my speaker. You say what I tell you to say, and [notice] I will hasten the word to perform it.” That word “perform” is the translation of this same word “keep.” He said in Isaiah, chapter 55, that the rain comes down from heaven and His Word will not return unto Him void, for He will prosper it, perform it, in the area in which it has been sent. It is the same idea.

Why is that important? So often when we ask God to keep us from trouble, we fall into the habit of expending our own energy as though it all depended upon us. We fall into the deception of the Devil that God helps them that help themselves. That may be all right from the standpoint of the world, but it's not all right from God's standpoint. For what you are not able to do, God will do in His miraculous power. He will watch over you to perform that which is needed in your life, that you will have the divine protection from the evil one that you need.

The Overruling Providence of God

“Oh, that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thy hand might be with me, and thou wouldest keep me from evil [now notice] that it may not grieve me.” That word “grieve” is the same translation as the word “sorrow” in verse 9. It's a play on words. You see what he's saying? He's saying, “God, I was born to sorrow, and my name even indicates that, but I'm going to ask you to overrule that. I'm not going to live as a man of sorrow just because that's what everybody expects. I'm not going to live defeated just because I'm living in an overwhelming age about which I can do nothing. God, deliver me. Keep me from evil that it may not grieve me.” He has prayed for the overruling providence of God. How grateful I am for that today. You may be in a situation that is absolutely helpless and hopeless. Everybody who gives you any advice will say there's nothing you can do about that. You can't, but God can. God does overrule the threats of men and the designs of men and brings about his purpose. Sometimes, you know, we feel like we made a failure in something, and we're reaping the result of that failure. We say to ourselves, “Well, I brought it on myself.” Quite often we do, but you don't need to live defeated in the light of that, and say, “Well, I brought it on myself; it's what I deserve.” You can say, “God, overrule my foolish mistakes. Overrule my carelessness and get glory to your name.” And God will do it.

A Divine Declaration

I leave you with the last statement of that verse, a divine declaration. There was a divine designation. Here is a man more honorable than any man in his generation. There was a deep desire, “Oh, God of Israel, that thou wouldest bless me.” And now, there is a divine declaration. As we waited to see what God would do, the Spirit of God said, “And God granted him that which he requested.” God granted him that which he requested. After approximately a year, in 1963, I could say to the glory of God, God granted me that which I requested. Enlarge my coast. Keep your hand on me. Protect me from the evil one. God granted my request. I said I could say that approximately one year after God gave me this verse, but He still does it. He still enlarges coasts; He still keeps His hand on me, and He still protects me from the evil one. And I say that to you on the basis of the fact that this is the fiftieth year of our ministry. If I had just spoken to you today and said, “You know, I've been doing this five weeks,” you might wonder about it; but you cannot deny the power of God when you've had fifty years of experience in it, and I beg of you today to pray this prayer that Jabez prayed and watch what God can do.

Prayer

Thank you, Father, once again for the precious privilege of teaching the Word of God. Thank you for the opportunity we've had today to share this truth. We thank you, Father, for your faithfulness to me, personally, and to all these people here today. Thou hast been faithful. I would ask now that every person who has a real need today to have the boundaries pushed back, to sense the hand of God upon them, I would pray for every person who is doing battle with evil, that You might meet their needs; and we can thank God for answered prayer. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.


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