October 10th – Ancestral Heroes



The Old Testament books of Chronicles begin with detailed history of family trees, all beginning with Adam. Most western people reading it get bored with the seemingly unending galleries of names “who was the father of …”, or as the older English versions put it, who ‘begat’ whom. Every now and then however, instead of a name you get a portrait. For example, in the First Book of Chronicles Chapter 4 we are ploughing through some of the clans of Judah, then at v. 8 and 9 we run into one such portrait : and Koz, who was the father of Anub and Hazzobebah and of the clans of Aharhel son of Harum.
Jabez was more honourable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying “… because I gave birth to him in pain”. Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “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.” And God granted his request. I Chronicles 4:8-10
And then on again, along the corridors of name plates. Now what was so special about Jabez that deserved a picture in history? He conquered no kingdoms, he wrote no poetry, but HE PRAYED. Why is that thought worthy of including him in a Roll of Honour? Well, the name his mother gave him was like the Hebrew word for pain or agony, attaching to him for life the way his mother agonised over giving him birth. A bad start in life! But perhaps it wasn’t just the physical pain. Perhaps her agony was in giving birth to an unwanted child – or a fatherless child. Whatever the reason, he was named “Sorrowful” or “agony”. But starting off badly wasn’t the point. Jabez grew up praying. It sounds a pretty selfish prayer, “Bless me and enlarge my territory”. Surely it was not a greedy, grabbing, yearning for more possessions for the chronicler wouldn’t consider that unusual or worthy of note. Suppose it was a cry for a greater capacity of the soul. Enlarge my heart: the borders of my mind; my compassion; make me a more truly human being.
But what about him asking to be kept from pain? Don’t you see? Since he was born he had been aware of his mother’s pain, but what’s worse is the harm it can do to you if you go through life hurting and grieving and oppressed and ultimately eaten up with self-pity and grievances. Those are the really harmful effects of pain.You become a sorry sight! To ask to be kept from that is surely good, and see, it says “And God granted his request”. So that is why it was included. Here was an unknown man, with no credentials worthy of honour yet in God’s book he was a hero! He prayed, and his prayers were real, and that’s what makes real history.
A Prayer:
Lord, I dare not ask to be spared the pains of being human, but from the hardening of my soul, from cynicism of mind and the joylessness of spirit, deliver me – in hope. I pray, in Jesus name.
Now read I Chronicles Chapter 22.

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