"And Jabez was more honourable than his brethren: and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, Because I bare him with sorrow. And 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." (1 Chronicles 4:9,10)
"And Jabez was more honourable than his brethren." What honor God has put upon His saints! Heirs of God and joint-heirs with the Lord Jesus Christ, sons and daughters of the Lord God Almighty! "And if children, then heirs." Oh, to be an heir of glory, formed to show forth the Lord's everlasting praise in endless bliss above! However mortals might despise God's people for Christ's sake, they would be better employed if they had grace to despise themselves, and love His saints for Christ's sake. But few despise themselves. It is a very common thing with me to loathe myself. And what a mercy to love God and His Christ; and to have foretastes of the inheritance that remaineth, "where the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest."
"And Jabez was more honourable than his brethren: and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, Because I bare him with sorrow." Did you ever know sinful parents have innocent children? Oh, may you and I put on bowels of mercy, and bear with them, and try and pray for them!
"Because I bare him with sorrow." Look here, how about God's honorable ones? Did not Christ bear them with sorrow? How I paced my room, not many hours ago, thinking of these words,--
"He stills remembers Calvary,
Nor let His saints forget."
Did He not carry our griefs and bear our sorrows? "By His stripes we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5) Through His death we live, by His humiliation we are exalted to glory. Oh, the grief, the anguish that burst upon His soul, to open a channel for mercy for poor sinners like us! May we never the cost forget. They that are saved are saved at a very, very, very great cost. "Because I bare him with sorrow." Millions of hells in a torrent burst on the human soul of Christ; the law cursed Him; justice sheathed its sword in His heart's blood; all for mercy to flow to the vilest of men. "Because I bare him with sorrow."
I would have you read this short prayer at your leisure. And you try and keep one thing in mind--the last clause of the verse is simply this, "And God granted him that which he requested." You think of that. If the Holy Ghost has taught you to pray the same petition (He will ever teach all His children to do so,) from similar feelings, by the help of the same Spirit, it must be acceptable by Jesus Christ. The Lord set Jabez praying because He designed to answer him.
"And Jabez called on the God of Israel." I came on purpose this morning to encourage you. I do sometimes come and dash about. There is something in you to resist my word, but you cannot resist God's Word. What a mercy to have a little gracious taste of Himself, or evidence that we are on the right side of the impassable gulf, before God for eternity.
"And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying." In the matter of prayer I have often thought I differ from most men. I never could do much with set times for prayer. It seems to me again and again, if I come in any set form, as if the gate is shut in my face, as if perfect destitution seized me. I tell you what--whether in trouble or peace, you let me saunter about alone. I know more of the Lord my God than of anyone, and I want to muse it out before Him, and thank Him, if I have anything to thank Him for.
I will say one thing: I do feel it a blessing I would not lightly give up to meet with God's people. There is a feeling in my mind like this--you have some of God's people round you, and so you can use the word we, and pray with them. But if I feel peace or trouble, let me saunter alone, and groan or praise it out. I know the Lord, and He knows me. He assured me this morning He had ever been, and ever would be, the lifter up of my head.
"And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying." Hart might well say,--
"Had he to any other prayed,
To us it had not mattered what."
And if the Holy Ghost pours upon you a spirit of grace and supplication, (Zech. 12:10) you will call upon the God of Israel, confess heartily what you feel, and express warmly your desire. But without the Holy Ghost what can we do? I say, the gate shuts in my face.
"And Jabez called on the God of Israel." Poor sinner, think of it. He is an omnipresent God. There is not a sigh nor wish but penetrates His ear. David said that, when he was in a horrible pit, the Lord inclined unto him and heard his cry. There is nothing upon earth will so attract a mother as the child's cry of distress; you could not amuse her and keep her away for five minutes if she hears the cry; away she goes. You look into the 106th Psalm. There is one of the darkest catalogues you ever read. By-and-by is ushered in "nevertheless;" nevertheless, notwithstanding all, "He regarded their affliction when He heard their cry." Look at the fond mother, three or four little children round her, all the work of the house to do, no one to help her, not much coming in. Sometimes the woman's patience seems almost gone (I feel while people keep me straight I can do anything for them.) Here is the poor woman with everything to do, one child crying, another dabbling in the dirt at the back door. By-and-by the poor woman gets so peevish, and yet, if one of these toddling ones were to fall down the cellar steps, away she would run to him, kiss him, hug him, and all her patience would come back.
"Nevertheless, He regarded their affliction when He heard their cry: and He remembered for them His covenant." One saith, "Have respect unto the covenant; for the dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty." (Psalm 74:20) "Yet He hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although He make it not to grow." (2 Samuel 23:5) "Nevertheless, He regarded their affliction when He heard their cry." (Psalm 106:44) "For the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, saith the Lord: I will set him in safety from him that puffeth at him." (Psalm 12:5) The Israelites, under taskmasters, groaned out their misery, and God had respect unto them.
"And Jabez called on the God of Israel." Poor sinner, He is always present. His "hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither His ear heavy, that it cannot hear." (Isaiah 59:1) And He always takes delight in petitions and confessions indited by the Holy Ghost. A mother will regard the cry of her own child, and so will God of His children. "Nevertheless, He regarded their affliction when He heard their cry: and remembered for them His covenant, and repented according to the multitude of His mercies."
"Called upon the God of Israel, saying." And, poor sinner, if trouble is upon thy heart, sin and guilt on thy conscience, and the law threatening to damn thee, the devil attacking thee; notwithstanding all, though they get thee down, and roll thee in the gutter, all hell cannot keep thee quiet. And what is this but calling upon the God of Israel?
The sight of the poor, half-dead man, going from Jerusalem to Jericho--the poor, backsliding sinner--brought the good Samaritan to his aid, and he "bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him." "Take care of him!" How the Lord has instructed me: "You look to My children, I will look to you." "And whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee." And so He does. Let Him come again, and you will be paid; and if you get a crumb, it will pay you for stopping for a month.
This question of Jabez's is one of the commonest that ever did, or will, rise from a heaven-born soul by the operation and renewing of the Holy Ghost. I don't say the words, but the substance of the petition. So that God accepts it through His Son, because God teaches thee to ask. What is it? Why, "Oh, that Thou wouldest bless me indeed!" None else can; none can communicate the blessing but Thyself; I want it indeed, in truth; I don't want to be daubed up. It is true, I am not worthy.
This prayer will rise again, and again, and again, couched in a sigh, a longing desire, "Oh, that Thou Thyself, Thou true and living God, wouldest bless me indeed!" I want it in power, in saving grace, in some unmistakable way, so warm on my heart that I cannot resist. It takes in the babes, the young men, and the fathers. It will rise again, and again, and again from a sense of thy want. "Oh, that Thou, Thou living God, wouldest bless me indeed." You must lie to deny it. When you come here on Sunday, and feel a little soft, and consider where you are coming, don't you feel something of this petition go up--"Oh, that Thou Thyself--the God of the means, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our God and Father in Christ Jesus--oh, that Thou wouldest bless me indeed! I want some savory meat broken up in my soul. Oh, that Thou Thyself wouldest have mercy, and bless me indeed?" Don't you feel this--I don't say in so many words, but the substance of it? Is it not the desire, the longing of thy soul, that God of His mercy would bless thee in deed and in truth, in a powerful, unmistakable way?
Poor sinner, sometimes you and I begin to collect together what we have received, and it is a mercy to have such things to look back upon. Don't you find, when the Spirit awakes your soul out of sleep, one of your first prayers is the very thing Jabez prayed for--"Oh, that Thou wouldest bless me indeed?" And do you think you can feel this in your living soul, by the blessed renewings of the Holy Ghost, and go to hell? It is impossible. There is not one in that dark abode that ever prayed as Jabez prayed. Others may use the words, but not call upon the God of Israel by the Holy Ghost. "Oh, that Thou wouldest bless me indeed! Give some token for good, some foretaste of future glory. Lord, I have been a backslider; I have been thrown down by sin; I am ashamed of myself. Oh, that Thou wouldest bless me indeed!
"And enlarge my coast." What a desire! It is frequently found in the soul born of God. He feels, "How little I know of Thy Word, how little of Thy law, how little of the Gospel of Thy Son--of myself as a sinner, of Christ as a Saviour--of heavenly and Divine things!
For the proof
Of Thy proper title."
And who but Thyself can increase my knowledge?
"No man on earth can mend my pace,
But He whose name is Truth and Grace."
""What is it to be blest indeed,
But to have all our sins forgiven;"
(But there is many a blessing short of that. It is a blessing to feel need of the blessing.)
"Guilt and terror are wonderful things. How many wretched sinners have been ready to howl, on a dying bed, with guilt and terror!
That is to be blest indeed.
"And enlarge my coast." Lord, beat out this selfish heart of mine; give me more of that Gospel heart Zaccheus felt; lead me in Thy Word; teach me Thy Word--apply it; may I be doer of Thy sayings. Who can increase these things, and lead me savingly into these things, but Thyself? You see, it is the very breathing of heaven-born souls. Where is the sinner, under Divine teaching, but wants to be blest indeed, and to have his coast enlarged?
"And that Thine hand might be with me." What, are you afraid to be trusted? Yes. Cannot stand alone? No. Oh, sinner, sinner, when I look upon the past, I wonder at the care of my God over me! How I have been exposed, and what a fool I have been! How I have done those things I am ashamed of! I want no man to tell me what the word "snare" means. I went once to a town where I was told there was a party who might be a snare to me. It had a powerful effect on me. Oh, to be exposed--to have a snare within reach--and then for God to interpose! "The rod of the wicked shall not rest upon the lost of the righteous, lest the righteous put forth their hands unto iniquity." (Psalm 125:3) Oh, to be kept by the power of God!
"That Thine hand might be with me, and that Thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me." Poor sinner, think of it. Where is one of us that can stand in the presence of God, and say we have never done anything to be ashamed of? I know I cannot. "That Thine hand might be with me, and that Thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me." It is marvelous to be exposed to temptation, to feel the tempter's power, to feel what an inveterate thing sin is, to feel the powers of hell, and then for God to interpose; and, though left to play the fool, after all for Him to turn again and have compassion. Never give it up in despair, since I have mercy found.
"And enlarge my coast, and that Thine hand might be with me." Oh, Lord, do keep me, do uphold me, do bless me! "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." Is it not marvelous? Have we ever prayed so? God answered Jabez's prayer; why not ours? The same Divine power teaches all living sinners to pray, and the same God that answered Jabez's prayer will answer theirs. "His hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither His ear heavy, that it cannot hear."
"Oh, that Thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that Thine hand might be with me!" I will tell you the most I ever get out of the newspapers. When I have read what has overtaken other poor mortals, I have been humbled before God that He has favored me. I think of the goodness and power of God over a poor wretch like me. It humbles me in the dust, that ever God should care for me, while others are left to rush into some abominable thing.
"'Tis all of grace: let no man boast;
For Jesus came to save the lost."
One of our noblemen, the other day, threw himself over the banisters and killed himself. The poor man was mad. It runs in my mind, "Why are you not mad? It makes me marvel, that one should go headlong to hell, and another be kept by the mighty power of God, through faith unto salvation.
"And that Thine hand might be with me." Well, but could not a man keep himself? Why, he ought to keep himself. Ah, if you have no better keeper than self, may the Lord have mercy upon you! I know self is the worst foe I ever met with--deceitful self, abominable self. May God Almighty keep us from evil, to which we are naturally prone! Forbidden fruit was the bait at first. No sooner did the devil take advantage of man than he went straight to forbidden fruit. And all the children of men have gone gaping after forbidden fruit. Then came pride, "Ye shall be gods." So, to swell like a toad, and go straight to forbidden fruit, is the propensity of mankind; and everybody that knows it will pray as Jabez did: "That Thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me." Does evil grieve me? "You see, evil delights our flesh--is as much the element of our fallen humanity as water for the fish to swim in. None cry to be kept from it but a heaven-born soul.
"Keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me." Well, but cannot you keep yourself? No; nor will I try. Sin is that inveterate rebel, you might threaten with hell, and it would go straight to forbidden after all. Sin is an inveterate thing, and will work in these two ways--it will go straight to forbidden fruit, and will swell with pride like a toad. They are well kept whom God Almighty keeps by His power.
Does evil grieve you? Is the Divine principle in your soul burdened by it? "That Thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me." Lot's "righteous soul" was "vexed from day to day with their unlawful deeds." (2 Peter 2:7,8) Look at that. What constitutes the Christian's day? The Sun of Righteousness arising with healing in His wings. (Malachi 4:2) And if we are troubled on account of our wicked selves, it is when the Sun shines.
But what about Lot's flesh? What difference was there between Lot's flesh and the flesh of his sons-in-law? He could not bring them out of Sodom. But what was his flesh better than theirs? Why, he lingered; and thy flesh will linger towards sin as long as thou art in the body; and nothing is heaven-bound but what is heaven-born. "Then the angels hastened Lot,...and while he lingered, the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the hand of his two daughters; the Lord being merciful unto him." That is all that can be said of any that go to heaven at last--that it is "according to His mercy He saved us." (Titus 3:5) "And they brought him forth, and set him without the city." But his righteous soul was "vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked."
"And that Thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me. And God granted him that which he requested." You look it down. Has the blessed Spirit taught you thus to pray--produced the right desire in your soul? Because, if thou art taught the same petition, and hast the same needs as this poor man, the same God will grant thy request. One child is as nigh as another; and if one prays, it comes up acceptable to God by Jesus Christ as the other, and God will answer the petition of one as well as of another. "And God granted him that which he requested."