"And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, O 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 4:10
We must notice who this man Jabez was. He was of a family in Israel: but he was not only an Israelite, but, as Christ said of one in His day, "an Israelite indeed." God, we know, gave the Israelites temporal blessings, and promised these blessings to them; He promised them life in the land. They looked for these blessings as indications of God's favor to them. When God had promised her a son, Elizabeth said, "Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein He looked on me, to take away my reproach among men," (Luke 1:25). It was a matter of consequence to an Israelitish matron whether she was fruitful or not.
In this prayer the petition, "Oh that Thou wouldest enlarge my coast," does not mean the soul only. Jabez wanted enlargement in respect of temporal things as an indication of God's favor to him.
Now things are different; Jesus Christ has come in the flesh; He has died, and is risen again. Temporal things may be asked in prayer, but in the Gospel our minds are directed more especially to spiritual blessings, to eternal life and the blessings that are at God's right hand, though temporal things are promised too: "Bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure," (Isa. 33:16). But, for the most part, God gives the Esaus temporal in greater measure than to His own people.
The name Jabez means, "sorrowful," as Paul says, "Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing."
"He called on Israel's God, 'tis said,
Let us take notice first of that;
Had he to any other prayed,
To us it had not mattered what.
For all true Israelites adore
One God, Emmanuel, and no more."
And if we pray in a similar manner it will be said of us as it was of Jabez, "And God granted him that which he requested."
My happiest times now are when God gives me a spirit of grace and supplication.
Jabez prayed for four things: "O that Thou wouldest bless be 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." May we be able to pray in a similar manner for spiritual blessings.
(1). "Oh that Thou wouldest bless me indeed." He could not be put off with a second rate blessing; some can. Look at Esau; when he found that his father had blessed Jacob, he said, "Hast thou not another blessing; and he seemed contented with it. God gave Jacob the blessing indeed, the dew of heaven, and the other things were thrown in. Esau seemed contented with his portion; some people are; but if you are Jacob's and Jabez's indeed you will not be put off with a second rate blessing.
Secondly, we will notice the earnestness of the man. I was going to make a remark here, but I shall hit myself if I make it. Bunyan said once that when he thought of something to say, sometimes the devil would suggest, "Don't say that, you will hit yourself;" still he said it, and so will I. I was going to say, "What a half-hearted generation we live in!" Now, how many of us here are after the blessing indeed tonight? It may be that your< "Oh," goes in the wrong direction. "Oh, that I could have more money!" Or, that I could get more popularity!" There is a great deal now of panting for dust of the earth.
Thirdly, we will look at some parts of a blessing indeed. The first thing we will notice is pardon, to have our sins forgiven, and know the forgiveness. When you get this through the application of the finished work of Christ, as the poet describes:
"A happy pardoned child thou art,
And heaven lies at the door."
"Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity." Here let us pause for a moment. In the 32nd Psalm the psalmist says, "For this shall everyone that is godly pray unto Thee in a time when Thou mayest be found." Now, men and women, when did you ask God to pardon your sins, and sprinkle your conscience with the blood of Christ?
Another part of the blessing indeed is not only to know the forgiveness of our sins, but to stand where Isaiah did, clothed in the righteousness of Christ, for a child of God wants to wear it. Oh, how sweet are the poet's words:
"Thy righteousness wearing and washed in Thy blood,
Bold shall I appear in the presence of God."
Another part of this blessing indeed is being, "accepted in the Beloved," to look up to heaven, and say, "I am accepted in the Beloved." (I do not say these things are much felt in the present day, or much sought after, or prayed for). To be made, "accepted in the Beloved," as to body and soul, oh, how sweet!
Another part of this blessing is to have a spirit of Adoption, to have a filial fear of God, so that you can say, "Abba, Father;" none but a child can say, "Abba, Father." To have the Spirit witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God is part of the blessing. Also to have the Spirit dwelling in us.
The disciples were just about denying Christ; they might have felt afterwards that they had not had the Spirit, but Christ told them before their fall, "He is with you and shall be in you." Oh, that is part of the blessing indeed! Is not that part of your prayer, "Oh that Thou wouldest bless me indeed with the sweet graces of the Spirit?" When we speak of the Spirit's dwelling within us we often tremble. Solomon says, "Will God indeed dwell on the earth?" But isn't it even a more amazing thing to you that the Holy Spirit should dwell in your heart?
"Unworthy dwelling, glorious Guest;
Favor astonishing, divine!"
What are any of you without the Spirit dwelling in your hearts?
Another part of this blessing is to know that our names are written in the Lamb's book of life. And if we knew this we should be contented with, "a humble place," as the poet says. We do not want to be on the top of the list, as it were, but we should be satisfied with the lowest place, for we know that if our names are on the list at all we shall have all the blessing. We read of dying swans. David was a dying swan when he said, "He hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure."
Dear friends, I would that each one of you may be in earnest, and pray as Jabez did, "Oh that Thou wouldest bless me indeed, and give me a first rate blessing, and not put me off with a second rate one!"
(2). "And enlarge my coast." With Jabez this certainly included enlargement of his literal coast; and I do not know that it is wrong for us to wish for a larger coast, a larger estate than we have, if it is not in an avaricious way. Sometimes when I see a nice place I think, "Well, I should like to live there." Then I am caught up by this thought, "If you did have that house, suppose death or sickness came into it?" And that moderates my desires.
"O that Thou wouldest enlarge my coast," i.e., enlarge my heart. It means as well spiritual enlargement; there is a great lack of this. How I feel to want my heart enlarged. For the most part it is so straitened and small. David says, "I will run the way of Thy commandments when Thou shalt enlarge my heart."
"When long beneath the law I lay
In bondage and distress,
I toiled the precept to obey,
But toiled without success."
But when the Holy Spirit brought the sweet finished work of Christ into my heart, then my heart was enlarged. I wish I knew more of this enlargement now. I want it enlarged, when I am perplexed about temporal things, by trusting in God. I want my heart enlarged by the love of God. Oh, to have a heart enlarged by the love of God shed abroad in it. The love of the world pinches it, and it pinches the pocket, too. I want enlargement of heart to all my fellow creatures. "Do good unto all me, (aren't we pinched)? Especially unto them who are of the household of faith," (Gal. 6:10). And we want enlarging with love to the brethren. Here, again, I have not as much as I could wish. Solomon had a large heart; it took in all Israel. But sometimes I feel this enlargement, and I can stand praying for and forgiving everyone who has done, (or who I think had done), me harm.
We want the fear of the Lord; or cry is, "Lord, send Thy Spirit down to enlarge my heart with the fear of God." And I want God to enlarge me in prayer; my cry is, "Oh, enlarge me in these things before I die."
(3). "And that Thine hand might be with me." In the Song of Solomon the Spouse said, looking up to Jesus Christ in heaven, "Set me as a seal upon Thine heart, as a seal upon Thine arm," (8:6).
When the Psalmist was getting old, (and I think we old men have the pull over the young ones in some things), David said, "I will go in the strength of the Lord God, I will make mention of Thy righteousness, even of Thine only," (Ps. 71:16). A good many go in a very different way from this. I believe the good man in our text had the blessing indeed already, but he wanted more of it.
"And he who says he wants no more
Confesses he has none."
There are three cases in which we want the hand of Jesus Christ:
(i). If we have anything to suffer, and we are, "to be killed all the day long," and, "to be accounted as sheep for the slaughter." It is through much tribulation that we are to reach the kingdom of God's glory. I cannot bear patiently the will of God without the help of Christ. Sometimes I can hardly bear to do a thing, or ever read a letter, without asking God's help; I am so weak.
(ii). But there are not only things to be borne, but something to be done. You have your daily callings, I have to preach, and we want help. Do you always find it easy to be honest in your business? Your old minister used to say to his friends when they were going to business, "Be as honest as you can." I think I might have worded it differently, and said, "Now, I hope you will conduct yourself honorably in your business;" but I see that your minister's meaning was good. Now, have you ever had an opportunity of making a little profit by putting on varnish in your dealings? Do you not at such times want His hand? "Oh, that Thine hand might be with me!"
(iii). Christian men not only have something to do, and suffer, but they have a battle to fight. One of our poets says:
"I often read the Word of life,
And all seems death within;
Yet feel a strange mysterious strife
Between my soul and sin."
We cannot conquer one spiritual enemy without Christ. The world, sin, and Satan set upon us from day to day; how do we fight? What sort of soldiers do we make?
(4). "And that Thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me." We want to be kept from the evil of circumstances.
We read of one of Newton's friends, (a professing man), that he prospered so much that it seemed as though his money came in at the doors and windows; but as it came in grace went out. Newton observed it; and after a time the man had trials, and he began to lose money. Newton met him one day; he took him by the hand, and with tears in his eyes, said to him, "O my friend, thank God! Thank God! I believe you are a child of God after all."
And there is an evil in sin. Young people, old people, there is an evil in sin; you will find it out, you will know something about it either in this world or in the world to come! The sour grape may taste very sweet to you now, but you will find it set your teeth on edge some day. This prayer to be kept from the evil of sin may be summed up in the words of the poet:
"Let sin have no dominion Lord,
But keep my conscience clear."