“ NowJabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him in pain.” And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!” So God granted him what he requested. (1 Chronicles 4:9-10 NJKV)
Jabez is a somewhat lesser known character in the bible. His story pops up amidst the lineage of David as 1 Chronicles documents Israel’s lineage. The verses surrounding Jabez concern the families of Judah, a tribe of Israel.
The first nine chapters revolve around the genealogy of the nation of Israel. In amongst this genealogy we find this story of Jabez. Two verses then he is never mentioned again, but we can learn some things from this man.
First, some background information useful in reading this story. Jabez – as the name states above means “bore in pain” 1 Chronicles 4:9. Everyone knows their name, it is what identifies you, and most people will know the meaning of their name.
For Jabez in these times it defined you. The lineage of your family name held importance on who you became and the roles in society you could undertake. First names, defined you as well.
For Jabez, a name whose meaning is “bore in pain” this doesn’t look like a great start in life. Yet, rather than sit back, sulk, complain, or live his life in pain, I see a man who ‘Leans In to God’. His prayer is one of abundance and asking for blessing, rather than to be removed from his namesake:
“Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!”(1 Chronicles 4:10).
As a sports person, I see so much of sport in life, and in these verses, I liken Jabez’s positioning into God like good running technique. I still recall the first time a coach relayed the technique of running to me and pointed out the different elements of running.
“Running?! Technique?!” I thought. It seemed absurd to me, that something I had been doing so naturally for so long in my life needed training or had a certain technique to it.
However, with everything, there is technique, skill, and expertise involved to be a professional. Usain Bolt, the fastest man in the world, would have worked on his running technique.
Positive running technique involves leaning forward. This means a slight forward lean in the top half of your body where the foot strikes directly underneath your body, continually propelling you forward.
Alternatively, poor running technique has the runner in a slouched/relaxed posture. This means a runner’s heels strike first and out in front of the athlete, actually decelerating or slowing down the runner initially before their momentum moves forward and carries them to the next step.
In the verses of Jabez, I see a man who decided to lean into God and propel himself forward in his life by asking daring questions of blessing and enlarged territory, to which God granted him his request.
Jabez did not define himself by his namesake, and others in the Bible had their names changed through an encounter with God too.
Abram means exalted Father (related to his fathers' background & family ‘Terah’ was an exalted leader) Abraham means, Father of many, confirming God’s promise to Abraham.
The name of the Lord in Hebrew as “YAHWEH” I see here the inclusion of the syllable YAH into Abram’s name. God himself in this man changed this man’s name, but also birthed a Nation through Abraham’s faith in God’s promise. Genesis 17:5
Sarai is to Sarah, both mean Princess. But Sarah came during the time of the promise of Isaac, still yet to be born to this old couple. The inclusion of the last syllable denotes more of a queen version on the name, a queen – mother of many. Genesis 17:15
Jacob means Deceiver, one who grasps the Heel. Israel means God Fights. Jacob went from someone who deceived, contrived and got his own way through life (a very hard life), to fighting God and then having God fight for him. His namesake became the namesake of a Nation. Genesis 32:28
From these stories, I see people whose lives and destinies were changed by an encounter with God. Through faith, their story is changed. Like Jabez whose requests were granted. I believe we too can have a life change when we encounter God and believe, by faith, in the promises he has for us.
Next time you go out for a run, or see someone running, remember to look for their technique, are they ‘leaning in’? and ponder the question in your own life, Are you Leaning into God, are you learning to Run like Jabez?
Kelly Thompson is the newest member of the Sports journalist team. Kelly currently plays AFL for Casey Demons in the VFLW, and practices what she preaches as a HOPE (Health, Outdoor, and Physical Education) Teacher in Melbourne’s southeast.