Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏩ ⏹️
"Sorrow" by Paul Cézanne, 1867 (credit: wikipaintings)
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
In nine chapters of chronological numbering of the ancestors of post-exilic Jews there is little to engage the uninformed reader, just the occasional mention of a battle fought or a territory captured. The one exception seems to be the brief story of Jabez, an obscure character not mentioned before or since in any other book of the Bible.1 The story is a welcome reprieve from the seemingly endless list of begats, described beautifully by these words,
"In the midst of a genealogy of some extent, the Spirit of God singles one out for notice, and lingers over it with delight. It is a bright gem on an apparently hard and uninteresting surface shining with brilliancy."2
Jabez was born in, and named for, the sorrow of his mother. This speaks of his mother's faith and acceptance, in a beautiful way. Rather than deny, or try to get over the pain and sorrow of her son's birth, she embraces it as part of who he is, names him for it so he will carry it always. By the honourable life her son leads, and the blessing he receives from God it is shown that sorrow is not a pit to fall into, not a wound to cripple, but a moment to embrace and from whence to grow. Our wounds both physical and emotional make us who we are, and can provide testimony to our struggle and survival, possibly inspiring, or even redeeming those we engage with, those in our communities. Our wounds thus can be considered community property, gifts of God to guide us. I like to believe Jabez's mother knew this, and blessed her son with that knowledge.
1 Except as the name of a town, earlier in 1 Chronicles 2:55
2 Jabez: His History, by F. Whitfield, Sermon on BibleHub.com