Enlarge Your Territory
1 Chronicles 4:10 - 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.
There is a backstory to this that is important to consider. The prayer of enlarging his territory is related to the promise of God for His people, their inheritance in Canaan. The people, however, were not able to drive out the inhabitants by themselves. As a result, Jabez who is sensible here, decides to neglect his insufficiency in making such a promise a reality and depend on the all-sufficiency of God, therefore praying to God for assistance. What we see here is him asking for blessing upon his own endeavors, to be preserved from the grip that evil so desperately seeks to have, and to, as a consequence, obtain that enlarged inheritance within the promised land. There is such a humility in his expressed prayer to the Father, one of utmost respect and admiration, as well as dependency on the power of God, rather than his own power. If we look at the manner of the prayer, the way in which blessing was requested - "oh, that." "Oh" is essentially showing a feeling of awe, and of respect. "Oh, what an honor to ask" or "oh, I hope the words I am about to speak come out right." Such a high level of respect and humility was shown. Humility is important to render our prayer acceptable. What I mean by this is the exaltation of us, by God, as a consequence of our humility. Lest we forget that God said, in James 4:6, "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." The more we humble ourselves, the more God will exalt us. This is important for us to remember with regard to every address to him as we approach His Throne of Grace. God told us, in 2 Chronicles 7:14, "If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land." Firstly, when we turn from our ways, which are wicked in and of itself because, as we read in Romans 3:23, "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," and secondly, humble ourselves, then a number of things happen: He hears our prayers, forgives our sin and heals our land. Humility is the first part of prayer answered, and the first part to living abundantly in Christ. As soon as we lose our humility, we believe that we are abundant, and therefore, because of our fleshly abundance and pride, we miss out on the abundance that God has in His storehouse for us to enjoy. The fact is that there is no greater abundance than abundance in Christ Jesus, but we need humility.
"Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds?" - Luke 12:24. There is so much that God has instore for us, yet we often, due our lack of humility, miss out on the great abundance that flourishes out of His storehouse. Jabez was a leader who was, as we read in 1 Chronicles 4:9, "more honorable than his brothers." That word honorable, in the Hebrew is kebab (כָּבַד) meaning honored one; someone who has achieved honor, who is abounding in honor, who grew strong and who is well respected. So, here we have a man who is highly honored, and respected, yet, despite this, he is humble, and humbly comes before the Throne of Grace and seeks the power of God, rather than his own power, to do even greater things. There is territory out there, greater things for us to do, but let’s humbly come before the Lord and ask Him for His help.
The opposite of humility is pride and pride pertains to no value, it is meaningless and someone who is prideful is someone who simply distances themselves from God. In fact, pride is foolishness, and we understand this when we look at Proverbs 26:12 where we read, "Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him." There is no lacking in scripture when it comes to denunciations and arguments against the self-sufficiency of a mere man. A study of the writings of the wisest of them all, Solomon, leads us to one conclusion, and that is the absurdity of a believe that self-sufficiency is sufficient. The depiction in Probers 26:12 is one of hope versus no hope; there is no hope for a man who views himself as sufficient, but indeed there is at least some hope for a fool, for at least he is open to discipline and transformation. A mediocre` but teachable individual has a greater chance of improvement than one who is exceptional in mental and physical properties, but unwilling to rely on Christ's sufficiency. Self-sufficiency is a lifestyle of outward abundance, rather than inward abundance, an abundance which takes over as a source other than the infinite abundance of Christ. Self-sufficiency can shut down the doors to greater territory. If Jabez was a self-sufficient man, the prayer of Jabez would not exist, and his tent would not have been enlarged, his influence would be lacking, and his life achievements would have lagged behind his calling. Here is a question to ponder - what prayers would be spoken by a man who is content with his own personal sufficiency? The answer is none. Why would one pray for something when he believes he has everything? Self-sufficiency is strengthened by a source, and that is jealousy - when we compare ourselves to those who are less fortunate to us, we increase our own sufficiency, and our pride. However, Christianity is about the uplifting of those around us, regardless of their status, and what they can provide us. Christianity is about sharing the good news, and viewing others, not through our fleshly eyes, but through the eyes of the Holy Ghost inside of us, viewing them as people created in the image of Christ. Instead of comparing ourselves with those who are less intelligent or less attractive or any other characteristic that is important to you, let’s compare ourselves to God, to understand our insufficiency in comparison to His sufficiency, to understand that, in order to do great things and enlarge our territory, "oh" we need His power and His grace and His sufficiency. Many Christians, my brothers and sisters, are being lost to the vice and grip of pride, let’s not also be lost to its grip, but let’s be so lost in His presence.
Pride is something that we need to understand as dangerous. You see, the reality is that God absolutely hate pride. In Proverbs 6:16-19, there is a list of six things that the Lord hates. In verse 17, we read that He hates "a proud look." God hates pride, He really doesn't like, and because He doesn't like, what does He do? He "resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." Simple! You see, no one has the right to be proud, absolutely no one. By all means, it’s great to celebrate when you do something great, but in every moment, take your hand, hang all the fingers low to the ground, and then point with your index right up to the heavens and say, "thank you Lord!" I don't watch much sport these days because I struggle to make the time, but what I love about the South African rugby team is that many of the players are Christian and they pray before every game they play. Many of players will, in fact, after scoring a try (goal), bend down and look up at the sky, pointing upwards to recognize Him as their Lord and Savior who has given them the wisdom and the goodness which they possess. Whether God has given you great genetics to be highly effective in the sporting industry, or has given you the ability to learn and work quickly, or given you discernment - whatever it is, He has given it to you, and you would not be where you are without Him. Therefore, if He has given us all that we have ever accomplished or obtained, does He not deserve all the honor and is not foolish for us to be proud? There are so many who are wealthy and proud of it, but it’s not their wealth, it’s God's! Jabez did not pray saying, "I have done great things, and I ask that you be with me as I do great things," no, he didn't even speak about himself doing great things, but instead asked that God "would keep me from evil," why? So that he "may not cause pain." Wow! What if a poverty stricken man, the friend of a man who was wealthy was entrusted with a Ferrari, lent to him to drive over the weekend. Suppose the man feels proud of what was entrusted to him and was to boast to his friends - would this not be foolish? It certainly would be. But, we do this often, do we not? We become proud of our achievement, the money which we have. We do this. People are proud of their clothing, another example of the countless which exist. But I propose something different, that, instead of feeling proud of the clothes which we wear, that we feel ashamed of it. Our clothing, whether it is expensive or not is not a showcase of our earning potential, but rather, it is proof that we are sinful, creatures that have fallen. If we just think about where our clothing came from, think back to the garden of Adam and Eve, we immediately realize just how foolish it is to be proud of what we wear. Pride is not an option in the kingdom of heaven.
The thing about pride is that it is profitable for nothing. Let’s look at Matthew 13:12 for example, where we read, "whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them." And in Matthew 23:12 - "Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." What we see here is that those who have the abundance of God in their lives, those who believe in and rely on the abundance of God, who with humility, come to the Throne of Grace, will receive even more. To the contrary, those who have neglected the abundance of God, who have with pride, acquired much, will lose that which they have.
There is an ancient Greek fable which I believe is very relevant to the topic of pride and contains within it unique lessons which we can learn. The story showcases the danger of pride. There was a man by the name of Daedalus who had a son called Icarus. Daedalus wanted himself and his son to escape from Crete and so Daedalus had a plan and decided to make wings for himself and his son, Icarus. Not only were they about to experience the pleasure of flying but they were about to escape the island of Crete. After he completed the wings, he fitted the wings on with wax. Daedalus, the father was humble minded, and prior to taking off, he asked his son not to be complacent and fly to low, nor to be hubris and fly to high. Daedalus didn't fly very high, passed safely over the sea, and reached the town of Cumae in Italy. His son, however, was a proud young man, and resolved to greater levels, flying higher and higher than his father. So high, in fact, that he was reaching the sun, and the beam of the sun started to melt the wax which kept his wings intact. As a result of his pride, the wax completely melted, and his wings fell off. He found himself in a position he didn't expect as he tumbled down to earth and fell into the sea where he drowned. We have all heard the phrase, "don't fly too close to the sun."
You might be wondering why I shared that story, but the sad reality is that there are many that have experienced the same fate, that, due to pride, found themselves in situations they did not expect. They found that "whoever exalts himself will be humbled" and that "whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them." Let’s think about Belshazzar, the King of the Babylon, the son of past king, Nebuchadnezzar in Chapter 5 of Daniel. Imagine having a great time right now, something that Belshazzar was doing. In Verse 2, we read that he dishonored his father, bringing "the gold and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple which had been in Jerusalem, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them." As a result of his dishonor, the "king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank wine, and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze and iron, wood and stone." But pride doesn't last long, and it doesn't take long before God began to resist him. In verse 5, we read that "the fingers of a man’s hand appeared and wrote opposite the lampstand on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace; and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote." Immediately, in verse 6, "his countenance changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his hips were loosened, and his knees knocked against each other." He knew in that moment that wrath was upon him because of his actions. Out of fear, he cried out to the wise men of Babylon, in verse 7, “Whoever reads this writing, and tells me its interpretation, shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around his neck; and he shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.” We all know that Daniel was able to interpret the dream, and in verse 14, he "was brought in before the king," and this was the interpretation in verse 18-28:
"O king, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father a kingdom and majesty, glory and honor. And because of the majesty that He gave him, all peoples, nations, and languages trembled and feared before him. Whomever he wished, he executed; whomever he wished, he kept alive; whomever he wished, he set up; and whomever he wished, he put down. But when his heart was lifted up, and his spirit was hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him. Then he was driven from the sons of men, his heart was made like the beasts, and his dwelling was with the wild donkeys. They fed him with grass like oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till he knew that the Most High God rules in the kingdom of men, and appoints over it whomever He chooses. But you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, although you knew all this. And you have lifted yourself up against the Lord of heaven. They have brought the vessels of His house before you, and you and your lords, your wives and your concubines, have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, bronze and iron, wood and stone, which do not see or hear or know; and the God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways, you have not glorified. Then the fingers of the hand were sent from Him, and this writing was written. And this is the inscription that was written: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. This is the interpretation of each word. MENE: God has numbered your kingdom, and finished it; TEKEL: You have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting; PERES: Your kingdom has been divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.”
Pride is dangerous, and blocks all the abundance that is available to us as His people. Pride not only stops the outpouring of God's grace in our lives as He continues to "give grace to the humble" but results in us being neglected and resisted by Him as He continues to "resist the proud." Pride is so dangerous that it can turn angels into demons. We know that, as per Psalms 11:5, "The Lord tests the righteous, but the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates," therefore God hates the sin that sinners partake in and the sinners themselves, but when it comes to pride, He openly declares His hostility. Why? Because pride turned angels into demons. Other sins bring disgrace and have more shamefulness inside them thereby making them hateful in the eyes of man, pride however requires bravery, the bad kind of bravery and the Lord hates this. It is a sin that bravely stands against God. Other sins are against the laws of God, in other words, because we are in the new covenant, against the character of who Jesus is. Pride is another thing entirely and this sin goes against the sovereignty of God, it’s not only a withdrawal of the heart, but a heart against God. In fact, pride is the father of sin, it fathers the sinner by blinding him, diminishing the judgement or discernment he might have had, and awakens an anger and rebellion against the sovereignty of God. In Proverbs 21:4, we read, "A haughty look, a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked are sin." "Plowing of the wicked," what on earth could that mean? Well, plowing is an act as part of growing produce on the earth, an act that precedes the produce itself. In the same way, pride is the plowing that precedes the sin itself, therefore, pride is the way that produces sin and pride is the father of sin. Pride is something that comes out of motivation to be greater, but greatness not out of ambition to make a difference in the kingdom, but out of pure selfishness, to improve oneself even if it comes with the demise of others.
In the original sin of Adam and Eve, Satan held out to them the promise of attainments beyond what they had experienced to that point in the Garden of Eden. Tempting them, he said, "You will be like God, knowing good and evil" - Genesis 3:5. This helped motivate them to become greater than what God, their Creator, had assigned to them, even to be like God. In Ezekiel 28:12-19 (MSG), Ezekiel prophecies about the king of Tyre, speaking about his rise and his subsequent downfall:
“You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering: The sardius, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, turquoise, and emerald with gold. The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes was prepared for you on the day you were created. You were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you; you were on the holy mountain of God; you walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones. You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you. By the abundance of your trading, you became filled with violence within, and you sinned; therefore I cast you as a profane thing out of the mountain of God; and I destroyed you, O covering cherub, from the midst of the fiery stones. Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor; I cast you to the ground, I laid you before kings, that they might gaze at you. You defiled your sanctuaries by the multitude of your iniquities, by the iniquity of your trading; therefore I brought fire from your midst; it devoured you, and I turned you to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all who saw you. All who knew you among the peoples are astonished at you; you have become a horror, and shall be no more forever.”
The splendor of his own magnificence blinded him to the reality in the eyes of God, what is true. The reality and the only reality is that God will reign supreme and He is indeed magnificent, and we are not. We are not the chief authority, the creator of the universe, He is. The overwhelming hubris, pride within the heart of the king of Tyre, the discontent with his position resulted in him being overthrown by God. He was compared to Adam who was in the garden of Eden where everything around him was precious, but yet, because of pride, it just wasn't enough.
Pride is a pathway that leads to death, however, humility is a pathway that leads to rewards - "the reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life," - Proverbs 22:4. "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." It was because Jabez approached God humbly, asking for His grace to be bestowed upon him and to receive more reward that God granted him what he requested, because God "gives grace to the humble." Any undertaking by a man that is humble is blessed and prospered as God is gracious to such a man. When we have humility, we are sensible in terms of who we are, aware of our sinful nature, and we acknowledge it to such an extent that we think of ourselves as the lowest and think of others as the best; we fail to envy the graces of God which are graciously bestowed on others, and rather we enjoy it and celebrate with them. Men who are humble are those who are firstly content with God, as the greatest provider of everything they could possibly need or want. Humility as a virtue is what enables us to bow down before God with our heads in the sand, essentially letting go of what we think and opening up to His wisdom and council, adoring Him as the ALL OF ALL: The all-wise of all that is wise and the all-gracious of all that is gracious. Second, those who are humble are content with themselves. They are more content with themselves in the sense that they voluntary submit to their limitations, understanding that they are nothing in comparison to the all mighty God.
Jabez prayed that he "may not cause pain." In a similar way to Jabez, there are things that are proclaimed over us, and some of it is good but some of it is bad. The mother of Jabez experienced pain during giving birth, and as a result called him Jabez. The name of Jabez interestingly does not mean pain, it is a play on words, I guess you can call it pun on the Hebrew word "atsab", which means pain. The mother experienced pain giving birth to Jabez, and therefore, the first thing that Jabez did was cause pain, and so, when Jabez prayed that he "may not cause pain," he was asking that his legacy not be one of a man that caused pain, but of a man that had influence and enlarged his territory. He realized that the only way he can do this is by humbly coming to the Father and asking. "For the Lord takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the humble with salvation" - Psalm 149:4. The word salvation here is yeshuah (יְשׁוּעָה) meaning a number of things that pertain to victory, such as deliverance, help, and prosperity. When we humble ourselves, He beautifies us with victory, and like Jabez, He enlarges our territory.
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