1 Chronicles 4-5
…they cried out to God in the battle, and He answered their prayers because they trusted in Him. – 1 Chronicles 5:20 NASB
More names. So many names that it is tempting to just give this section a quick, cursory reading and move on to more interesting parts of this book. But if you take the time and energy to wade through the lengthy list of difficult-to-pronounce names and confusing genealogical records, you stumble across a few important verses that give you a glimpse into the lives of a faithful few. Most of these individuals just remain names. We know little about them. But there is the occasional Jabez or the valiant sons of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh. Jabez was an obscure individual who we know next to nothing about, but he is singled out by the author of the book as a man who prayed. He called out to God and God answered. He is an example of faith in the midst of a people who struggled with faith. Remember, the audience reading this book are coming back from 70 years in exile. They had been punished by God for their spiritual adultery. Jabez is a reminder to them of what their relationship to God should have been like. He asked God for blessing and abundance, requesting that God keep him from harm. We're told that God granted his request. The sons of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh were warriors who cried out to God in the day of battle and He answered their prayer – because they trusted God. They were doing what He told them to do, which was to remove the existing people from the Promised Land. They were being obedience and they were asking for His help. And He gave it.
The author also reminds the people what happened to Reuben because of his sin. As the firstborn of Jacob, he would have been in line to inherit all the blessings that come with that position, but he forfeited his rights because he had an adulterous affair with his father's concubine. As a result, he was passed over, and his rights were passed on to his brother Judah. Jacob lost out on the greatest blessing because of his sin. His actions had lasting ramifications.
The sons of the half-tribe of Manasseh are also given as an example of what happens to those who are unfaithful. We are told that they "acted treacherously against the God of their fathers and played the harlot after the gods of the peoples of the land" (1 Chronicles 5:25 NASB). So God allowed them to be taken into captivity. Their unfaithfulness resulted in their punishment.
So in these two chapters listing out the descendants of five of the tribes of Israel, we see glimpses of faith and faithlessness, obedience and disobedience, trust and distrust. While the majority of the people had turned their back on God, there were a few who faithfully served Him, trusted in Him, and were blessed by Him. And it could be so again!. God is looking for those who will serve Him faithfully. He stands ready to answer their prayers and to bless their lives. He wants to show Himself strong on behalf of those who place their faith and trust in Him. And the same is true today.
Father, I want to be like Jabez, who placed his faith and trust in You. I don't want to be listed among those who were unfaithful and served other gods, turning away from the one true God. Give me a heart for You. I can't manufacture it. You have to instill it in me through Your Holy Spirit. Make me increasingly dependent on You and less self-sufficient. Amen