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The prayer of Jabez

Posted on 27 December, 2013

The 4th image in my current series of images with a Biblical theme. In the midst of a long list of geneologies in the 4th chapter of 1 Chronicles, there is a sudden focus on one individual – Jabez – before continuing with the geneologies. We are meant to take note of this individual. His life story and his prayer is barely 2 verses long – 1 Chronicles 4:9-10. We know very little about Jabez, except that he was more honorable than his brothers, and that he was called Jabez because his mother bore him with sorrow.

However as Charles Spurgeon notes in one of his sermons: “As for this Jabez, whose aim was so well pointed, his fame so far sounded, his name so lastingly embalmed—he was a man of prayer. The honor he enjoyed would not have been worth having if it had not been vigorously contested and equitably won. His devotion was the key to his promotion. Those are the best honors that come from God, the award of grace with the acknowledgment of service.”

I wanted to highlight an idea that I had about Jabez and his prayer: I think that Jabez’s mother was probably a godly woman. So many times, even within my own family and close friends, there were situations where the man is throwing his life away, careless about his responsibility, living only for himself, yet he is married to a woman who stays at home, who tries to keep the family together, struggling valiantly against all the unhappiness and misery of poverty, trying to teach her children something about God. I think Jabez learned about God through his mother, and that this God answered prayer. The mother therefore is the focus of this image.

I opted again for a moody scene, and drew a lot of inspiration from Rembrandt. A lot of symbolism is built into the image, the single oil lamp at the couple’s feet, the empty oil jars, grain bowl and water jug. The broken pottery jar to the right, the broom up against the wall – all have a particular meaning. In the middle is a stable triangular shape formed by Jabez, his mother and the lamp. (the lamp referring to Psalm 119:105) The image is divided into 2 areas, the warm tones on the left and the cold and acetic tones on the right – symbolizing the isolation we experience from God when we are proud and rebellious.