The Bible records God’s use of otherwise unknown people to teach us valuable lessons. Even in a long, long list of names like we encounter in the book of 1 Chronicles, we find individuals who serve as worthy examples of faith and the rewards of faith.
We have concluded our Wisdom Journey through the book of 1 Samuel, which ends with the death of Israel’s first king—King Saul. The next book we come to is 2 Samuel, which continues the history of Israel. However, between these two books we must place the opening chapters of the book of 1 Chronicles.
The book of 1 Chronicles gives us the transition from Saul’s reign to David’s and then provides a historical narrative that continues all the way through 2 Chronicles. On our Wisdom Journey through the Bible, we need to understand that much of what we read in 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, and 2 Kings is repeated in the two books of Chronicles.
This is similar to what we find in the New Testament Gospels, which give us four separate accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Much of the material is repeated in these Gospel accounts, but sometimes one Gospel will give us some additional and unique information.
So, as we begin our Wisdom Journey through 2 Samuel and then on into the books of Kings, keep in mind that we will be referring frequently to the parallel accounts in 1 and 2 Chronicles. And a few times, we will interrupt our journey to focus on some unique material from Chronicles that fits into the timeline. And that’s exactly what we are doing now.
What we find here in the first nine chapters of 1 Chronicles takes place before the beginning of 2 Samuel. The content of these nine chapters is not found anywhere else, but they set the stage in a unique way for what is about to happen next in 2 Samuel. So, let’s stop and take a closer look.
Now if you start reading in the first chapter of 1 Chronicles and continue all the way through the ninth chapter, you will read hundreds of names. This is a long list of genealogies. And if you can stay awake through it all, you’re probably still going to wonder what in the world it’s all about.
Well, these nine chapters have some very definite purposes for Israel. For one thing, they provide a reminder of Israel’s heritage, going all the way back to Adam. They also demonstrate God’s choice of Israel as His special people. These genealogies give us a closer look at the priestly tribe of Levi and the tribe of Judah, emphasizing David’s royal family tree. And we’re also given a closer look at the tribe of Benjamin, from which came King Saul.
But there are also some important things for us to learn from these nine chapters about genealogies. Think about it: For God to give this much space in His inspired Word to make sure everybody’s name got included gives us some wonderful insights.
Let me give you three examples that highlight some important truths for us today. First, we’re given the account of Jabez and his painful past. We find here in 1 Chronicles chapter 4 and verse 9 this statement: “Jabez was more honorable than his brothers; and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, ‘Because I bore him in pain.’”
Jabez is just one of many names in this long list, but the text pauses and highlights his story. His name means he was born in sorrow or pain. Now there is pain in every childbirth—at least there was for my wife, and I was in the delivery room with her when all our children were born. And frankly, I was amazed she was always willing to endure the pain again.
But the birth of Jabez was not just painful; it was sorrowful, and we are not told why. But imagine that whenever he introduced himself, his name reminded people of something painful from his past.
That’s why the first part of verse 9 sends an interesting message: “Jabez was more honorable than his brothers.” That Hebrew word translated “honorable” means “influential, powerful, heavy.” What happened?
Well, in verse 10 we read this:
Jabez called upon the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain!” And God granted what he asked.
Jabez was praying what some of us have prayed—and what all of us in varying degrees should pray—“Lord, make a difference in my future; I don’t want to be handicapped by my past!”
That’s a great prayer. Now some have turned it into some kind of mystical guarantee of prosperity, and, frankly, that is nonsense. What Jabez is praying here—and we can pray it too—is, “Lord, I don’t want to live up to my name. I want to live differently! I don’t want my past to dictate my future.” And we are told that God answered his prayer.
This brief text on Jabez is a wonderful reminder that our lives do not have to be defined by the sorrow of the past. Let’s obey God as we walk into His will for our future.
Now in chapter 5, we find a second important principle illustrated in verse 18 with the victory of valiant men from the tribes of Reuben and Gad and Manasseh. They were victorious over some Arab armies, but it had nothing to do with their military power. Verse 20 reads: “They cried out to God in the battle, and he granted their urgent plea because they trusted in him.”
Listen, beloved, this is a timeless principle running throughout the Bible: - Success in life is defined as faithfulness to God. And whatever success you might have, God deserves the glory.
The temple and its dedicated servants illustrate a third principle to follow. In chapter 9 of 1 Chronicles, beginning in verse 17 and going down through verse 34, is a list of Levites who served in a variety of ways. We are given the names of the gatekeepers, the utensil counters, the furniture polishers, the spice mixers, the bread bakers, and the music makers.
And what’s fascinating here is that God is not just recording what these people did; in most cases, He gives us their names. Names matter because people matter to God—and they should matter to us.
Listen, beloved, who people are is more important than what people do. In fact, the moment you begin to think it’s more important what God does through you than what God does in you is the moment you begin to place more value on results, status, and position rather than on character, integrity, and a close walk with God.
And by the way, these people here are not going to make it onto VIP lists in the world—they opened gates, counted forks and knives, and sang in the choir. But let this remind us all that whatever service we do for the Lord matters to Him. It might not be recognized or applauded on earth, but it is never overlooked or forgotten in heaven. The writer of Hebrews 6:10 put it this way: “God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints.”
If God can remember the names of the furniture polishers and spice makers, if He can answer the prayer of Jabez to get beyond his painful past, and if God can respond to the dependency of desperate people on the battlefield, He will certainly remember you, hear your prayer, and one day reward your service to others—because ultimately you were serving Him.