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What’s In A Name?

Updated: Jul 13, 2023

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I honestly never realized the importance of a name. As Mark and I chose names for our children, we decided on ones that we liked. Neither one of us had the understanding of the potential “imprint” that a name places on the individual so it never dawned on us to look up the meaning.

When we study Scripture we see the importance of names that existed throughout the centuries; however, we also see that the individual’s name did not necessarily have the final say!

Put yourself in the shoes of Jabez. This poor fellows name means “He will cause pain; whiteness swept away; mire swept away; shovel of mire”. We all know what pain is, but these parents branded their child with being the cause of pain. Let’s go a step deeper into the definition. What about the word “mire”? One definition for mire, according to Merriam-Webster is, “a troublesome or intractable situation”. Not only was Jabez named as one who would cause pain but he was also labeled a troublesome situation.

As we walk through life, we pick up labels that define us. It’s not uncommon for these labels to feel as though they are glued on with epoxy. An epoxy is a 2-part high-performance bonding system designed for extreme environments. Part one is that we receive the label. This label may be a positive life-giving label or one that holds us back due to pain, fear etc. Part two is the reinforcement of the label. Each time the “label” is reinforced the bond it has to us becomes stronger. The label eventually becomes an identity, therefore, adhering to the very fabric of our lives. The negative labels often go underground becoming a hindrance to our walking in the full confidence that God has for us whereas, the positive labels have the potential to propel us forward.

I have given birth to five children. As much as people say you forget the pain you don’t. Giving birth is painful. However, it would have never dawned on me to give any of my kids a name that reflected the pain of childbirth. All I can say is that Jabez must have had a unique mother for at that moment she gave him a name meaning pain! However, it is vital to note that Jabez didn’t allow that label to adhere and become his identity.

9 Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez,saying, “Because I bore him in pain.” 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. – 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 NLT

The very first thing I notice is that Jabez grew up to be an honorable man. Not only an honorable man but more honorable than his brothers. Scripture doesn’t go into detail with this, but I wonder what the backstory was. There had to be a significant difference, between Jabez and his brothers, to be stated explicitly in Scripture. I would suggest that at the very least honor became a healthy label that adhered to his identity.

The other thing I notice is that Jabez took the label of “pain” and turned it around. Rev. Charles Cooper states that the name “Jabez” was actually nonsense in Hebrew, that his mother used a pun to make up his name. In Hebrew Jabez (yabez) and the term for pain (ozeb) have the last three letters switched. This pun on pain is used as a tool to explain the circumstances of the child’s birth.

However, pun or not, if he were born today I can hear the kids on the playground taunting him, teasing him about his name and reminding him daily how much pain he caused. One of the few memories I have of Kindergarten is being teased because I couldn’t speak correctly. Children can be cruel; adults can be cruel, life can be brutal. However, it is up to us what impact that leaves on each of us individually.

As I write this, we live on the other side of the Cross from where Jabez lived. We have the fullness of Scripture that Jabez didn’t have. As Jesus was nailed to the Cross, he carried every curse that had come upon humanity. Scripture tells us that Jesus rescued us from the curse when he hung on the Cross (Galatians 3:13). In other words, every wound, every negative label, every curse is not ours to carry. The taunting words, from my younger years, were not meant to define my life nor are they intended to define yours.

We don’t know how old Jabez was when he prayed this now famous prayer. However, we do know that it echoed through the very halls of Heaven and the mandate was given to record it in the Bible as a lesson for generations to come.

Jabez prayed for more! Scripture is very clear that his request was directed solely to the God of Israel. In the midst of the stories, teasing, and taunting that probably happened Jabez made a significant decision. He prayed! He prayed that the circumstances that had surrounded his birth and his name would not characterize his life or be a prophetic indicator of his future.

Each of us has a choice. Do we live to the labels or beyond the labels? Do we live to our name or beyond our name? To be honest, some labels are easy to throw off while others are difficult. Some are so deeply ingrained that they first need the healing touch of Jesus. We honestly need Him to remove the negative label and allow Him to “rebrand” us with his label from the very throne room of Heaven. And then, we need to learn to walk in that new identity. Walking in that new identity means that we take on that new identity in thought, word, and action.

There are other labels that are given to us that are healthy and Godly. The label of “honorable” that Jabez received was one such label. In fact, because it is specifically stated in Scripture I would suggest that God commended him as being honorable.

In summary, as God transforms our live unhealthy and ungodly labels need to be removed and healing brought forth. Sometimes behavioral patterns that have been driven by the label need to change as we walk in our healing. Like Jabez we can decide what will define our identity, our future, and our legacy.

Jabez encourages us to live beyond our name for the glory of God!

Going Deeper:

Research the meaning of your name?

As you discover the meaning of your name does it bless you or do you feel like it’s a curse?

If the meaning of your name feels like a curse, go back and reread the short account of Jabez and ask the Lord to show you how to redefine your life. Remember, Jabez decided that his name would not characterize his life or be a prophetic indicator of his future.

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