1 Chronicles 4-5
Well this section of Chronicles, like much of the rest of the book, was relatively unknown until Bruce Wilkinson wrote his NY Times Bestseller, The Prayer of Jabez. The book puts forth the idea that there are several important and reproducible elements to Jabez’s prayer that we should all pray regularly. The prayer, “Oh that you would bless me and increase my territory! Please be with me in all that I do and keep me from trouble and pain.” And God granted him his request.
Good things about this book: So many people were afraid or timid about asking God to bless them and this book convincingly argued that God is glad when we ask for things. We also read about this when Jesus tells us “Ask and you shall receive,” and “Your fathers give good gives, how much more will your heavenly father give good gifts to his children.” Clearly God likes to give his children blessings.
Less good things about the book: If you write more than about five pages about Jabez then you have to start making a lot of assumptions. One of those assumptions is that Jabez was requesting that God increase his territory for the purpose of giving back to God or blessing others. I also think our Christian culture spends a lot of time praying our wish lists. We spend the entire prayer asking God to do this or fix that. Prayer should be about communicating with God in a way that asks him to change things but also allows him to work change in us as well. Prayer should be about relationship, thanksgiving, praise and communication. In a culture that focuses on what we want, we don’t need to spend too much time on a prayer asking for more blessing.
Paul had originally been imprisoned under Felix, but Festus has taken over Felix’s post, which means the politics of Paul’s trial have changed completely. Festus is trying to do his job well, but also wants to begin building a good relationship with the Jews. When the Jewish leaders ask to put Paul on trial in Jerusalem, Festus seems to like the idea of using this as a chance to build relationship with the Jews. Paul seems to recognize the dangerous dynamic developing here and appeals to Caesar for trial. Later Festus tells Agrippa that he would have let Paul go had he not appealed to Caesar. There seem to be three possibilities about what was really going on:
1. Festus was going to convict and sentence Paul in order to appease the Jewish leaders. Paul wisely sees a chance to escape Festus and the Jews and arrive at Rome by appealing to Caesar. Once Paul appealed to Caesar, he was fine with that as well, except that he couldn’t find a charge to place against him in the emperor’s court. He asks for Agrippa’s advice and of course, now says he would have otherwise released him because saying anything else makes him look a fool.
2. Festus really couldn’t find any real charge to place against Paul but right before Festus was able to release him Paul appeals to Caesar and Festus likes the idea of passing on this responsibility. Had Paul kept his mouth shut he would have gone free.
3. Paul knew he was about to go free but decided that with these angry Jews who had promised not to eat until Paul was dead, that he was better off traveling to Rome with a well-armed Roman guard responsible for his safe transport.
I tend to think it was number 1, but that’s just my opinion.