Posted by Anne Witton on Friday, June 5, 2020 Under: Reflections
I’m working my way through 1 Chronicles at the moment and I must admit I’m finding it quite tedious. A lot of the book consists of a long list of names; fathers and sons, families and daughters and wives - just a long list of people who don’t really mean anything to me. It’s tempting to skip over all these genealogies. After all, none of us really know who any of these people are and, unless you’re a Jewish historian, you probably don’t really care much about who Hazarmaveth or Adbeel is. Most of them aren’t particularly spectacular people. Most of them didn’t really do much. They were just ordinary men and women who were part of God’s people, Israel.
So what do we do when we encounter one of the many long lists of names in the Bible? Well, we can be comforted and reassured for starters. After all, most of us are pretty insignificant and most of us will be completely forgotten in a couple of generations. Even people who have made a significant contribution to human history only have the sketchiest facts associated with them after a few hundred years. William Shakespeare is one of the most famous people who ever lived and yet what do we actually know about him? What was he like to talk to? What did he really care about? What was his daily routine? Who were his best friends? We don’t even know if some of the plays attributed to him were actually written by him.
What reading all these genealogies reminds me is that every single person is known by God and important to him. God doesn’t just know the kind of information that is on a passport but he knows what is in the depths of our heart (Psalm 44: 21; Luke 16: 15; Acts 15: 8; Rom 8: 27). He knows how many hairs are on our heads (Matt 10: 30). He knows more about us that we know about ourselves (Psalm 139; 1 John 3: 19 – 20). He knows all motivations, our passions and what we most care about. Not one of us is overlooked. None of us will be forgotten.
With many of us living our lives increasingly online and sharing more and more information and experiences, we now we leave much bigger footprints but the question is: who is going to go looking for them in a couple of generations time? Most of us – however notable in our culture’s eyes – will be completely forgotten, even by our own families. Each generation gets diluted; we have two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents and so on. Even at the stage of great-great-grandparents (just four generations) you’ve got 16 people from whom you’re removed in time and in genetic similarity. That’s how transient and ephemeral life is unless it’s given some transcendent meaning.
The book of Ecclesiastes highlights well the ultimate futility of life if God is removed from the equation. (Chapter 1: 2 – 4 and 11)
says the Teacher.
Everything is meaningless.”
What do people gain from all their labours
at which they toil under the sun?
Generations come and generations go,
but the earth remains forever.
No one remembers the former generations,
and even those yet to come
will not be remembered
by those who follow them.
So where can any of us find meaning? Well, the writer of Ecclesiastes gives us a hint right at the end by drawing us back to our purpose – to live in relationship with our creator (12: 13):
Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the duty of all mankind.
This is at the heart of the gospel and runs throughout the Bible. Jesus teaches about having the right priorities in life – living for the eternal rather than the temporary. He counsels us to invest in that which won’t be rendered void by the inevitability of death, and instead invest in the eternal (Matt 6: 19 – 21):
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
If we turn to Christ, we will have an inheritance which can’t fade or be destroyed and will last for ever. We will enjoy eternal life with him and all the goodness of a restored creation, restored relationships and a new body long after our bodily death here.
To return to the list of names in Chronicles, I’m reminded that these seemingly insignificant people with unpronounceable names are part of God’s amazing plan for humankind. The story would be incomplete without them. Each one is intimately known and loved by God. He cares about them enough to include them in his holy book that is read by billions of his followers across the world throughout all generations. And those of us who believe and trust in Jesus have our names written in another book - the Lamb’s book of life (Rev 21: 27) – a roll call of all those who will live forever with him.
In : Reflections
Tags: chronicles genealogies legacy remembrance ecclesiastes gospel