Two Sundays ago, I preached Nehemiah 3. It’s a chapter that lists the various men and women who rebuilt the wall of Jerusalem. Here’s a taste:
“…Next to them Jedaiah the son of Harumaph repaired opposite his house. And next to him Hattush the son of Hashabneiah repaired. Malchijah the son of Harim and Hasshub the son of Pahath-moab repaired another section and the Tower of the Ovens…” (Nehemiah 3:10-11)
And more of that. For the entire twenty-seven verses.
As the congregation surveyed the chapter beforehand, I’m sure many were thinking: Is Pastor Chad really going to preach on a chapter of obscure Hebrew names? It’s one of those chapters that you normally skip during your devotions, isn’t it? Isn’t it? Don’t lie.
This is no lie. My very first week as pastor–fresh out of seminary, no experience–I preached a genealogy from Matthew chapter 1. It may have been a terrible sermon, it probably was, but I was trying to set a tone for our understanding of Scripture as a church:
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
All Scripture–including the parts you normally skip.
So, three brief things we need to remember when we come to these passages:
(1) It’s not about God fitting into our story, but us fitting into God’s story.
I think many of us come to the Bible and want to “get something out of it”—which is okay. However, it can create this idea that the Bible is only valuable if it proves to me how it fits into my life. So, we come across a genealogy and there’s no little nuggets or quick takeaways, so we turn the page.
But the Bible’s purpose is to draw us into the grand narrative of the Lord and his people. It draws us out of darkness and into the light of the gospel. The Scriptures are the real story. We have to figure out how our lives fit into the Bible. Genealogies, number tables, and lists of land allotments all have a purpose in the story that God is telling if we are willing to sit down and listen.
(2) Don’t take yourself so seriously.
In your head you may protest: “But…reading this chapter is a waste of my time.” You can’t see me right now, but I’m SMH really hard. You “waste” your time on so many more trivial things: Netflix, Facebook comments, sitting in a fishing boat, catching up on scores on ESPN, or watching those annoying recipe videos in your timeline.
There are worse things you could waste your life doing besides reading the Word of God no matter what it says. If you feel anxiety about trying to struggle through a list of Hebrew names for five minutes, maybe you need to spend some time reflecting on when you became so self-important. Sometimes God shows us our pride by consuming our day with what we perceive to be a “meaningless task” (I’m a parent of four–I am more than qualified to make this statement).
After all, to the rest of the world you are more obscure than Hashabneiah, Malchijah, or Hasshub–at least their names are recorded in Scripture forever. For some reason, God still cares for you. When you hit those “boring” passages in your Bible reading, take comfort that God is at work even in the most mundane details of your life.
(3) This is a relationship.
You don’t try to “get something out of” every conversation you have with your kids or your wife or your co-workers. Why do we have to “get something out of” every conversation with the Lord?
Use those seemingly mundane passages as an excuse to simply relish the fact that he is speaking to us. That he cares about us. That by the blood of Jesus we are his people. The Lord of the universe has revealed himself in letters, words, verses, and passages that we can read–some of them more easily than others. But he is speaking to us in every word…
…so let us listen.
P.S.–If you are curious how that sermon on a long list of obscure Hebrew names went, you can find out here.