Some years ago at Feltham we had Bible studies in Nehemiah. Upon being asked about those studies, one of the regular attendees indicated that they had been of limited value because it had just been ” lists of names”. Now the studies may have been deficient in many respects, but the lists of names were in the passages, we did not add them as extra-biblical supplements. So what are we to make of the lists of names that regularly appear throughout scripture?
- The names have been placed in His Word by God Himself. We honour Him when we do NOT just dismiss them as a “list of names”. So we should not just read over them.
- When reading through scripture publicly we should be careful that we actually read the lists. Many might wonder what they mean, but we honour God when we give due acknowledgement to what He has placed in HIs Word.
- In preaching we need to be careful to not get bogged down in the minutiae concerning the lists of names. But we should meaningfully seek to interact with the significance of the lists.
- Lists of names show that individuals matter in God’s purposes. God does not just globalize into groups. He notices individuals.
- If we dismiss the lists we are acting as if we know better than God Himself who put the lists there. This is eminently dangerous and even blasphemous.
So what of the lists in Nehemiah:
- 3:1-32 shows all who worked to build the wall. the contribution (or lack of it) from each, mattered to God.
- 7:7-73 shows all who had a right to named among the people of God. This was vital to establish as they sought to organise themselves securely back in Jerusalem and in the land.
- 10:1-27 shows those who committed themselves to the covenant which demonstrated their desire to be for God.
- 11:1-12:26 shows the place that each took in the re-established kingdom of Judah. There is a particular focus on those who committed to being back in Jerusalem.
So the next time you come to a list of names make sure you savour them as an integral part of God’s Word.