The LIFE TRANSFORMING Lesson I Discovered While Reading a List of Names in the Bible!

Have you ever caught yourself reading through the Bible and you come to a long list of names and you think, “Do I still get credit if I skip these? There are a few passages in the scripture that can make you pause and wonder if there is really anything to be gained by reading a particular list of hard to pronounce biblical names? (Before you comment… I know all about the genealogy of Jesus and the four women mentioned there as well as characters of biblical  significance.) I’m talking about the lists in the Old Testament where someone’s name is mentioned once and never seen or heard from again! Places where we have NO history other than a name thrown in among dozens if not hundreds of other names. To be honest, I never doubted that these lists were scripture and were profitable some way, but I figured that I didn’t have the biblical chops to know exactly who Nephishesim was and why his name was in the bible. But then I messed up…

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I told a bunch of students that we would go chapter by chapter through the book of Nehemiah! I had read Nehemiah dozens of times, but I always skipped the long list of names, therefore I forgot that Nehemiah chapter seven actually contains a long list of names! (It takes up over two whole pages and four columns in my bible!) So there I was, stuck with a commitment to go through this book chapter by chapter and I came to chapter seven and I had to prepare a message for our students or eat crow and explain that I had forgotten about this chapter or worse, I would have to admit that I was in over my head. I firmly held then (and even more so now)  that ALL Scripture is, “God-Breathed and useful” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)but this put it to the test.

I stared blankly at the text. I begged God. I looked up name meanings realizing that perhaps this was a stretch. I asked “Why?” a whole lot. When I was about to give up… He Spoke through the names!

They were there, because they mattered! I know, simple right? These people were listed because they were there! In this instance, they were there building a wall with Nehemiah. Then it hit me, the book might have Nehemiah’s name as the title, but it was just as much about the faithful who responded to his leadership. These folks weren’t only witnesses, they were participants.

I realized a two things:

  1. God cares about people.
  2. It’s incredibly good leadership take time to recognize and remember the work of the people you lead.

I still can’t pronounce half the names on that list, but I know this, seeing their name has impacted me and changed the way I lead. Maybe one day I’ll get the chance to tell them that God used a list with their name on it to bless me! Until then, I write thank you notes, applaud and do my best to encourage everyone who participates in the life of our church. After all, these people belong to God! I may be the leader up front at our church, but I am not the only one serving God.

So today I am thankful for a long list of names in the bible because it helps me really see the people around me.

Where you are (Nehemiah 3:23, 28-30)

Where you are (Nehemiah 3:23, 28-30)

I’m burdened to see God move and work in my city, but I have to be honest, I walk through and pray for the people in my neighborhood more than any other neighborhood. The reason is simple, I live there! I have a personal interest in my neighbors and I have a personal interest in my neighborhood because I live there. I don’t mean to come across as less concerned for other neighborhoods, I care about them, but I don’t see them, or know the people inside them as well as my own. I have invested more in my neighborhood than the hundreds of others in my city. My prayer though is that there would be people like me in every neighborhood who would own their streets, meet their neighbors and be intentional with the gospel.

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It was like that when it came to rebuilding the wall. The work assignments weren’t handed out alphabetically by last name, they were given according to where people lived. You rebuilt the section of the wall closest to your house. It was an ingenious plan. No one would care more about how well the wall was built than the folks it was designed to protect. No one wanted a weak wall by their house. If they needed something to make the wall sturdy, they were prone to go and ask for it and not settle for a good-enough patch work. If they lacked skill, they were more prone to ask about how to do something because they wanted their part of the wall to hold against enemy attack.

I think this lays out a great principle for us as we think about rebuilding the spiritual structures in our neighborhoods and schools. It makes sense for people to work where they have an investment in the outcome. It makes sense to begin in your neighborhood with your neighbors. It makes sense to begin with the basketball team if you play basketball, or the drama department, or the band, or whatever you do or whoever you hang out with, it makes sense to begin there. Use the hobbies, ambitions, classes, and locations that God has put you in and see how He might use you.