Margin notes: What’s with all the names?


Nehemiah 10:1–27 (ESV) — 1 “On the seals are the names of Nehemiah the governor, the son of Hacaliah, Zedekiah, 2 Seraiah, Azariah, Jeremiah, 3 Pashhur, Amariah, Malchijah, 4 Hattush, Shebaniah, Malluch, 5 Harim, Meremoth, Obadiah, 6 Daniel, Ginnethon, Baruch…26 Ahiah, Hanan, Anan, 27 Malluch, Harim, Baanah.

Every Friday morning, a number of men from our Church under the leadership of Mike Holbein gather for an hour to do just 1 thing: read the Bible out loud to one another. We’re reading it all the way through in chronological order. It is a precious time.

This morning found us reading the 10th chapter of the book of Ezra, and the first 10 chapters of Nehemiah. And let me tell you, those seemingly endless lists of hard to pronounce names can be pretty challenging. and it is easy to ask ourselves – what is the deal here? What is with all of the nearly unpronounceable names of people thousands of years removed from us? Why are these lists even in the Word of God? And those aren’t wrong questions to ask. But let me make a couple of suggestions for when you get to those passages and are tempted to just skip over them.

  1. There are more than 80 names noted in Neh. 10 alone. And God knows each one of them. None who give themselves to serve Him and His Kingdom are ever forgotten. They are not faceless and nameless, our God knows each and every one of His own. He knows you. By name. And He does not forget you. These 80+ in this chapter may mean little or nothing to us this far removed from them – they have been inscribed in the everlasting Word of God. Just as every Believer is inscribed in the wounds of the Savior. None, no matter how obscure, are without eternal remembrance. By name.
  2. They were not listed because of great feats of faith or spectacular accomplishments. They are listed, because they are God’s people. Regular people. Just God’s people in that place, at that time, living for Him. They aren’t superstars. They aren’t heroes. God’s people because they are God’s people are all remembered by Him. “He keeps all of His bones, and none of them is broken.”
  3. In Ch. 3 there is another list of names. People who were all involved in rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem. That chapter is a marvel to read. Who all were involved in restoring and rebuilding the city? Everyone. There were governors and commoners; Levites and Priests, laboring beside perfumers, goldsmiths and men whose leadership declined to join in. Women were engaged in it, along with soldiers and servants. No one too high or too low – but each put their labor into seeing the City of God restored. Their qualifications were willingness – not specified skills. And so it is we are reminded that all of us with our various gifts and abilities are engaged in building Christ’s kingdom. Wherever and whatever our context may be. Musicians, programmers, doctors, lawyers, salesmen, project managers, housewives, mechanics, floor sweepers, scientists, etc. These and thousands more are joined together in building His kingdom, not because we are “builders” by trade – but because whatever our trade – we are His – in that place. There were no vocational contractors in this crew – just willing servants of God. Like you, and like me.
  4. And, there were lists of the giving that people engaged in – their offerings for the work of the Temple and support the priesthood. God remembers every 1/3 of a shekel. It is all written down, all recorded. All remembered. Every little thing each of us has contributed to the work of Christ is eternally remembered. No matter how small, it is not discounted, but celebrated and memorialized.

Don’t let these seemingly boring lists get by you Christian. For your name is written among them too – in God’s eternal book of remembrance.

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