Joshua J Masters, Care Ministries
A defining moment in my life occurred when I was 15 years old. I was exploring the attic of my great-grandmother’s house and discovered a shoebox full of old photographs. I took them downstairs and said, “Nana, what should I do with all these pictures?”
“Just throw them in the stove,” she replied matter-of-factly, “No one will know who any of those people are after I’m gone.”
I was heartbroken and made her a promise that no one would EVER forget who those people were. I sat down with her and labeled the back of every picture. Then I started creating a hand-drawn chart to help me keep track of how everyone was connected. That began my love of genealogy and history. I spent more than 20 years working on that family tree and added nearly 1000 names to it.
I discovered that one of my grandfathers, William Masters, was a blacksmith born in 1772 and he lived to be 111 years old. I learned I had an aunt who stood trial as an accused witch during the Salem Witch Hunts, that another grandfather served as a fife player under George Washington at Valley Forge, and that my 19th Great-Grandfather was Geoffrey Chaucer, author of the Canterbury Tales. And while I find my ancestors fascinating, to most people they’re just names on a page. That’s the exact problem we face when we come across Bible passages like the ones we read today. Most of us were probably thinking, “Great. A genealogy of random names and some sort of kitchen inventory from Persia? How can this possibly apply to my life?”
To many of the Israelites in today’s reading, the hope of ever returning to Jerusalem or seeing another temple built seemed impossible. They had been conquered by Nebuchadnezzar and banished. But even through generations of uncertainty, God’s promise could be trusted. He used the king of Persia to restore Israel and protect the sacred items they undoubtedly thought were lost forever. He’s a big picture God. What the Israelites saw as oppression, God used for restoration. What we see as an inventory of Templeware is really a testament to God’s provision, integrity and protection.
Even more so, the genealogies can remind us that God’s plan is unwavering—even when it takes generations to unfold. Take the genealogy from today’s reading for example: did you know that Jehoiachin was an evil king who had a curse put on his entire family line by the prophet Jeremiah? No one from his bloodline would ever sit on the throne of David again—but there was a huge problem—the messiah had been promised to come through this family line. Does this mean God’s plan had been derailed? Not at all. The virgin birth of Jesus not only proclaimed his deity as the Son of God, but also made him the legal heir to David’s throne (through Joseph’s lineage) without being a blood relative of Jehoiachin!
Why is that important in our everyday lives? It matters because God has the ability to see beyond the impossibility of our today and offer the hope of his unfailing solutions for tomorrow. Where we see obstacles, He sees the opportunity to reveal His perfection. Where we see oppression, He sees a chance to bring deliverance. Where we see the hopelessness of a generation, He sees a genealogy of kept promises.
When the genealogies of the Bible are extrapolated, they lead directly to you and me. So while I can’t guarantee future generations will keep the promise I made to my Nana, God can. He knows every person in that long line—not just their names, but every detail of their lives. And he works through our histories to restore our futures. Every list of names in the Bible is a reminder that God keeps his promises and doesn’t forget his children.