The weekend is over, so it’s overflow Monday. Each Monday we discuss a topic or idea I didn’t have time to talk about or explain during Sunday’s message.
You can catch the other Overflow blogs HERE.
Watch or listen to the Unruined series in the Awaken teaching archive.
Parts of the Bible are boring.
There. I said it.
What’s up with the lists of people and places in Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Nehemiah, and other Bible books?
I don’t know anyone who really loves a good list of names or places. That’s not where you find the underlines and highlights.
You remember the Yellow Pages, right? Comedian Mitch Hedberg said the Yellow Pages are like someone printed part of the Internet and dropped it off at your door so you can throw it away. No one curls up in front of a fire with the Yellow Pages and a cup of coffee.
I don’t wake up early each morning to enjoy the next page of the Rand McNally atlas.
We prefer our reading with a plot. Or at least a point.
On Sunday at Awaken, we covered Nehemiah 11-12 in our study through the book. 83 verses in one 40-minute message. Of the 83 verses, I only read 7 of them while I preached. That’s only 8% of the text! Why leave so much out? And maybe the bigger question, if they weren’t worth preaching, are the worth reading and why are they in the Bible?
Why all the names and places?
Couldn’t they have left those out and gotten right to the action? Numbers would be a pretty cool book if it weren’t for all the numbers.
They give the Bible personality.
If your name was in the list, you wouldn’t be saying it was boring, you’d be trying to get others to read it. When the Bible was written, the lists of names and places were real and recognizable to the readers. Thousands of people could find their own names, the cities they lived in, or their ancestors on the scrolls of Scripture!
The Bible is a personal book about personal stories concerning the lives of many people. God cares about people, and loves to use ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary work. The Bible tells that story. (tweet this)
They give the Bible historicity and geographical accuracy.
If the Bible constantly said, “the Jews traveled to a few different places, and over the next hundred years, quite a few people were born, led the nation, and died,” it wouldn’t have the same power.
The names and places remind us these events happened to real people in real places. And the people who were living at the time of its writing could trace their ancestry through the events of Scripture. They didn’t have ancestry.com back then, after all.
What do I do when I get to a list of names?
First of all, that assumes you read your Bible regularly and thoroughly. If you don’t, you probably won’t find yourself asking this question, which is unfortunate. You’re tuning God’s voice out of your daily life and missing life-giving lessons found only in the pages of Scripture.
Skimming is allowed.
It’s ok to skim through a list of names, numbers, or places. That’s allowed. You won’t get struck with lightning or something. Skimming is better than skipping. Skipping prevents you from learning or seeing anything. Skimming allows your eyes to scan the words looking for something irregular or interesting to grab your attention.
Digging is preferred.
Have you ever dug through the genealogy of Christ in Matthew 1? Did you know it was almost unprecedented to include women in a genealogy? Considering that, it’s interesting to find five women listed in the genealogical record of the Savior of the world in Matthew 1! That should at least be a hint at the elevated role the Bible gives to women.
Look at that, we learned something from a list of names!
Speaking of the names in Jesus’ family tree in Matthew 1, do you know any of those people’s back stories? Some are obscure and almost completely unknown, but some have some pretty fascinating stories. Like Rahab, the former Canaanite prostitute, turned God-honoring-Jewish-spy-hider; Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived; Zerubbabel, the man whose name is fun to pronounce quickly, who led a remnant of Jews out of exile back to Jerusalem…just to mention a few.
Look at all we’ve learned in a period of about 60 seconds!
Dig through it, even if you don’t think you’ll dig it. You may be surprised at the gems you find.