Making A List and Checking It Twice

Just a list of names.

I’ve been reading the Bible since I was six but for many years, when I came to a long genealogy like the one that opens Matthew’s gospel, I would pass it by so I could get to the stories. Maybe because I’m older and closer to being just a name on a list of ancestors, I’ve grown to appreciate that each name on these lists is a story.

There are lots of reasons to have a list of names. One couple seeking fame and attention, snuck into the White House this week despite the fact their names were NOT on the invitation list. Tom Brady was once just a name on a list. He was the 199th choice in the sixth round of the NFL draft. The position of his name on the list held no real hope for promise or performance in keeping with his true story. There are names carved on lists of memorials like the Vietnam Wall – lists that tell of stories cut short. During the Holocaust, having your name on the right list meant the difference between life and death. On Broadway, audition lists hang heavy with names bearing stories of desperation, aspiration and hope. A list of names is almost never JUST a list of names. Every name tells a story that God believed could only be told over a lifetime.

The list of names in Matthew 1 begins with Abraham – the man who received an amazing promise from God and believed Him. Fourteen generations later, we find the name of King David, a man after God’s own heart. Fourteen generations from David, the heaven’s opened and God stepped into human history as a squalling, swaddled baby named Jesus.

Skeptics accuse Christians of claiming to have the truth while they believe we’re just following a religion invented by man. The genealogy of Matthew is evidence that no man would make this up. Listed among the great men of Jewish and Christian history on this list are five women – and here is the proof that some man trying to invent a religion to win over Jews and Gentiles alike would never make this up.

In verse 3, we find Tamar. Her story is actually found in Genesis 38. She was dealt a raw deal by her father-in-law, Judah, and took matters into her own hands by posing as a prostitute and becoming pregnant by him. No real winners in this story but God chose to include her in the line of Jesus and mention her by name.

Next, verse 5 mentions Rahab. Rahab was the prostitute mentioned in Joshua 2 and again in Hebrews 11:31. When Israeli spies visited her establishment, she hid them from the King of Jericho. Her faith in the God of the Israelites won her her life and a place in Jesus’ line.

Also in verse 5, we see the name of Ruth. Ruth was a godly woman but she was not a Jew, she was from the Moabite people. Radical to find the name of a Moabite woman in the lineage of Jesus.

Verse 6 makes mention of Uriah’s wife. Uriah was a Hittite and while he was at war, King David seduced his wife, Bathsheba. When he discovered she was pregnant with his child, he first brought Uriah home on furlough and tried to get him to sleep with her. When Uriah insisted on remaining in solidarity with his men and taking no comfort for himself, David had him sent to the front lines and killed, taking Bathsheba for his own wife.

Finally, Mary is mentioned. A teen-age girl discovered to be with child before she could be taken in marriage by Joseph, her betrothed, claiming to carry the seed of God who would grow to be Messiah.

Five women’s names on a list.

A story behind every name.

And evidence that the Christian faith is completely God’s idea. What man, in devising a false religion and setting a man up to be worshipped as the Jewish Messiah would make mention of – highlight, in fact – that His great, great, grandmothers were prostitutes, adulterers, ruined women and non-Jews. That’s the kind of family history you keep in a closet, you don’t use it as your opening line!

But, God’s not running for Messiah. He doesn’t need your vote. He did want us all to know that nothing and no one is out of reach of His redemption. Matthew himself was a tax collector – he was a Jew who worked for the Romans- often selling out his fellow Jews to gain a profit – until he met Jesus. So, who better to spread the news that no matter who is listed in your family tree, Jesus has the last word on your life?

Names on a list. A story behind every name. In preparation for Christmas, read the names. Look up some of the stories. God hides nothing in the closet. He brings it all to light because He is the Light.

The family tree of Jesus continues to grow through the adoption of sons and daughters through Jesus’ sacrifice every day. In the long run, the eternal run, there’s only one real list that counts. Is your name on it?


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8 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Cheri says:

    Lori,

    What a dynamite post! I loved it.

    This is one of my favorite lines: Every name tells a story that God believed could only be told over a lifetime.

    Not only does God know both our name and our story, but He died so He could be part of our story and our life. Amazing!

    Hugs,
    Cheri

  2. Heather says:

    This is a great blog, Lori. I love “God’s not running for Messiah”

  3. Mike says:

    Very happy to be on your blog-mail list, Lori. Thanks again for an amazing entry.

  4. Thank you, Cheri. I love that you are always so specific in what you appreciate!

  5. Heather, I need to be reminded of that all the time.. Boggles my mind that God is so unlike the rest of us – unworried about being liked or popular. I always have to draw on that.

  6. Mike, I’m glad you’re on my mail list, too. I get encouragement from your facebook status (statuses? stati?). Thanks for continuing to come back!

  7. charlesangel says:

    I am so glad that I listened at and heeded to His voice when I heard Gods call on my life! Yes, my name is on that list,,,Praise God for his Son Jesus!!

  8. I love that you’re on His list, too. One day we’ll meet on the other side! Thank you, so much, for dropping by, Deanie.