The Glory of Lists

The Glory of Lists 

I make a lot of lists. Usually I label them, so when I find them later I know what they were for and when they are from. Occasionally I find an old list that has no date or title, which usually leads to the thought, “What was I thinking?”

If you’ve spent much time reading the Bible (and I hope you have), you might have noticed that it contains lists. There are genealogies, there are land allotments, there is census information. These lists pose a great challenge for the reader and for the teacher. There is a lot of detail about which we don’t have any more information than the list provides. As a result, some people just skip over them. 

At times, we have additional information from history, archeology or the Bible itself that help us to see interesting things or make exciting connections within the context of these lists. But often we don’t. As I was reading through the list of defeated kings in Joshua 12 I had a mini-epiphany. I realized that the reported people or events each represents its own whole story. We aren’t given the details of the story but there is a story present nonetheless. And in these lists of untold stories I find a message: God is actively at work.

Some of the untold stories may have amazingly miraculous elements which God didn’t think we needed to know about, but I suspect many of the stories are like mine, pretty ordinary. People just trying to follow God as best they can in faith and failure, and there they are, a name in Scripture at a pivotal moment in history. I take a measure of encouragement from this. It reminds me that I don’t have to be Abraham or David or Peter or Paul at a pivotal moment in the movement of God to be in the story of God in our world. It keeps me aware of the great host of once named or unnamed faithful to which I have been invited. This actually inspires me to remain faithful even though (or maybe, especially because) life seems ordinary. 

Let me suggest that when you see a list of names in Scripture, you stop and remind yourself that behind every name is unique story. A story of the invitation of God to faith, of the activity of God to provide grace and blessing, of the purpose of God being fulfilled for His people and through His people, of God walking in relationship with individuals and communities and leaving a witness of His presence. Lists truly can be glorious.

Pursue Christ – He is enough,

Pastor Jeff