Wednesday, 3 May 2017

The value of the Bible's genealogies and historical lists

Here are some "big picture" reasons as to why the Bible is so interested in recording and preserving genealogical data. There may be many others:

  • History : God rules over history. He cares about history. In the records carefully kept by the Bible, we see his concern for the world’s history.
  • Real-world history : by carefully recording historical records like these, the Bible shows us what kind of book it is. It is not a book of abstract “religious ideas” that have no connection to the world we live in. It destroys the myth that we can keep the Bible’s religious teachings or meanings, but do away with its historical details. They are a package, and stand or fall together.
  • Practical encouragement : since the Bible is concerned to record, in (relevant) detail, real-world history, believers are helped to understand that the Bible is intended to direct their every-day lives. It is for the lives that we have today in this world.
  • Salvation history : God made promises about a seed of the woman. The genealogies show and document that these promises have been faithfully kept. Time does not diminish God’s faithfulness or purpose.
  • The justification of God : His exhauistive documentation of the genealogical line of the Messiah (and many associated lines) leaves unbelief without any excuse. No sound demonstration that there is any error in genealogy of Jesus Christ has ever been made.
  • Grace : When we see figures like the Gentile prostitute Rahab in the ancestry of Jesus Christ, we are reminded that inclusion among God’s people has always been by grace. When we see Ruth, we are reminded of his purpose to save the nations. Similarly, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, we are reminded that salvation has always been by God’s gracious determination to save whom he will, and not by human choice.
  • Power : The sheer length of time covered by the genealogies that run from the beginning of creation until the coming of Christ reminds us of God’s power : the passage of time, and the concomitant rising and falling of nations and empires does not impede any of his plans; rather, they were always part of it.
  • Patience : Similarly, this sheer length of time reminds us of God’s great patience with rebellious humanity. The judgment has been tarrying for long, whilst people are given opportunity to repent.
  • Judgment : Historical records and surveys of peoples who lived and died millennia ago remind us that all is seen, and that all is recorded. There will be a day of judgment, when all is brought to account. When we read the names of people and have no idea who they were, we remember that this applies to every life, whether great or small.
  • God at the centre : The names of obscure people remind us that it’s whom God sees us as that counts, not whom the world sees us as. There are godly people named and recorded in the Bible, whilst rulers of empires and dynasties have been overlooked and forgotten. The final evaluation of all things will be given by God, not man.

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