Scripture Reading: Nehemiah 11:22-36, Nehemiah 12:1-26, Isaiah 48:1-11, Philippians 3:18-20
As a child in elementary school, I was always scared to read aloud in class. It wasn’t because I was a bad reader. In fact, I always read a bit faster than everyone else, skipping ahead to read a paragraph or two before the rest of the class. But even still, I was constantly nervous I would say something wrong or lose my place in the reading, and as a result, make a fool of myself if called on by the teacher.
It’s easy to get lost in this passage from Nehemiah 11 and 12, because it’s full of the names of people and places that are hard to read and even harder to pronounce. It’s also easy to acknowledge that there are a lot of names, decide they’re too difficult to pronounce, and then skip ahead to the more interesting part of the story.
But names are important. The names in this passage are the names of the priests who came back to live in Jerusalem. At the time, Jerusalem wasn’t exactly the hip, new place to live. It was dangerous to the point that the people had to cast lots to see who would go back and build their lives there. The names of these priests listed in Nehemiah 11 and 12 are the priests who took the risk, voluntarily or not, because the people moving to Jerusalem needed priests too.
These lists tell us more than just who these people were; they tell us where they came from, their history. There is a lot of interest nowadays in finding out more about your ancestry. You send in a sample of your DNA, and some laboratory sends you back a full report of your global ancestry. Human nature leans toward wanting more knowledge, more information, which is probably why these kinds of tests have become so popular. We just want to know what we want to know.
These lists of priests serve a similar purpose: to help future generations of priests know where they came from. When we know where we come from, it’s easier to know what we’re moving toward, to take a glimpse at the bigger picture. But our full understanding of where we come from lies in the knowledge and belief of this truth: our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20).
Our most important family name is the one given to us as children of God. We are His sons and daughters, and He is our Father. We belong to Him. He is our ancestry. He is our past, present, and future. Our citizenship and our family name rests fully with Him, and Him alone.
Ellen Taylor was born and raised in sweet home Alabama, but has called Nashville home since 2013. When she’s not working as the editorial assistant at She Reads Truth, you can find her enjoying good food and good conversation with her friends and family. She is a lover of iced coffee, ugly dogs, and the Oxford comma.