Nehemiah: Day 17

The Priests Served Us


Today's Text: Nehemiah 11:22-36, Nehemiah 12:1-26, Isaiah 48:1-11, Philippians 3:18-20

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.

  • Lori Sheppard

    (Hit post by accident!) Shealtiel and Zerubbabel listed there with the priests…in the blood line of our Savior…

  • Lori Sheppard

    How amazing to find those listed in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew in the D Testament to see God’s thread in His tapestry…Shealtiel
    And Zerubbabel

  • Jo Edwards

    I am greatly encourage by the Philippians passage as when what Ian going through is tough I am reminded that this is only temporary, it will pass, but the spiritual results it is growing in me are eternal! It’s so easy to fix our eyes on what we see in front of us, but God calls us to look to Him x

  • Elizabeth Claire

    Thank you, SRT team, for the explanation of the importance behind the lists of names! To be honest, I skipped through them when I first read the passage, but after reading about them, I went back and paid close attention.

  • Shelby Lynn

    I had done my ancestry DNA. And as a result I was bummed I wasn’t middle eastern, to be like Jesus. But then I remembered… we all started as the same. Just generations down the road our DNA changes.

  • Not sure what the Isaiah passage has to do with this. Any ideas?

    • Amanda

      It’s their history, talking about where they came from, how they turned from God and were stubborn. Yet God still claimed them as his own and brought them to the holy city, and the people learned to trust in him and praise him again, not earthly things.

  • Does anyone else struggle with the Philippians passage, ….setting my mind on earthly things? It makes me wince when I think of putting my mind to get through nursing school and other goals. I would love to get some feedback. Thank you! I think I may be mixing up apples and oranges but I promise you I have struggled here.

    • Becky Smith

      Deb, there is a contrast made in these verses between ‘the enemies of the cross and how they live’ and the citizens of heaven – the children of God. Our mission is to bring glory to God. That whatever we do in word or deed may be done for the glory of God. In doing this, we are laying up treasures in heaven. Going through nursing school with a heart of obedience is laying up treasure in heaven.
      Knowing God’s Word and obeying it is laying up treasure in heaven.
      These treasures are a result of obedience because of God’s love.
      Jesus said, if you love me, obey my commands. The two greatest commands are “to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.” In keeping these two commands, we fulfill all of God’s commands. Just focus on these two and everything will fall into place.
      Since we are citizens of heaven, we are sojourners here which means we should always be looking up to our home going. It gives us a heavenly perspective while living here and keeps us on the right path in our journey.
      May God bless you as you learn how to give nursing care in the love of Jesus.

    • Hannah

      I have also thought a lot about what should fill my mind and drive my goals as I pursue a life spent following God. Another passage that helps me make sense of this one in Philippians is Colossians 3. In verse 2 Paul talks about setting your mind “above, not on earthly things.” Then he goes on to list things that mark our “earthly nature” in verse 5: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed. Fortunately, he goes on to give us the opposite of these things in verse 12, which also happen to be the antidotes: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and so on. This list sounds very similar to the list of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5, where my Bible has the heading “The Spirit Versus The Flesh” over verses 16-26. So, to make sense of Philippians, I find it more beneficial not to think in terms of “earthly vs. heavenly,” but of “spirit vs. flesh.” Are the pursuits we undertake on earth done with a mind full of the spirit (to promote love, joy, peace, etc…) or to promote desires of the flesh? I see no reason why your pursuit of a nursing degree (and other goals that might initially seem “earthly) cannot help feed the Spirit inside you as you use your talents to show God’s love to the world. Hope this helps!

      • DebRN

        Yes it does! I will think over these answers. Thank you!

      • Heather Totten

        Also, I like to look at it like this. As Christs disciples her on earth he uses us as his hand’s feet and mouth

      • Heather Totten

        Sorry hit the button to soon. Anyway, I believe he has gifted us with certain talents that he will use for his kingdom. We are of use in ways we can’t imagine but I’m sure he will use you for amazing things as a nurse! He needs his people everywhere. Not to mention as a nurse you tend to see people when they are most vulnerable, and that is when people realize their need and are more receptive to Christ! Be the Light wherever he plants you!

  • Thank you again for the reminder of how important all of the lists of names are in the Bible. These are the chapters that pastors always skip over when doing studies, but I love how y’all have made these chapters so relevant!!! Knowing the importance of something helps you appreciate it so much more.

  • Amber Ewing

    Many times, I have stopped reading the Bible because I just couldn’t focus long enough to read the names, places, and ages. Thank you for the reminder that these names are just as important as the rest of God’s word!

  • In the middle of the list of names, one thing (the main thing) rises to the surface: praise. In verses 8 and 24 we read about songs of thanksgiving and praise – the words and melodies bouncing back and forth between the priestly choirs standing opposite each other. I can imagine the emotion. Living in our overseas, “restricted” Muslim context, corporate worship looks like a handful of us singing along to recorded praise music in an apartment living room. When we have the opportunity to freely, openly sing and worship with other believers (at a conference or when visiting the States), I am always overwhelmed the first few times – unable to sing through my years of joy and thanksgiving. This is what I picture here, but on an even grander scale. As a people, and as individuals, they have finally returned. They can finally worship freely and corporately in the place God gave them.

    • Rebekah

      This is beautiful, thank you for reminding those of us who never have to worry about our freedom to worship of what a gift it is.

  • Praise God we belong to him. And from here in out change our ansestry of our future kids and grands to know they came from God and belong to Him.

  • I can’t help but thinking of the song from the musical Hamilton- What’s your name man? I too tend at times to skip over names and genealogies, but gosh how important those really are. Especially when you look at the genealogy of Jesus and you see the vastly different types of people that were in his line. Tho he is God’s son the perfect one, these people are still listed in his genealogy. Where we came from is all part of who we are today and is Gods perfect plan and timing. Each has a purpose- it’s in our future our past and our present. We all matter.

  • Nancy Stinson

    I use the YouVersion Bible app to read aloud to me these portions with the many names I can’t pronounce. In doing this, I am better able to read them whenever I come across them elsewhere.

  • “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.”

    I needed this so much. I just recently found out some horrible things about my ancestors, and the atrocities they committed within my family. It’s been laying heavy on my heart, these dark secrets my family has kept covered up for so long. Reading this has really helped ease that heartache. Thank you. ♥

  • Jessica Terpstra

    You’re not alone! Did some of that myself and graciously received some conviction this morning ☺️

  • Kelly Chataine

    New woman, child of God, heir with Christ, redeemed since December 28, 1980!!!
    Praise God!!!!

  • Courtney Stoops

    All of these men were purposefully included. There is a reason God wanted their name recorded. They are the missionaries who went to serve. We should remember their work and the role they played in God’s story. Let’s not just skip over them.

  • So thankful that who I am is because of Who You are Father!

  • I was adopted as an infant and my parents were amazing. They have passed on and I miss them daily. I was very interested in my ancestry – even as a kid. I met my birth parents and have done quite a bit of genetic genealogy and as a Christian, I was beyond thrilled to find that I am 30% Jewish by ancestry. I became a Christian in my early 20s and have always had a passion for Judaism. This discovery has been a blessing.

  • I am so thankful I am called His! I do over wonder where I come from. Even though I am still in my mid 30s, my parents and grandparents have been gone for decades and I often find myself wishing I would have asked more questions as a young child. But, amen to the fact that I never have to question who I am and where I stand in Christ!

    Also, random note. When I come across thought lists like this one, or the ones in Numbers. Or even things that are more complicated to read in general, like helping my son with his Algebra, I tend to read it out loud. I feel it helps me focus and wander less. Just a thought. Have a great day everyone!

    • Jen

      Reading out loud is so helpful! I tell one of my kids this when he does math, it slows your brain down!

  • Churchmouse

    Genealogy was critical to the Israelites. To be a priest you had to be able to prove you were of the tribe of Levi and to be a high priest you had to prove you were a descendant of Aaron. One couldn’t just claim to be one of “Gods Chosen People” – that claim had to be authentically proven. I can claim to be a Christian but it too must be traceable. There is a date and a time when I confessed my sins, accepted Jesus’ act of atonement and acknowledged His lordship over my life. My name was then and is now recorded in the Lamb’s Book of Life. I am a joint heir with Christ. The title can never be rescinded. Although my children are traceable to me by DNA, they are only traceable to Him by their own decision. Forget about my familial genealogical chart – while it is a curiosity and interesting – it is the Book of Life that is the utmost importance. My life goal was one and one alone : that I would do all I could to promote their name being written there. Praise God, they had ears to hear and hearts to receive. Today I’m praying for all who are waiting for their son or daughter to do the same. I join my prayers to yours – for their salvation, for as long at it takes. Amen.

    • Kristen

      Thanks for praying! I agree with you in prayer for my daughters and all to come to know Jesus as Savior and Lord. I also like what you said about how we can claim to be Christian, but it must be traceable. I was reading the First 5 Bible study today. God wants us to read His Word and get to know Him. However, we need to be doers of the Word. When we are filled with God’s truth and love, we will be moved with compassion to tell and show others how Great and Good He is. May God help us to do that and have traceable acts of showing His love to others.

    • Brandi

      Am joining you in prayers for sons and daughters that are wandering around lost right now. Praying according to the Father’s will that they will come to know Him and their names written in the Book.

  • My mum, an only child never knew her father. He went to war and never came home…
    Fast forward some 70/80 years, my brother decides he want to know our genealogy.. do sends for the kit…
    A do it here and there and the results come back that he is related to a woman in Canada, and not just related but she is possibly his aunt!
    Delving deeper and a few awkward conversations later.. this woman and my mum are sisters… half sisters…! They share a dad..! And even more special mum has sisters… three of them.!
    This ancestry thing sure is a way to find lost family members, and perhaps to find out who you are here on earth and where you belong…
    These women, my aunties, have accepted my mum into their family as a sister, one of them, a child of their wonderful father, whom they believe, had he known my mum existed would have been present in her life…
    Mum, didn’t carry the father’s name, but she carried his DNA, which carries more clout, I guess than a name. People have lost family positions and status because of DNA!

    Here’s the thing.. it would have made no difference to us not to know we had a family in Canada.. because however you splice it, God ultimately is our Father. Our Father in heaven. 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… And nothing… nothing can change That!!!
    Thank you Lord God… thank you for families here on earth… Thank
    You that we are family. That we belong to you. That our name, the essence of who we are, is found in You…That You are our Hope… thank you God for everything..
    Happy Wednesday my SRT family… My Sisters…may our Father god turn His face to shine on you today… BLESSINGS…

    • Pam

      That is so awesome Tina! And yes, isn’t it so amazing we all share the same Heavenly Father! So glad to be your Sister – all the way here in Texas! Thanks for sharing your mom’s story.

    • Tricia Cavanaugh

      That is very exciting Tina! Thank you for sharing!
      You also have a wonderful day! ❤️

    • Melanie HallWilliams

      What an amazing story!

    • Brittany Ringo

      This is an awesome story Tina!…and love that you said God is ultimately or ancestry! Beautiful (:

    • Brittany Ringo

      God is ultimately our ancestry I meant to say

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