God has a purpose and a plan for your family
Then my God put it into my heart to assemble the nobles and the officials and the people to be enrolled by genealogy. And I found the book of the genealogy of those who came up at the first, and I found written in it: These were the people of the province who came up out of the captivity of those exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried into exile. They returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his town. (Nehemiah 7:5–6)
Recently I came across some old military orders my husband had received for a deployment. Not only was his name listed, there was a long list of others who would be deployed with him. His name was on this official record meant more than being one of many to deploy. The list was used to identify those who had access to certain military benefits because of deployment.
Chapter 7 of Nehemiah focuses on a document of names. I know—another list of names, right? The names were representative of lives and history, and being on the list carried with it access to certain benefits as the chosen people of God.
After Nehemiah completed the work on the wall, he turned his attention to the people within the wall. He set out to gather a genealogy of the people to see where different families were living and place some of them in Jerusalem. In order to develop economically, socially, and spiritually, the nation needed people. His research led him to an important genealogical list.1 He found a record of families who had returned to Jerusalem during the first redeployment. In fact, these names match the names listed in Ezra 2. Nehemiah used the list to remind the people of their identity as a nation. He encouraged them to live their lives in light of their identity.2
We can learn a lot about God by looking at the list of names in Nehemiah 7. First, the names listed tell us that God cares about individuals. The names may mean nothing to us, but they sure mean something to God. He knows your name and he sees you with eyes of love and concern.
He knows your name and he sees you with eyes of love and concern
Second, God cares about families. The list includes some family groups. God has a purpose and a plan for your family. We often question and want to know God’s will for the individual, but have you thought about God’s will for your family?
Finally, the names show that through all the challenges the exiles experienced, God did not forget them. He returned them to their home and reestablished their purpose. Returning to Jerusalem was not easy, but they were reminded that God had made a promise to their forefather Abraham to give them the Promised Land and that they would be a blessing to the nations around them. God remembered them. This listing of their history reoriented them to both their birthright and their calling.3
Note too that we find this listing in God’s Word and not just in the administrative records of a nation. It emphasizes the importance God places on individuals and family units.
In what ways can you strengthen and reestablish the bonds with your extended family, following deployment? What are the challenges? What are the blessings?
Prayer for the Journey
Lord, because of your great love for me I can say, “The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance” (Psalm 16:6). Amen.
1 F. Charles Fensham, The New International Commentary of the Old Testament: Ezra-Nehemiah (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1982), 211.
2 Steven J. Cole, “Lesson 7: Counting for God (Nehemiah 7:1–73),” https://bible.org/seriespage/lesson-7-counting-god-nehemiah-71–73, (accessed March 8, 2015).
3 Derek Kidner, Ezra & Nehemiah, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, ILL: InterVarsity Academic, 2009), 103.