Most of us have probably experienced the phenomenon: reading those portions of Scripture heavy on genealogy, resulting in the yawn or the rapid skimming. It seems like a waste of time, since these people have nothing to do with us, and lived thousands of years before us. Not so fast. Slow down and take a deep breath.
First point: the genealogies ensure the covenant succession of God’s people. I remember reading a story of a missionary who was sharing the Gospel with some tribe somewhere, and was getting nowhere. He stated the Gospel in the clearest possible terms, but the tribe simply wasn’t getting it, even after he learned the language well. Finally, he simply started reading to them different parts of the Bible. When he got to the genealogies, all of a sudden, there were mass conversions to Christianity. The missionary, stunned, asked the tribal leaders why it was the genealogies that had led to these conversions. The leader responded that they had genealogies going back only so far. They did not know the ultimate origins, and there were many gaps in their genealogies. But now that those gaps had been filled, they knew that the Bible was truth, and that the Gospel was true. This tribe was part of the covenant succession of God’s people now, and that factor was huge in their conversion to Christ. Never discount the power of God’s Word, even those parts that WE do not find particularly compelling!
Second point (and this goes right along with the first point): ALL Scripture is inspired by God and is useful. The problem is not with the text, but with our attitude towards it. If we take a minimalist approach to the genealogies, then we won’t be expecting to receive any edification whatsoever from it. If, however, we read prayerfully, then the Holy Spirit will guide us into the truth that that Scripture has for us.
Third point: we often do not read genealogies properly. When you read a genealogy that has names associated with particular stories, you are meant to recall the entire story. Genealogies are the Bible’s way of recapping what has come before. What is particularly effective about this is the organic connection of God’s people by covenantal generation. In fact, the story of those people IS our story!
Fourth point: whenever you read a person’s name in the Bible, never forget that your name is also written down in the Lamb’s Book of Life, if you trust in Christ Jesus. Suppose (hypothetically) you were reading the Bible one day, and saw your own name there, referring to you, and not to your namesake. Would that change your attitude towards that history? If you remember that your name is written down, everything changes. You will pay attention. You will see the connections of history, and the organic connection that the earlier generations have to us. You ARE reading your own genealogy: the genealogy of faith.