Your Family Name
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. 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.
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.
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.
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.