By The Rev. Jay Sidebotham
Perhaps one of the reasons for this extensive genealogy is to make the point that we are in this together, one big family. That’s a source of comfort and possibility, for sure. It also bears challenge. It’s been said that the Bible is a story of sibling rivalry, notably beginning with Cain and Abel, continuing with Jacob and Esau, unfolding in the drama between Joseph and his 11 brothers, representing the human family getting along, or not. On Day 139 of your journey through the Bible, these readings from I Chronicles begin to name the descendants of Jacob’s twelve sons. It’s one big old family tree. Chapter 4 gives us the descendants of Judah and Simeon, two of the twelve tribes that were closely related. (Note in this chapter the prayer of Jabez, a prayer for blessing and protection that has gotten a lot of focus of late in some corners of the church.) Chapter 5 presents the descendants of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh. Finally, in chapter 6, we come to the lineage of the Levites. You’ve got a few more chapters with a lot of names in days ahead, most of them probably unfamiliar, twelve tribes in all. It’s a mosaic of generation upon generation, people in relationship with God and with each other, lives marked by joy and challenge, community and conflict.
As you read these many names, depicting an expansive community, hold them in tension with the third chapter of Romans, which paints a powerful picture of the human family and the human condition. We are all in this together. Paul writes: There is no distinction. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Paul gives an honest assessment of our experience, contrasting human frailty and shortcoming with the faithfulness of God. Watch for the ways that the letter to Romans tells the story of all of us, in this together, and ultimately on the receiving end of mercy, love from which we can never be separated.
Why do you think these genealogies are so important for a community of faith? Do we have a comparable resource in our own time?
Sin has been described using the metaphor of archery, that is to say, it is a matter of missing the mark? How do you understand the meaning of sin? What can we do about its power in our lives?
Create in us clean hearts, O God, and renew right spirits within us. Amen.
The Rev. Jay Sidebotham is Rector of the Church of the Holy Spirit in Lake Forest, Illinois