People, Places, and Prophets...or "What do we do with the boring parts of the Bible?"
Let's face it. Some parts of the Bible are more interesting than others. Reading about the parceling of the Promised Land in Joshua 13-21, with its seemingly never-ending list of cities and villages, doesn't exactly get your blood pumping for your morning devotions. The same thing could be said about the genealogies of 1 Chronicles or dozens of chapters in the Prophetical books that continually threaten fire and brimstone on nations that no longer exist.
In fact, there's quite a bit of the Old Testament that could be considered "boring" or "irrelevant" to all but the most ardent archaeologist or theologian. Just think back. You've probably heard sermons on Noah (Gen 6-9) and Abraham (Gen 12-22), but have you ever heard a sermon on Abraham's family line in Gen 11? Chances are you've probably read the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20, but what about the sexual purity laws in Leviticus 20? The book of Obadiah is only one chapter long, and it solely addresses God's judgment on the nation of Edom.
What should we do with all these parts of the Bible? What's the point of reading them or preaching from them? Does it really matter to me today whether a long-lost village was part of Judah's territory or Benjamin's territory, or whether I have a green spot on my clothing? After all, bleach will take care of the spot.
The key question, however, isn't whether this passage or that passage is relevant. The question is whether we believe 2 Tim 3:16 when it says that "all Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness...." If we do--if we believe that all Scripture is God-breathed--then we have to take recognize that even the difficult, confusing, and seemingly irrelevant parts of the Bible are the very Word of God. That also means they're relevant to you and me today.
So what is the point of the genealogies? The list of cities? What are we supposed to take away from the prophets and their long lists of judgments?
The first step is to place them in the context of redemptive history. The lists of people and places make sense only in light of the big story of God saving for himself a people. Seen through that lens, the genealogies aren't just lists of random names but a testament to the faithfulness of God from generation to generation. The list of conquered cities and villages in the Promised Land is a fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham 600 years earlier in Gen 12:7. The excruciatingly detailed laws of Leviticus are designed to show us the absolutely unreachable standard of holiness required to be in God's presence. The prophets were spokesmen for God who, on the one hand, vividly reminded Israel of their covenantal obligations and the consequences for disobedience, but who, on the other hand, also promised that God would send a Messiah to redeem his oft-straying people. It all has a place in the plan of God!
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