This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him. . .And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth:
Genesis 5:1, 3
Recently, I watched an episode of The Waltons, the story of a family in Virginia during the 30s and 40s. It contains a fair amount of history of that time period, mixed in with the joys and struggles found in the everyday life of any family. This particular segment called The Family Tree tells the story of one of the Walton’s neighbors, a woman of African descent named Verdie, and her search for her identity. She confessed that because she knew nothing of her history, she felt as though she was just floating without the grounding factor of legacy. She wanted the roots family history brings.
Perhaps that is why God takes time to remind us where we come from by periodically listing the names of fathers and sons in Scripture. Notice I say we because this family tree listed in all the ‘begets’ is ours. I think if we take time to realize this is our history, then perhaps the rest of God’s Word will have more meaning to us. As Christians, this is our legacy, the place we come from: Our people, our stories.
Most of us have some sense of our personal history. We can track our family tree at least a few generations back. It provides us a roadmap along with a few good tales about where we came from. My husband’s grandfather was a Swedish immigrant who came through Ellis Island with a saxophone in hand. Each time he passed through a station in the process, an immigration officer would mark his jacket with chalk. Not understanding that the mark meant he had been passed through to the next step, Grandpa would brush the white powder off his new suit. This ultimately pushed him back to the end of the line, only to start the process all over. Eventually, he did make it into the country, settled into Boston and married into a family whose ancestor was General Pickering of the Revolutionary War.
My own great grandmother became a Christian by hearing the gospel preached by Aimee McPherson, founder of the Four Square Church. Grandma took the “love thy neighbor” part of the Bible seriously, giving her a strong sense of duty toward the hungry and disadvantaged. She once stood up to the leaders in her church when they tried to turn a homeless man away from a church social, saying Jesus would be ashamed at their behavior. I may have inherited a bit of spunk from her. Just knowing these things gives me a feeling of belonging to something special.
For Verdie of The Waltons, her search led her to the knowledge that her people were slaves of a once prominent family. Before that, they lived their lives in Africa. They had names. They came from somewhere. Through their story, she discovered her own and in turn, it grounded her soul.
For us, the same is true as we realize these accounts found in the Bible belong to us as much as they do to Israel. Our story has been one in the making since the beginning of time, back when our people, Adam and Eve, began their lives in the Garden of Eden. They extend down through time to the birth of our Savior, Jesus, and beyond through the early church, and on to what’s to come in our future. These stories are personal, so when you read the lists of names, remember the stories of those who came before us. They are our great, great, great granddaddies, after all.
. . . And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary,
of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.
Matthew 1:16 KJV