Considering the content you are about to read, it is actually kind of amusing that I accidentally forgot to post this blog entry a few days ago. I did not intentionally skip over this portion of Scripture because of the genealogy. I honestly just forgot to post it!
The remainder of chapter seven contains a lengthy census of Jews and a few details about donations for the restarting of temple worship and sacrifice. If you are like me, when I read a genealogy like this one in Nehemiah my brain drifts very quickly. About half way through the list I start hearing the teacher from the old Peanuts cartoons, “Wah wah wah wah wah.” Or, to be honest, sometimes I have skipped the lists all together. Then one day, I remembered, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God.” That includes these genealogies. I may not understand the purpose for it now, but I may need it later.
Truthfully, I am not fully convinced in my mind why the Holy Spirit would have Nehemiah gives theses lists here, but if I might, I would like to offer a few possibilities. And with those possibilities, I would like to make some practical application for our personal discipleship and church order.
First of all, you will notice that there were a large number of people that were involved in the work but did not rebuild or build houses inside the walls of Jerusalem. One of the main reasons for the genealogies may be for safety and accountability. The governor of an area needs to know who he governs so that he can keep them safe and maintain a rule of law. I think this aspect is absolutely vital for a healthy new testament church. Complete anonymity go an person in a church is foreign to the new testament pattern. The congregants knew one another and the pastor and deacons were truly able to help those with spiritual and physical needs because they knew the person not just the name!
Along this same line of reasoning in the accountability issue. Nehemiah saw that it would be better for the city if those families that had houses lying in ruins inside the wall would come and rebuild. This focus on the city rather than just individual families has a direct correlation to church. A church cannot thrive if its members do some work for the church but are not wholly invested in the growth of the body of Christ. Again, an accurate membership list will help in this area. But please understand, I am not talking about a list of none donors! Churches should never think that way. I am talking about the spiritual participation of membership.
Another possible reason for the inclusion of such a list here is honor and respect. The list is not to be used to make someone famous but to be able to point to them as good examples whom deserve respect of others who come later. The church should never revere its older or past members as a higher order or saints. We are all saints in Christ. However, a healthy amount of respect for the work of those that the Lord used to start a church or to get in through rough times ought to be given.
The third possibility, and probably the main reason for the inclusion that I can see, is that it most likely adds to the evidence of the genealogies of Jesus Christ. These lists add credibility to the lists provided by Matthew and Luke in the their gospels.