Words of Worth

The List

September 21, 2012

Every Wednesday Sheryl and I teach a Bible study, so for the next few weeks we will be leading our group through the books of Ezra and Haggai. Yes, Ezra and Haggai – two Old Testament prophets that rarely make anyone’s Top Ten reading list. In fact, most people avoid certain parts of the Bible like the plague. (That’s some Old Testament humor… plagues, get it?) But skipping the lessons that are found in these valuable history books is like only reading the end of a novel. You don’t get the full story. However, when we study Old Testament books, we quickly run into a problem – mainly in the form of lists. Lists of names, lists of tribes, and lists of people groups. Quite frankly in some places the lists go on and on and on!

This happens right at the beginning of the book of Ezra. In Chapter 1, King Cyrus issues a decree for the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. It is a broad sweeping reform; the Israelites had been living in captivity in Babylon for 70 years. Now they were free to go home! The travel manifest, if you will, begins in the second chapter of Ezra. For a lot of people, this chapter is a snoozer. For those of us who grew up with the King James Version of the Bible, it’s a little like the “begats”.

As I studied the chapter, I began to imagine what it looked like for all these people returning to a land they left so long ago. It was fascinating to see who made the list. I wondered, “What’s IN a list of names?”

People…. stories… relationships… My mind began to form images and I thought about pioneers as they settled the West and trading posts popped up on the trail. These places often had books to sign so others could check the progress of those who had gone before them. How thrilling it would be to see a name you knew listed there! Your heart would just be buoyed knowing “your people” had safely reached this point and were headed on toward the destination.

But there’s more to the story. With each name listed, there would be an expectation. In Ezra, we see priests, singers, servants and even gatekeepers on the list. Maybe someone looking at the list and considering making the journey would have these thoughts:

Priests: We can worship freely again!
Singers: Music!! OUR sacred music! Our hymns and psalms will be heard again!
Servants: The temple articles will be returned to their proper place!

Here’s the practical application: What could people count on to be there when they see MY NAME???

If Cammy Tidwell is listed, what will people KNOW they can expect??? Bible study? A smile? A helping hand? Cheese grits? A cup of coffee?

Or would people groan to see my name? “Ugh…if she’s there, I think I will take another path and settle somewhere else, thank you very much.”

Everywhere we go, in every situation, we leave an impression. It’s like our name is on a list for people to see. Will the inclusion of our names on the list bring joy and comfort? What kind of difference are our lives making in our families, our towns, our country, or throughout the world?

Today, think about the impact you have on those around you. Don’t underestimate your influence on others. Imagine what people would say to see your name on “the list”. (ct)

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