Not to suggest that this is you, but many who read through a Bible plan love the genealogies. They are a reprieve of sorts, seemingly inviting one to gloss over a few chapters of names. Beyond the break in the rhythm, what are we to make of these lists?
These were real people. The sweeping scope of our redemptive history is laid before us, as generations upon generations are recited, so much so that we become bored. This is somehow not unlike our minute-to-minute existence, largely lived as indifferent (bored?) to the reality of God, allowing it to become an assumption and presumption. “Life, friends, is boring . . . I am heavy bored” (John Berryman, “Dream Song 14” from The Dream Songs).
But within each name is a life, with loss and joy and pain and ambivalence about any manner of things. There is the reality of a life lived beneath each name and within each small phrase: “He was the first on earth to be a mighty man … to Eber were born two sons … Achan, the troubler of Israel … she bore him Ahban and Molid … Seled died childless … he reigned thirty-three years in Jerusalem …” Within each name is the reality of God’s attentiveness to each life lived, as judge, as redeemer.
We also see the vast scope of God, as the “fullness of time” is rooted in actual history. We exist at this moment, rooted in actual history.
Now in this Easter season of the church year, we find our hope enlivened by this fact that God rooted his incarnation, death, and resurrection amidst a genealogy of actual people and among moments of actual time. For it is as such that God demonstrated his love for us in being delivered for our sins and raised for our justification (Rom. 4:25).
John Updike forcibly states: “Let us not mock God with metaphor, / Analogy, sidestepping, transcendence / Making of the event a parable . . . ” The pretty Easter flowers are not a parable of “each soft spring recurrent.” The stone that was rolled away was “not papier-mâché, not a stone in a story.” It all happened! Just as real as morning cups of coffee, it all happened. Our faith is not a blind faith; it is a faith rooted in an actual, historical—even genealogical—event. “Make no mistake: if he rose at all it was as His body,” with the reversal of cells’ dissolution, the re-knitting of molecules and amino acids. (Read Updike’s “Seven Stanzas at Easter”—it is worth your three minutes.)
Thanks be to God! Our God is not far off, not an idea or abstraction, not one content merely to be with us. Thanks be to God, he is for us as one who works—more, as one who was resurrected—amidst actual time and space and flawed people. Thanks be to God, he comes for us, knowing full well our clever rationalizations for continuing disobedience, even our massive indifference and boredom. The genealogies may not be riveting reading, but they root us and, in their own way, provide real hope: God comes to us, loving us without regard to our response.
Behold, the grace of God in the resurrection of his Son! His gracious love for us is such that we do not even have to muster extra-ordinary attentiveness to his reality, for he simply is. The Lord is risen indeed!