Like many others some years ago, I confess that when I heard of the plans for the construction of the Vietnam Memorial, I thought to myself, “That’s it? That’s all they’re going to do? A mere wall with names on it? Nothing fancier or dramatically artistic than that?”
Probably most of you have been there at one time or another and been moved by the simple, yet profound nature of it. The shape, the structure, the color and texture – it all works together in a most moving fashion. It has been written that the shiny black wall was designed so that when a visitor looks upon the wall, his or her reflection can be seen simultaneously with the engraved names, which is meant to symbolically bring the past and present together.
There are 58,307 names of those who gave their lives in that conflict in Southeast Asia. But what is the value of one life? Would it have made a difference if there were 58,306 … or 58,305 who fought and perished in the effort? Try telling the family of any one person on that wall that their loved one’s efforts were merely a drop in the bucket and not worth much in light of the big picture!
Every life counts. We might even say it this way: #AllLivesMatter. Any great undertaking is comprised of masses of people who, like the varied roles of bees in a hive, all contribute their part toward making a success of any endeavor.
Today’s passage in Nehemiah 12:1-26 (following the same sort of material in chapter 11) is another of those long laundry lists of names in Scripture that seem to go on ad infinitum! Why does this happen in the Bible? I’d suggest it is because all lives matter … all servants doing their part count. There are no small or insignificant roles in the Lord’s work.
What we have here is a sort of Old Testament account of the New Testament principle forming the main idea in another 12th chapter – that of 1 Corinthians. There the people of God – the Church – are seen as possessing varied gifts and talents for the service and wellbeing of the whole body. The illustration of course is to the varied members of the human body, great and small. When what is often considered a lesser part of the body has a problem, suddenly the whole body realizes the value of that small member.
Nehemiah lists in these verses the names of people who together played varied roles in the grand project of not only rebuilding the wall, but who were now occupying the city and Temple and making it a functioning and living place for God’s glory. These were people who were leaving a legacy by living a legacy – fulfilling the oft-described role of “blooming where they were planted.”
For our city to thrive, we are going to need the thousands of people who will serve God by serving others, most often in small ways. If you consider your role alone, it may not seem to be tremendously significant. But when added together with a host of others, it is a beautiful picture.
It is my family that owns the Potomac Bead Company store in Hagerstown (and multiple other locations). At times when I have been in the store, someone will come through the doors for the first time. And they often audibly gasp at the tidal wave of colors that hits their eyes, as literally millions of beads create a rainbow cacophony of hues and shades. A single bead can sometimes be as small as a sesame seed – not very impressive. But put them all together, and the effect is dramatic.
So as you read these names, knowing that even though recorded in the Holy Bible most will be forgotten, know also that they are not forgotten by God. And know also that your work, though maybe (or even likely) forgotten by man, will never be disremembered by the Lord.
And as you read these names – names unknown, like the thousands on the Vietnam Wall Memorial – see your reflection and see the past and present come together. As they built and served for God in their generation and lived a legacy, you too can know that you are building and serving God in His Kingdom – one that will never pass away.
12:1 – These were the priests and Levites who returned with Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and with Joshua: Seraiah, Jeremiah, Ezra, 2 Amariah, Malluk, Hattush, 3 Shekaniah, Rehum, Meremoth,
4 Iddo, Ginnethon, Abijah, 5 Mijamin, Moadiah, Bilgah, 6 Shemaiah, Joiarib, Jedaiah, 7 Sallu, Amok, Hilkiah and Jedaiah.
These were the leaders of the priests and their associates in the days of Joshua.
8 The Levites were Jeshua, Binnui, Kadmiel, Sherebiah, Judah, and also Mattaniah, who, together with his associates, was in charge of the songs of thanksgiving. 9 Bakbukiah and Unni, their associates, stood opposite them in the services.
10 Joshua was the father of Joiakim, Joiakim the father of Eliashib, Eliashib the father of Joiada, 11 Joiada the father of Jonathan, and Jonathan the father of Jaddua.
12 In the days of Joiakim, these were the heads of the priestly families: of Seraiah’s family, Meraiah; of Jeremiah’s, Hananiah; 13 of Ezra’s, Meshullam; of Amariah’s, Jehohanan; 14 of Malluk’s, Jonathan; of Shekaniah’s, Joseph; 15 of Harim’s, Adna; of Meremoth’s, Helkai; 16 of Iddo’s, Zechariah; of Ginnethon’s, Meshullam; 17 of Abijah’s, Zikri; of Miniamin’s and of Moadiah’s, Piltai; 18 of Bilgah’s, Shammua; of Shemaiah’s, Jehonathan; 19 of Joiarib’s, Mattenai; of Jedaiah’s, Uzzi; 20 of Sallu’s, Kallai; of Amok’s, Eber; 21 of Hilkiah’s, Hashabiah; of Jedaiah’s, Nethanel.
22 The family heads of the Levites in the days of Eliashib, Joiada, Johanan and Jaddua, as well as those of the priests, were recorded in the reign of Darius the Persian. 23 The family heads among the descendants of Levi up to the time of Johanan son of Eliashib were recorded in the book of the annals. 24 And the leaders of the Levites were Hashabiah, Sherebiah, Jeshua son of Kadmiel, and their associates, who stood opposite them to give praise and thanksgiving, one section responding to the other, as prescribed by David the man of God.
25 Mattaniah, Bakbukiah, Obadiah, Meshullam, Talmon and Akkub were gatekeepers who guarded the storerooms at the gates. 26 They served in the days of Joiakim son of Joshua, the son of Jozadak, and in the days of Nehemiah the governor and of Ezra the priest, the teacher of the Law.