I’ve just been reading Ezra, and in that book are listed the names of the Jews who returned from exile. (Ezra 2) It’s a long list of difficult-to-pronounce names, and like most lists of names in the Bible, we tend to skim over them with a glazed expression on our faces, desperately hoping the preacher won’t ask for these parts of the Bible to be read aloud in a church service! Most of us find lists and genealogies boring and meaningless, but clearly God doesn’t. God values each individual, and these lists of people remind us of the worth of each person.
There are many unnamed people mentioned in the Bible, but we can see from Acts 8:25-40 that even the unnamed ones have value. We don’t know the name of the Samaritan woman who met Jesus at the well (John 4:1-24); we don’t know the names of many of the people converted after Pentecost. Sometimes, however, God gives us a glimpse into the lives of unnamed people and we see from Philip’s conversation with the Ethiopian eunuch how God orchestrates events to reach someone whose name we never know.
We live in a society where individuals may not matter to everybody. God knows each one of us by name, however, and His knowledge is deeply personal and attentive (see Ps 139, Matt 10:30). If He cared enough to send Philip to the Ethiopian’s chariot in order to lead this man to a sure knowledge of salvation, He cares enough to work in the details of our lives and to use us, like Philip, to reach out to others. Who knows how we can spread this message of love if we are truly convinced of the value of each individual? Let’s be open to the leading of God’s Spirit as Philip was.
Let’s start by inviting people to our carol service and praying for them to respond to God’s message of salvation and go on to demonstrate practical love and care for those people we encounter on a regular basis – family, friends, neighbours, work colleagues and so on. God knows what each person needs and we can be partners with Him in sharing the good news of Jesus.