Now the sons of Issachar were…6 The sons of Benjamin were… 13 The sons of Naphtali were…14 The sons of Manasseh were… 20 The sons of Ephraim were…30 The sons of Asher were… (7:1, 6, 13-14, 20, 30).
In this list of descendants from six of the twelve tribes of Israel, three (Issachar, Benjamin and Asher) are represented by their valiant warriors; two (Naphtali and Manasseh) are presented without commentary, but simply by a list of names; Ephraim’s loss and comfort are highlighted; and the tribe of Benjamin is revisited in chapter 8, with attention given to one who would eventually be appointed as the first king over God’s people.
I think it’s pretty safe to assume that these would not be chapters we might think about attempting to commit to memory. Can you imagine trying to retain and memorize all those names? Not to mention, we would have a difficult time determining the purpose such an undertaking might hold in store.
But as I trudged through this lengthy list of names and the tens of thousands mentioned by number alone, I was struck with this thought: to Him, every single designated descendant is more than a mere name or number, for not one is unknown to Him.
Through this transcribed genealogy, the question would once again be brought to the forefront of the returning exiles’ minds: what is His purpose for us who have now been restored to our homeland?
This documentation of individuals is not for His benefit, as though God needed help in remembering. Once again, the chronicler is providing assurance to the returning exiles; none is forgotten, and God is still at work in the nation.
He knows every name written, and all of those that weren’t; none go unnoticed.
Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered, (Matthew 10:29-30).
He knows the number of every hair on every head. He knows everything about every person ever born. He Sees beyond a mere collection of names, ancestors and attributes. In every man, woman and child ever born, He Sees what is of the utmost importance, what Matters most to Him; for He Sees the Heart of the Matter.
Consider Him Who Sees the Heart of the Matter
I readily admit, this itemized account of the vast array of names listed is not a blatant invitation to a broader glimpse of Almighty God. But as we turn our attention to the backstory, we will see Him increase.
God had clearly spoken through His prophets: through Jeremiah, during the reigns of their last five kings, who prophesied of Judah’s Babylonian exile; and through Ezekiel, who wrote to those Jews who had been taken into captivity. And through the genealogies, God was calling the nation to recognize His faithfulness in keeping the families of Israel intact, and to remember the promises made through Jeremiah and Ezekiel for their future.
Through this prompting to see His sovereign faithfulness from the past to the present, He extended an invitation to look to the future with Him; a future that went beyond merely returning to their land, a future to See the Heart of the Matter. For to Him, the Heart of the Matter is always a Matter of the Heart.
And through His prophets, He made His intentions clear. He would faithfully provide beyond the mere physical restoration of their land. Because He Sees the Heart of the Matter, He would make a New Covenant that would provide, both a new heart and His Holy Spirit, enabling the nation to become His people and empowering them to walk in His ways.
“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. 33 “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people,” (Jeremiahs 31:31-33).
Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “I will gather you from the peoples and assemble you out of the countries among which you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.”’ 18 When they come there, they will remove all its detestable things and all its abominations from it. 19 And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, 20 that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and do them. Then they will be My people, and I shall be their God,” (Ezekiel 11:19).
“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. 28 You will live in the land that I gave to your forefathers; so you will be My people, and I will be your God,” (Ezekiel 36:26).
How do we respond to Him Who Sees the Heart of the Matter?
Let’s begin with self-examination time:
Am I certain I have entered into His New Covenant and have been given a new heart and His Spirit?
We can know this without a doubt when we have placed our faith in the grace of His New Covenant through the giving of His body and the shedding of His sinless blood on the cross for our sins.
And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 20 And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood, (Luke 22:19-20).
When we trust Jesus, acknowledging we are helpless to save ourselves and so in need of His forgiveness, He is faithful to give us a new heart and His Spirit.
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come, (2 Corinthians 5:17).
By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit, (1 John 4:13).
And when we are born again by faith in Jesus Christ, we are listed in the genealogy of His descendants.
See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are, (1 John 3:1).
As His children, let us always remember that what He Sees is really all that Matters.
“…for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart,” (1 Samuel 16:7).
It is always a Matter of the Heart to Him. Our words and works merely reveal the true condition of our Hearts.
“for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” (Matthew 6:21).
“…For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart,” (Matthew 12:34).
“But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. 20 These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man,” (Matthew 15:18-20).
We have been given a new heart and His Holy Spirit. Oh, that we would be careful to guard the Heart of the Matter, for what else truly matters? May we be so grateful, so in love, and so consumed with Him as our sole treasure, that the overflow of our words and works would always bring Him glory as we strive to live in remembrance of His purpose for our lives.
Let us commit to live our lives as a reflection of the One to Whom we belong, fervently praying that as He conforms us to the image of His Son, He will transform our eyes to be able to clearly See the Heart of the Matter.
Watch over your heart with all diligence,
For from it flow the springs of life, (Proverbs 4:23).
As in water face reflects face,
So the heart of man reflects man, (Proverbs 27:19).
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified, (Romans 8:28-30).