All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. 2 Timothy 3:16
When Colin opened the box of stained-glass pieces he’d purchased, instead of finding the fragments he’d ordered for a project, he discovered intact, whole windows. He sleuthed out the windows’ origin and learned they’d been removed from a church to protect them from World War II bombings. Colin marveled at the quality of work and how the “fragments” formed a beautiful picture.
If I’m honest, there are times when I open particular passages of the Bible—such as chapters containing lists of genealogies—and I don’t immediately see how they fit within the bigger picture of Scripture. Such is the case with Genesis 11—a chapter that contains a repetitive cadence of unfamiliar names and their families, such as Shem, Shelah, Eber, Nahor, and Terah (vv. 10–32). I’m often tempted to gloss over these sections and skip to a part that contains something that feels familiar and fits more easily into my “window” of understanding of the Bible’s narrative.
Since “all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful” (2 Timothy 3:16), the Holy Spirit can help us better understand how a fragment fits into the whole, opening our eyes to see, for example, how Shelah is related to Abram (Genesis 11:12–26), the ancestor of David and—more importantly—Jesus (Matthew 1:2, 6, 16). He delights in surprising us with the treasure of a perfectly intact window where even the smaller parts reveal the story of God’s mission throughout the Bible.
Why is it important to recognize each portion of Scripture as a fragment of God’s bigger story?
Father, please help me to see You and Your work more clearly.
Grow deeper in your understanding of the Bible.
In the ancient world, genealogies weren’t always simply a straightforward record of “who begat whom.” Instead, they were sometimes used to show legitimacy of relation or position. This is particularly true when it came to tracing the lineage of royalty. Ancestry (often traced back to a deity) was intended to show that the person with whom the lineage ended was the rightful and true heir. For example, the genealogy of Jesus in the book of Luke traces Jesus’ human lineage back to God Himself (Luke 3:23–38).
Ancestry records often provided key information as well, as we see in today’s text. In Genesis 11:26–32, Sarai’s childlessness is one of the striking features (v. 30) and becomes one of the important elements of the story later on (18:10–14).