Do you remember the biblical story of the esteemed Eliakim? No? Well, what about Abiud? Has ever a biblical figure's life been more inspirational than his? You haven't heard of him either? Well, what about Azor, Shealtiel, Zadok or Matthan?
At this point, you might feel that you don't know your Bible as well as you thought. But don't worry; I daresay none of these names would be recognizable to any but the most knowledgeable of biblical scholars. These men lived between the reign of Josiah, when Israel was exiled to Babylon, and the coming of Christ.
Matthan was the father of Jacob, who was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, as recorded in the first chapter of Matthew. Many of these obscure men's predecessors seemed so significant — Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Boaz, Jesse, David, Solomon and Hezekiah. But some of the names listed in Matthew Chapter 1 are stunning in their anonymity.
Humans don't choose the season or epoch in which they are born. Some are born to great fame; some are called simply to hold a tiny place in history in preparation for the next great generation or event. God's mission through the millennia trumps all. The coming of Jesus is so monumental, so colossally important, that merely holding the next place in line until everything was ready for His arrival proved to be a biblically noteworthy life.
What this list also tells us is that God has worked through families for all of history. Some families take up chapters, even books, of the Bible. Some shine for just a few brief verses. Some are signified by just one name in a list, and some don't even get mentioned. But all matter to God.
Just think how quietly and anonymously these families lived, but for that one mention of one person's name in Matthew. We don't know, for instance, if Shealtiel led his family in daily devotions. We don't know if Abiud fasted every Friday for his children's faith. We don't have a clue if Azor was a man of high standing, or if Matthan was happily married. We do know that by the time the line reached Jesus' earthly father, Joseph listened to God, married a supernaturally pregnant woman and faithfully assumed the responsibilities of raising the Son of God. As for the others, all we know is that they lived, they died, and God used them to move history closer to the promised Messiah.
The truth is, as we raise our families, we don't know what we're really building. Do you honestly think Shealtiel thought his life would help pave the way for the Messiah? And since Jesus tells us "many who are last will be first" (Matthew 19:30), it's reasonable to assume that the lack of fame or notoriety on earth has absolutely nothing to do with what may be celebrated with great fanfare in heaven.
One of the lessons in all this is the importance of family faithfulness without earthly recognition. No one is clapping when you choose to pray for your child while you nurse; no one is putting your face and name on a trading card when you study God's Word before you start work. No one is reporting the score of your personal sacrifice as you go without to provide something very important to your child. No one is going to give you a Nobel Prize for gathering the courage to confront a potentially troublesome sin in your child's life.
Ah, but there is One who does see — One who promises to reward your faithfulness. That's why I like to say that we don't have to make family life sacred; it is sacred. The only question is, do we treat it as such?
Because God is the Creator of life and the Designer of our world, our family's history is a sacred history. This side of heaven, we can't possibly know how significant our role is, because we can't see the story that will follow. We don't know what our children or grandchildren, and certainly not our great, great grandchildren, will become. All we can do is be faithful day by day, with our prayers, example and witness, leaving a legacy of faith and putting our place in history into the sovereign hands of God.
We can be sure you and I won't appear in any other earthly Bible, for no other earthly Bible will be written. But we can be equally sure that faithful lives will be noticed and our decision for Christ recounted in the eternal Book of Life — when we finally realize just how sacred our family's faithfulness has been.