My new telephone directory arrived a little while back. I dug out the old one to recycle – it was still in its plastic wrapping! I can’t say I find them good bedtime reading. In fact, the only entries that would be even remotely interesting would be my own, and anyone else I personally know – and I already have those numbers. I tend to use the internet for anything else.
Genesis 46:8-27 reads a bit like the telephone directory. If you don’t know the folk, then it’s just a list of names.
Not to Jacob though. To him these were his precious sons, and their equally precious little ones. They mattered, every last one of them. The exact number of them was important, because each one was an individual, closely related to Jacob and known by him. They were family.
As we glance through a phone directory, it does us good to know that each one of these names is a real person, who lives in a home somewhere not far from me; each one is somebody’s son or daughter. And so is every one in the traffic queue, or the bus queue. And everyone who manages to get that sale item ahead of me. Or who gets the job and not me.
People have a habit of getting in my way. But I need to remind myself that God loves every one of them. They are precious to him, and he longs that each one of them might know him. Maybe when I glance at a phone book, or survey folk surging out of the local works, or on the busy bus or train, I need to remember that and pray for them. OK, I don’t know them by name, but God does.