At various times you will be preaching in the presence of lists. Not the to-do lists that are manically collected by some church-goers, bursting out of their Bibles’ strained clasps. The lists that God inspired.
It may be tempting to just skip them or dismiss them (easy to make disparaging remarks that we don’t really mean). But if you aren’t preaching the list, and it is in sight, what to do?
Help people, even in passing, to know why it is there. It isn’t there to put off Bible readers in their cyclical reading aspirations. It isn’t there to tempt people to put a new spin on received pronunciations. It is there for a reason.
Let’s take the descendants of Esau in Genesis 36 as an example.
Why is it there? It’s good to remember when these books were written and for whom. Whether Genesis was written or compiled by Moses, it was part of the five books which were for the Israelites as they entered into the promised land. It was important for them to know where they had come from, their history, God’s promises and so on.
One of Moses’ (and God’s) concerns was that they not mingle with the inhabitants of the land or near neighbours, in such a way as to become disloyal to the one true God. This chapter, with all its people and connected place names, would be a helpful reminder to them of where some of these other people came from. Certainly the chapter keeps pointing out that Edom was from the “unchosen” line of Esau – and Israel would often have issues with Edom later on!
It probably seems obvious to you, the studied preacher, to consider when the list was written and for whom. I suspect that might never enter the minds of some of your listeners. Unless you point it out, of course.
(And then encourage people that they don’t have to pronounce every name if they are on a fast read through – it’s amazing how people appreciate permission to press on in their Bible reading!)