For the Nugget this week I thought I would stay on the subject of genealogies in the Bible. I received many comments on last week’s Nugget on the Genealogy of Genesis Five. In fact before we start this week’s Nugget let me add some detail to the focus on the Genesis Five genealogy. I have had a number of people challenge the concept of the prophecy in the Genesis genealogy over the years. One man stood up in the middle of a God’s Awesome Book meeting and said, “But that is contrived by man Ian. People worked it out to so it would happen like that. I said, “Oh really! Just imagine for a moment if I decided I wanted something like for my family so that in the future people would speak highly of great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great granddaddy Ian. Have I got any chance?” The answer is a strong emphatic No! Firstly, to suggest to the future generations that they name their sons “despair” and “his death shall bring forth” would meet with vehement denial. Furthermore, to think I could influence 10 generations of my descendants to buy into my crazy idea would be ludicrous. No one further down the line would embrace the idea. I am sure I couldn’t get my own immediate family to agree to the idea. No, it would have to be because of God’s inspiration.
For most Christians the first genealogy they skip is the one at the beginning of Matthew. It goes on for so long and the names are unpronounceable and besides that, what does it have to do with me? So we skip it and start reading Matthew’s gospel at Matthew 1:18 and consign Matthew 1:1-17 to irrelevant. That is what Des Oatridge did when he started translating the Bible for a remote people group in Papua New Guinea called the Binumarien. Des thought, like westerners, these people would not be interested in the genealogy so he started with his translation helper at verse 18 of Matthew 1. They discussed together the text Matthew had written day after day and Sisia would talk and interact with him and Des thought they were making great progress, believing Sisia was understanding all kinds of things about Jesus.
They had done that for a long period of time until they finished the Gospel of Matthew after animated conversation. But one thing that bothered Des was the fact that Sisia didn't share any of their discussion with other Binumarien. He just kept it all to himself. He had discussed with Sisia the implication of Matthew 4:19 and fishing for men and being a witness of Jesus. Nothing seemed to touch Sisia to the point where he would share his faith. He just kept it to himself. Finally they came to the time when Des and Jenny were going back to New Zealand for furlough and Des thought it would be good to produce a draft of Matthew to leave with the people so Des worked with Sisia to complete the first seventeen verses of the Gospel.
After they had finished those seventeen verses Sisia was strangely silent and said nothing to Des. No interaction at all. He left the translation house without saying a word. Des was disappointed but not entirely surprised. Why would these seventeen verses inspire animated conversation? After he had finished tidying up in the translation house Des left to walk back to his house. As he passed the men’s meeting house Des heard Sisia talking with all the men in the village. As he entered he heard Sisia talking excitedly with the men of the village of about Jesus and the Gospel. As he appeared Sisia said to him, “Master Des, why didn't you tell me Jesus was real, that he walked this earth?” Des replied, “But, Sisia I did over and over. I told you about Galilee and Jerusalem and Bethlehem where he was born. I told you about the miracles he did. I told you all these things.”
“Master Des, you didn't tell me these things were real story. But now I know that Jesus is real story and had family.”
Binumarien mark a real story from the beginning with the hero’s genealogy to make it clear where the hero fits in with Binumarien ancestors. Who he was and whose descendant he was. That is the marker for the Binumarien to know that this story really happened, this is real. Des had missed that marker out in thinking there was no relevance in Matthew 1:1-17 for the Binumarien. He missed it out so as not to bore them and add it later. We mark fairy tales with the opening “Once upon a time”. Binumarien mark real story with the genealogy of the hero.
The story of Jesus walking this earth is real story that all humans on earth need to hear. Sisia didn't share Jesus’ story with fellow Binumarien because he didn't realise that this was real historical fact, despite Des’ explanation. It wasn't until Des shared with him Matthew’s genealogy that Sisia knew it was real story and so he had to tell his fellow villagers. Matthew’s genealogy is what it took to get Sisia excited.
Something else I should tell you about the story of the Gospel coming to the Binumarien is that when Des and Jenny Oatridge were first called by God to this group in Papua New Guinea there were 110 speakers of that language. Many have challenged me over the years when I have shared that story. They have said, “Why on earth did Wycliffe send someone to a group of just 110. Isn’t that wasteful?” Des in answer to questions like that would say, “Well have you saved 110 people?” The point is that it was God who sent Des and Jenny to the Binumarien. It seems that one hundred and ten people in the jungles of Papua New Guinea are important to God. He doesn’t overlook such people. He even has a portion of His Word tailor-made for Binumarien hearts to hear – the genealogies.
Binumarien now number in the thousands. Back when Des and Jenny first went there the tribe had been decimated by intertribal warfare and were almost extinct. By sending Des and Jenny to the Binumarien God saved a people group in more ways than one. How like Him!
Imagine their delight to hear what’s behind the Genesis Five Genealogy.