The Bible is full of people snapshots. In the pages of the Old and New Testaments live the partial stories of all sorts of men and women through the ages.
For a few folks, like Abraham, Sarah, Jonah and Paul, we get a slightly fuller picture of their life journeys. But for the majority of those mentioned in the Bible, we catch only a brief glimpse in the bigger picture of their lives.
There are a lot of crowds and tribes mentioned in the Bible. There's the crew who spent 40 years wandering in the desert (Exodus) and the shipwreck full of people who end up on an island called Malta (Acts 27:39-44). The majority of these folks go unnamed in the Bible. Then there are lists upon lists of hard to pronounce people groups: Zubulunites, Kohathites, Gershonites, Levites, and Amorites. We may learn their tribal names, but we don't get to hear their individual names.
In addition to crowds, tribes, and communities, there are also many unnamed people portrayed in the pages of scripture. We hear a slice of their stories, something that happened over the course of a few minutes or hours, and then the rest is left up to our imagination.
There's a boy who gives up his bread and fish so that Jesus can use them to feed 5,000 people (John 6:9). His name? We don't know. What happened to him post-feast? We don't know.
There's a poor widow who donates the little money she did have, and Jesus uses her as an example of generosity (Luke 21:1-4). Her name? We don't know. How did she survive after she gave her pennies away? We don't know.
There's a Canaanite woman who advocates for her daughter's healing even though they are outsiders (Matthew 15:21-28). Jesus heals the daughter. But the names of this mother and her child? We don't know.
I am fascinated by all of these unnamed people and their unknown journeys. We see the tip of the iceberg, but there must be so much under the surface.
Yet even though we don't know the name of every person in every crowd, that doesn't diminish their true value and worth to God. Every story matters with or without the notoriety and accolades.
The same is true in the world in which we live today. Every person has a story, and every person's story matters. It's helpful for me to pause and remember that God is equally present with all the people mentioned in the pages of Scripture. Those whose names are mentioned and those whose names are not mentioned. Those in the front of the line and those in the back. Those with loud, boisterous voices, and those who never whisper a word. God is with them all and loves them all.
There's a song on the radio called "He Knows My Name" by Francesca Battistelli. The lyrics of the chorus include, "I'm not living for applause, I'm already so adored, it's all His stage, He knows my name, He knows my name."
God knows each and every name and each and every story of each and every person who has ever walked this earth. In Isaiah 43:1, God says, "I know you by name. You are mine." God does know each of us by name.
May we each have the courage to believe in our inherent, immeasurable worth!