Numbers 1: Oh How Their Numbers Grew!
Did you notice there is this little book in scripture called “Leviticus” that we skipped right over? We figured it wasn’t important enough to include in this study….just kidding of course. Leviticus is a book about holiness, or more specifically about the holiness of our God, and it contains critical information and instructions for the Israelites (as well as plenty of application for you and me today). It lists in great detail the dos and don’ts for God’s people. We must remember who God was addressing as He revealed His laws to His children. The Israelites had all lived as slaves in a foreign land their entire lives and they knew very little (if anything) of God’s laws and holiness. Egypt and its false gods had attempted for over 400 years to warp and pervert the truth of the one true God. They were ultimately unsuccessful of course; it was doomed from the beginning because God never forgets about His children. The Lord rescued the Israelites from their pit, and then sat them down at the base of Mt. Sinai and explained for them how to be in relationship with a holy God. That is the broad theme of the book of Leviticus.
And so we arrive to Numbers, our review today will be a brief one. We will only spend a few days here before moving on to Deuteronomy, but in these few days there are a few huge lessons for you and me…particularly in the scripture for this upcoming Friday and Monday. But before we get there, let’s look at Numbers chapter 1. Our focus for today is specifically on verses 2 & 3. The Lord says:
“Take a census of the whole Israelite community by their clans and families, listing every man by name, one by one. You and Aaron are to count according to their divisions all the men in Israel who are twenty years old or more and able to serve in the army.”
Does this seem random to you? It did to me. The Israelites had just spent a year at Mt. Sinai and were now finally moving again and on their way to their Promise Land. But before they arrive at their destination, God basically says, “Hold on Moses, go get a head count first”. This head count, or census, is the first of two censuses that will take place in Numbers. They are the reason that the book of Numbers is called the book of Numbers. So why would God have Moses do that? God of course knew how many children He had walking the dry desert at this point in history, so why the formality? Could it be that He wanted the Israelites themselves to know how many there were as they approached the Canaanites? Do you remember how many descendants of Jacob came to live in Egypt? Exodus 1:5 tells us that there were 70 in all. Despite their oppression, the Israelites grew in number and at the time of this first census here in Numbers 1, they numbered 603, 550…and that was just the men over 20 years of age. Including women and children, the number must have been over 2 million. What a nation they had become! And God wanted them to know it.
There are times in life when God orchestrates situations in order to prove to us what He already knows to be true. They are faith building exercises so to speak, and ultimately they will bring Him glory. God wanted them to see the numbers, He wanted them to see the nation that He had made them into, and He wanted them to trust the One that grew their numbers, to also deliver them into their Promise Land. And so our faithful Moses conducted a census just as the Lord had required. The numbers were recorded, the tribes were organized, and the onward march resumed to a land that had been waiting on them for more than 400 years. I will meet you back here on Friday my friends, as we approach our Promise Land.
Your homework for next time is to read Numbers 13 & 14.
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