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Clear Words

Clear Words – The Census (Numbers 1:1-3)

Today’s Reading: Numbers 1-2

Today’s Reflection: Numbers 1:1-3

1) The LORD spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tent of meeting, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, saying, 2) “Take a census of all the congregation of the people of Israel, by clans, by fathers’ houses, according to the number of names, every male, head by head. 3) From twenty years old and upward, all in Israel who are able to go to war, you and Aaron shall list them, company by company.

Numbers gets its name from the two censuses of Israel that bookend it, but its original title makes it clear that there is more going on here than counting people.  The Hebrew name for this book is: In the wilderness.

God has made it clear that He freed Israel to give them possession of Canaan, the Promised Land.  He has also made it clear that Israel would find this land occupied and would have to take possession of it (Exodus 23:20-30).  In practical terms, the numbering of men of war appears to be an evaluation of Israel’s readiness to do battle with Canaan’s current occupants. But God also makes it clear that it is He who would deliver Canaan into Israel’s hands so the number of soldiers really wasn’t the issue.

The real question would be faith.  Would Israel—skeptical Israel, grumbling and complaining Israel—trust God’s plan and provision?  Would they move forward boldly into the land of God’s promise, or remain in the wilderness of doubt?  This census was a measure of men, but also an opportunity to take a measure of each man’s heart.  Was it faithful or fearful?  For God or for self?

Because God makes all things work together for good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28) we have to see this as a gift.  Once measured Israel knew where they stood—where they were strong and where they were weak—and gave them the opportunity to allow Him to transform them and show them the way.  It proved to be an opportunity most of Israel would take for granted.

God puts each of us in circumstances at times where we have to be ‘numbered’, see where we fall short, and allow Him to work on us and perfect us for eternal life.  But if we ignore the results of our census the results can be fatal, perhaps eternally so.  We will learn more about this as we read Numbers.

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