All About the Numbers!

Today’s Reading: Numbers 26-27; Psalm 55; 1 Corinthians 14

Have you ever been reading through your bible and suddenly hit one of those large passages with all the numbers?

Frequently, it seems like, in the early Old Testament, you see the people of God counting Israel.

Each Tribe by their clans are counted and totaled up. They make for some pretty dry reading frankly while you are trying to read through the bible in a year and often we can ask ourselves the question, “Why would God have included all of these numbers and genealogy records?”

Well, in today’s reading, we find just that: another list of tribes being counted.

After God judges the people of Israel, what we find is God commanding Moses and Eleazar to count all of the males from 2 months old and upwards.

Some of this is obvious: Men go to war and, quite honestly, God has sent a number of plagues as discipline for Israel’s seemingly perpetual disobedience. An entire generation has died and so Israel needs to be recounted.

But why?

Why would God record that in scripture here?

Well, if we keep reading, what we find is that finally, the old generation that was originally disciplined for not taking the land of Canaan when God brought them to is has passed away. The new generation has grown up and after 40 years of wandering in the wilderness they are more than anxious to get on with fulfilling God’s promises to them in giving them the land of Canaan.

Everyone is promised a settlement of land based on their tribe’s population, so as not to give a small tribe a large chunk of land and visa versa. God deals justly in how he apportions out the land. God even makes sure that a clan where the father had no sons, and only daughters, received an inheritance of land that was fair. Typically, the inheritance was given to the firstborn sons and then subsequent sons. Daughters were married within the tribe and received the inheritance of their husbands. That’s how it worked back then.

Lastly, because Moses had disobeyed God earlier in Numbers, he isn’t allowed to enter the land of Canaan. Rather Joshua, his assistant, is chosen by God to be the new leader as the Israelites go in to take the land.

What is the point of all of this?

Well, remember, up until this point, God’s promise to make Abraham a great nation has been looming in the backs of everyone’s mind. When will God fulfill his promise?

Well it seems as if God has already done so. Israel at this point has 601,730 males, so double that to be conservative and you’ve got 1.2 million people. Clearly, it seems like God has made good on his promise to Abraham in making him a great nation.

But there was another promise.

God promised Jacob (Israel) that he would give him the land of Canaan for his descendants.

The logic goes that if you are going to be a great nation, a huge multitude, you need to have land that will support you more than a nomadic lifestyle could. Agricultural living was the life of stable, growing nations, not nomadic.

So here you have God numbering Israel and appointing a new leader to take them into the promised land. God has made good on His promise not once, but now twice!

God could have yanked the privilege from Israel to receive the land, but He didn’t do that. Rather He continued to show Himself as the God of love and mercy through remaining steadfast and gracious in His love towards an unworthy Israel.

This is often how God continues to act with us as Christians, is it not?

We fail Him daily. We rebel against Him on the daily. And yet, in Jesus Christ, God constantly comes back to us extending us His unending grace.

For the Christian, it’s not just about receiving grace constantly. We actually are promised a land as well.

In Revelation 21 and 22, God shows the Apostle John a vision of a new city, a new Jerusalem. Jesus has come back and made all the universe new. He has remade it and purified it and now rather than a garden (like in Genesis 2) there is a new city where God’s holy people live in His perfect presence and carry out their original mission of spreading His love and glory throughout the world God made from them.

As Christians, we live in constant need of grace to point us to the day when we will live 100% by God’s unending grace perfectly in His perfect presence. He will be our God and we will be His people. God brought, unfailingly, a corrupt and rebellious Israel to a physical land of Canaan. God is bringing His people, His Church, to the perfected physical land of His renewed world where He will be with His people and united to them for eternity.

This weekend, take some time to go through a reading that stuck with you or you have more questions about. Take Sunday as a Sabbath and use it to engage in God’s Word more deeply.

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