Have you ever had one of those weeks when everything seems to come together? You’ve been waiting and praying so long, that when the answer finally does come, it’s mostly unbelievable. It took me writing a letter of encouragement to a friend a few days ago for me to have my Aha! Moment (thanks, Oprah). More on that later…
But I share that to say that the book of Numbers isn’t just some confusing text sandwiched between God’s Levitical law and Moses’ reinstatement that God must be #1 in the Israelite’s lives. It is an essential text for the preparation of God’s people.
At the start of this book, Moses was instructed to 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 division all the men in Israel who are twenty years old or more and able to serve in the army. One man from each tribe, each of them the head of his family, is to help you. Num. 1:2-4. This census wasn’t a quick process, I’m sure each male adult 20+ was standing there, scratching his head, thinking, Why the long lines, why all this precision? Why the ordered encampment? Why do the Levites get to be the ones closest to the sanctuary? Why?
Does this sound familiar?
Why am I having such a hard time finding a job? Why did my mother die so early? Why is my best friend no longer my best friend? Why does everyone else see to have it all mapped out and I don’t ?
Let me tell you a secret:
None of us do.
Because we aren’t the ones in charge, God is.
Isn’t the census taking and the tent arrangement and clan alignment so beautiful in light of that?
Because God saw the big picture. He knew what was waiting for Israel down the road. He knew that Israel had battles ahead. He knew that there needed be a way to communicate his rules and laws.
Yes, 40 years was a long time to wander in the desert, and time and again, just as the Israelites were tested, so are we. Will we stand firm? Will we love him with all our heart, mind soul and strength? Will we glorify and thank him, no matter what the circumstances? Remember, James 1:13-15: When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
Consider this, we find that the total number of men eligible to fight in the army was 603,500, this was for an estimated 2M person population, this was over ¼ of their population, or a 1:4 ratio! To put that into perspective, our current armed forces vs. U.S. population is 1:318! God was readying them, one person at a time, one heart at a time. Now what was God doing arranging them by tribe? These were slaves, they probably didn’t know how to read or write (I’m theorizing), what they did have was oral tradition, how else were they to quickly convey the laws of the Lord, but through speech?
Let me ask you something, if you feel like you’re in a spiritual/physical/life desert right now, wouldn’t you do everything you possibly could to find your way out? And even if that length of time isn’t up to you (which it isn’t). Wouldn’t you do everything in you could to prepare yourself while you were there for the time that God does open up the floodgates, so that you won’t view money, relationships, success the same way again. If you’re smart you’ll want God’s view on everything, because, “The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.” 2 Chron. 16:9. In light of this discussion on spiritual fervor, I want to introduce you to what the author, Bob Sorge, in “Secrets of the Secret Place” labels as spiritual violence: the intensity with which the last days’ generation will pursue God. ‘they will seek God with their entire being, denying themselves, throwing off all entangling sins, in order to run the race with passion, purity and perseverance. ‘The kingdom of heaven suffers violence and the violent take it by force’” (Matt. 11:12).
He goes on to say, “Jesus doesn’t respond to all believers alike. He responds differently to those who seek more diligently. We see this in the way He handled the Twelve. Peter, James, and John were invited into some of Jesus’ most intimate and awesome moments, while the other disciples were not included. The difference, I believe, is that the others held back somewhat in their hearts toward the Lord, while Peter, James, and John pursued Jesus harder. Some of the disciples doubted Jesus, even after the resurrection (Matt. 28:17), and that reservation of spirit robbed them of the greatest levels of intimacy. Those who had more were given more.”
No, we will never see the big picture, but we do know the artist who is painting it, and it should be our heart’s desire to trust Him, even in the most tedious details.
What small, tedious, repetitive task have you been assigned and have then seen how God used that for a greater purpose? I’d love to hear from you!