“And the Lord spake unto Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tabernacle of the congregation… saying, Take ye the sum of all the congregation of the children of Israel, after their families, by the house of their fathers, with the number of their names, every male by their polls.”
Numbers 1: 1, 2
King James Version
“Names and Numbers”
“It is love which gives things their value.”
Do I believe God loves me, as an individual?
Do I believe God knows what my individual needs are today?
“All are worthy, full of worth, loved, whoever would despise.
Tell and show it here on earth! Shout hosanna to the skies.”
“What’s the price of a pet canary? Some loose change, right? And God cares what happens to it even more than you do. He pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail – even numbering the hairs on your head! So don’t be intimidated by all this bully talk. You’re worth more than a million canaries.”
Matthew 10: 29-31
Several months ago, my husband, Jim, and I took our little dog, Ethel, for a Saturday afternoon ride. We drove down a familiar road that has rather plain and scrubby looking plants all around it. Seeing a dirt road off to the side, I suggested we detour and follow this unknown path. Not long after getting on the road it branched into two different directions, so we took the left road which became very rocky and steep as it descended into a little valley by a beautiful creek. It was as though we had found an oasis in the desert. Gorgeous big trees and spectacular rock formations surrounded us at every turn.
What a surprise we found in the middle of the desert.
I felt the same way about the book of Numbers as I prepared the devotionals from the fourth book of the Bible. Numbers – a book that for the first several chapters gives only lists of names and numbers. Frankly, the book of Numbers ranks right up there with the “begats” in the book of Matthew in the New Testament. Throughout Numbers we find lists of names, lists of duties, lists of rules, and lists of numbers.
At first, I thought to myself, “What in the world will we find to lift our hearts and instruct and encourage our daily lives in this book that was written about Israel’s desert experience?”
But to my delight, I have found the book of Numbers to be just like the oasis Jim and I found on our ride in the desert.
Not only is this book filled with some of the most fascinating stories in Scripture, it is a book that has some of the most instructional and powerful lessons that God’s daughters (and sons, too!) should take note of, for these lessons can prevent us from falling into some of the same pits that God’s children in the past have fallen into. In the next few devotionals we’ll find out why it is “Folly to Forget.” We’ll get a glimpse into the “Sacredness of Separateness” or as I call it, “Don’t Get Cozy With Cozbi!” And we’re going to find out how dangerous quail hunting really is when you become part of a group of mischievous murmurers. Finally, we’ll learn how, with God’s help, to deal with the dark days of discouragement. We’re going to have a terrific time in the book of Numbers!!
As we begin our study in this book, I want to start with our text for today, Numbers 1: 1. God came to Moses and asked him to take a census. This wasn’t the first time, nor would it be the last time, God would ask Moses to count the people. Tribe by tribe and family by family, a count was taken. This particular census is thought by Biblical scholars, to have been done for organizational purposes – a way to keep individuals marching in an orderly fashion across the desert.
However, I’d like to share with you what impresses me about all the lists of names and numbers throughout the book of Numbers. God could have taken the count from Moses and said, “The total is around 600,000. Thank you very much.” But this isn’t what God did. In Numbers, Moses was told to record the exact number of men from 20 years up individually by tribe. For example, the tribe of Judah had “an hundred thousand and fourscore thousand and six thousand and four hundred throughout their armies” (Numbers 2: 9). An exact count. Not an estimate. In fact, in our text in Numbers 1: 1, 2, “God told Moses to count every male by their “poll” which in the Hebrew means by their “skull.” As I read these lists, I felt overwhelmed by the fact that “individuals” matter to God. You matter to Him, and so do I. We aren’t part of some faceless crowd or group. We aren’t a statistic. We count – our “skull” counts. And girls, lest we think that just because it was the men who were counted the women didn’t matter – oh, how wrong we are. We’re going to spend 5 days studying the 5 lessons from 5 daughters in the book of Numbers too. And I’ll just give you a heads-up. We girls matter to God – big-time!!
As I studied this past week, I ran onto a wonderful passage written by Paul Rowntree Clifford which directly addresses the value and worth God places on you and me as individuals, and which I might add, should translate into the value we place on those around us:
Children of God
“The Christian gospel declares that people are of inestimable value because they are the children of God, the concern of his love, created for an eternal destiny; not just people in general, but individual men, women and children, each with a name, each having priceless worth. This was made startlingly plain by Jesus when he told his disciples ‘the very hairs of your head are all numbered’: an extravagant piece of imagery to drive home what he was saying. When we take his words seriously, we begin to realize how far-reaching their significance is. If they are true, if that is how things really are, if God really does care for every single man, woman and child in the teeming millions that inhabit the globe, not to speak of the countless generations of the past and those as yet unborn, we cannot dismiss anyone as of no consequence; nor are we entitled to suppose that some are more important than others or that any should be sacrificed to serve some interest which takes precedence over their inherent worth. The consequences of accepting this basic presupposition are shattering, calling in question not only the way in which we commonly behave towards many of our fellow human beings, but the international, military, political, economic and social policies which have been and still are considered reasonable by those who are responsible for them.”
I’m so glad that in the oasis of Numbers, I’m reminded I matter to God. Not as part of a group, but as Dorothy, God’s daughter. I want to share with you a quote I’ve used before, but one I don’t believe I can overuse. It is by St. Augustine who said, “God loves each one of us as if there were only one of us to love.” I’m glad my God cares so much about “Names and Numbers,” aren’t you, too?
“Thus saith the Lord…I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.”
Isaiah 43: 1
King James Version
Our Father’s Children
“Our Father, God, Creator of all your different children,
teach us to love what you have created
Teach us to see people one by one
and to acknowledge them as our Father’s children,
our brothers and sisters:
Not to pigeonhole them;
not to hammer them into unnatural molds of our own making.
but to rejoice in our differences,
accepting people as they are
different but of equal worth
each one a part of God’s creation,
showing something of his love and glory.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus