Numbers 1 – Count When I say Count
There are forty chapters in the book of Numbers, so you’ll have to forgive me for not going verse by verse. As I work through the book I will, however, make comments on different verses or chunks of verses. I hope you will take the time to read whole chapters as you read these devotions.
This is the third devotion I’ve written in Numbers, so it might seem strange to be starting this time with verse one again, but I think there are some things worth noticing that we have not previously considered. Let’s take a look.
1:1 Now the Lord spoke to Moses in the Wilderness of Sinai, in the tabernacle 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:
I know you read it, but did you notice the first word? I don’t know about you, but I would not expect the opening word of a book to be a conjunction? What is it connecting, it’s the first word? The conjunction now signals a continuation of a series of events. Even though Exodus and Numbers were not named something like first numbers and second numbers, I think because of the word now we can safely conclude the first verse in Numbers is intended to signal a connection to the last verse of Exodus. Another thing to keep in mind is the same author penned each of the first five books of the Bible, Numbers being third. I think this indicates an inherent connectedness at least at some level, between the first five books of the Bible. You may see it as a bit of a leap, but I believe Moses expected his collection of books to be seen as a whole work with a single theme. To explore the idea would pull us off our current topic.
Word two, the, does not exist in the Hebrew. It was supplied because the translators chose to use the word lord instead of translating God’s proper name, Yahweh. If it were me talking to Moses in verse one you would not say, … the Mark spoke to Moses.
About now maybe you are saying to yourself, sure he says he’s not going to go verse by verse through Numbers because he’s going word by word! No, I promise I won’t. I just couldn’t let the “the” have a free pass.
There is so much more in verse one to observe, but I will skip to the chronology of the verse which is, “…on the first day of the second month, in the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt”. Why is the dating of the chapter important?
I can think of two reasons. First of all, God could have required them to take a military census day one of the Exodus, but He didn’t. Their salvation, not eternal, was both an event and a process. He had taken them out of Egypt, but it would be a process to get Egypt out of them, which is evident by the many times they mentioned going back to the nation that enslaved them when things got hard.
Whether God is dealing with a nation or an individual it is always the exact right time, always. It wasn’t the right time to tell them to take a census until the second year and second month from the Exodus.
The second reason I can think of that it is important we notice the chronology shows up in 1:17-19.
17 Then Moses and Aaron took these men who had been mentioned by name,
18 and they assembled all the congregation together on the first day of the second month; and they recited their ancestry by families, by their fathers’ houses, according to the number of names, from twenty years old and above, each one individually.
19 As the Lord commanded Moses, so he numbered them in the Wilderness of Sinai.
Do you see that? Verse eighteen tells us the same day God told Moses to do something Moses did it!
Moses didn’t drag his feet. He did what God commanded when God commanded it. How do we respond when God tells us to do something? Remember God’s timing is never off. If He’s asking you do to something, He expects you to do it, when He tells you to do it.
This brings to mind a lie that has been circling in the body of Christ for more than four decades. If believed and practiced it pulls us off the mark. The lie goes something like this, “there is God’s perfect will, and then there is God’s permissive will”.
There is no scriptural reference to support this concept. I think it was created by man so we could disobey God and not feel bad about it. The concept implies that if you disobey God’s instruction, well that’s ok. You aren’t living in His perfect will, but you probably fall into his permissive will.
Applying this misguided concept to the passage we are studying might look like this if Moses would not have taken the census. In God’s permissive will He may have said, that’s ok Moses. My perfect will was for you to take a census, but I understand you didn’t want to do it. You’re still within my permissive will because after all, you did leave Egypt just like I wanted you to! And because you wouldn’t take the censuses I commanded we don’t have the book of Numbers, but that’s ok, we don’t really need it!
What do you think would have happened if Jesus would not have operated in God’s perfect will? Could Jesus have just lived in God’s permissive will and have gone to the cross, then once there say, “hey Angels! Come get me! This is way too painful! I went to the cross, but I’m getting off!”
Would the Father have responded, “close enough, it’s not exactly what I wanted, but I’ll permit it, after all, He is my son!” How could we then be saved?
When God issues a command it is His will that the command is obeyed, and it is perfect. There are not degrees of His will. God is immeasurably good and worthy to be praised!
All Scripture quotations from The New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982. Print.