“Take a census of the whole Israelite community by families—all those twenty years old or more …” (Numbers 26:2)
I’m not a numbers person. Maybe you’re not either. For some of us it can be hard to read a chapter full of numbers like the one in our reading for today. But God has some important lessons here for us.
First, God teaches about our need for his grace. This is the second census in Numbers because a new generation was on the scene. One generation had died in the desert because the people had not trusted God to take them into the promised land. And many from this new generation had also died recently because of Israel’s sin with Moab (Numbers 25). If you compare the numbers from one census to the other, you will see that some tribes increased and some decreased. The tribe of Simeon lost over 37,000 men — perhaps they took the brunt of God’s wrath for Israel’s adultery with Moab. Like them, we all have sinned and need God’s grace.
Second, this census shows that God is faithful. Even though one whole generation died, the total number of those counted was only about 1,800 less than in the first census. God was faithful to his promise to give Abraham numerous descendants. When we fail, we need to remember that God doesn’t. The Lord is rich in grace to all who call on him.
When it comes to numbers, a Scottish pastor, Robert Murray McCheyne (1813-43), had this advice: “For every look at [your]self, take ten looks at Christ.” What a great encouragement!
Lord, thank you for your mercy in spite of our failures. May our sins drive us to your grace. Amen.