Numbers are important to the Lord. Moses and Aaron counted all the Levites (who had been excluded from the earlier census). These Levites belonged to the Lord, and the men born into those families essentially had their careers mapped out for them in the service of the Lord.
Math was one of the hardest subjects I ever faced when I was in school. I shed more tears than I can count over math problems that baffled and concepts that stumped. Now, as a homeschooling mom, the Lord is opening a wide door for me to relearn those concepts that I never fully grasped. Don’t get me wrong — I was a straight A student (except in Pre-Cal, when I fought for my B and earned it!). But I learned the HOWs of math without learning the underlying WHYs.
A portion of my daughter’s math every day contains several “mental math” problems. I do every one with her. Why? Because her curriculum has taught me a new way to organize my thoughts! Suddenly 35 x 7 is not so difficult to do in my head when I break it down into 30 x 7 plus 5 x 7.
I recently heard a sermon about church growth. The pastor spoke of the importance of growing a church for the right reasons…to bring more people to Christ and not just attract church hoppers. Church growth is important because healthy organisms grow. Some church leaders disdain the practice of counting attendance. Yet the pastor reminded us that numbers matter enough to God that He named an entire book of the Bible…Numbers.
That brings me to another musing about this massive census that was done without computers, without calculators, without slide rules! Why did God have Moses and Aaron count the people when He obviously knew himself how many people there were, because He is the all-knowing Creator?
Could it be that the Lord’s command to count was not for his own benefit, but for the people’s? What value would there have been to know precisely how many people were in each family out there in the desert? How did they record these numbers? How often did they update them with data from births and deaths?
After taking the count, Moses and Aaron knew how many fighting soldiers they could depend upon should they come across hostile people. Each clan, at least within the Levite family, had a special skill or job they were required to do with excellence. After counting, Moses and Aaron knew how many people would share those duties. They knew how many people needed to be fed, how many tents there needed to be, how much water would be needed — from a logistical standpoint, Moses and Aaron were not unlike today’s military commanders in the way the obtained a big picture of their situation.
Perhaps the counting was also a psychological benefit to the people. There is a sense of safety and strength in numbers. It would have been scary indeed for me to leave my home for a tent in the desert, but being a part of a large group of people might have made it feel a bit less scary…unless, like me, you hated crowds.
One more observation…where on earth did they get the hides of sea cows (what we call manatees) in the middle of the desert? These animal skins were the special coverings for the most holy items in the Tabernacle every time the people moved from one place to another.
Application: pay attention to numbers. Ask the Lord to help me see the beauty in order and to then implement more order in my own life — closets, drawers, dressers, refrigerator, pantry, shoes, coats, books, books, and more books!