Every citizen of the United States has probably participated in a census at one time or another. An envelope comes in the mail and there are numerous questions for you to answer and return to the sender (the U.S. Census Bureau). The purposes of a government census are many: to make sure a state is represented correctly in the House of Representatives, to allocate funds to the states, and to see population trends, for examples.
But as I read the Book of Numbers, I have come across an interesting census. God ordered Moses to take a census of the people. So, I began to ponder why God who knows the number of hairs on our heads would want the people counted. I am sure that He knew exactly how many people were there in the desert traveling with Moses. But I am also sure that His census had a purpose.
Can you even fathom the fact that God knows your name, your age, and all of the other facts that the U.S. census asks you about and He never has to ask? I think one of the purposes of the census God asked for was to make sure that each individual knew without a doubt that they counted to the Lord. We matter to God! He doesn’t need to take a census for His benefit, but rather, He takes it for ours. Every single individual is important to God, our Creator who loves us and wants us to have a relationship with Him. Even as God ordered the census, He already had in mind every man, woman and child that stood before Him.
I think that another possible purpose of the census was to call on Moses to do something and then watch what happened. Have you heard from God lately? Or ever? Was He telling you to do something? The big question is: Did you do as He asked? Did you follow His instructions? I have found that when God asks me to do something, He only tells me one step at a time. Once I complete that step, He tells me the next step to take until my task is complete. When God told Moses to take a census, I can imagine how impatient the people may have been to just move on in the desert and get to where they were supposed to go. But God had a plan. He wanted to number the people and so He did. I recall later in the Bible when David did a census without God’s calling for one and God punished Him for it. Why? Because it was not God’s plan at the time. Sometimes we get ahead of God and sometimes we fall behind. His timing is what is perfect. So, God told Moses to complete a census. When Moses acted and obeyed, the census was completed and now there is a record for all to read of the tribes and the numbers in each of them. The first step was the obedience to count, a step that may have not made much sense to the people in the desert wasteland. But God had a plan and this was part of it. Like allocating resources with a current census, God had a plan. I don’t know all of it, but I know He had one. God never does anything without a reason and I’m pretty sure the reason had something to do with God making sure that individuals knew that they counted and they could count on God to include them in His plans.
What is God’s plan for you today? Or tomorrow? Or in the distant future? You know what? We don’t know. And that is okay because regardless of how ignorant we may be of what God is doing, He has a plan and He is working to carry it out.
I think it was also interesting that all of the members of all of the tribes were counted in the census except for the Levites. These were the priests, those who were anointed to take care of the tabernacle and to camp around it and protect it. So why were they not numbered? I don’t have an answer to that except that these men already knew how closely God watched over them, having received explicit instructions for their own cleansing and for the sacrifices they made for the people They were not a higher class of people, but they were already set aside for God’s purposes. They knew it and so did God, so I don’t think He had a reason to number them.
Listen for God to speak to you today, tomorrow and whenever He will. Then, be obedient and act on what He tells you to do. Like Moses, just start doing. You don’t have to understand everything. You just have to take that first step of obedient action and work with God in fulfilling His purpose for your life. You matter to God, and He has a good plan for you!