The Book of Numbers – Census in the Wilderness

Numbers 1:1 The Lord spoke to Moses in the tent of meeting in the Desert of Sinai on the first day of the second month of the second year after the Israelites came out of Egypt.”

One of the great emphases we see throughout the book of numbers is the fact that the Lord spoke to Moses and through Moses to the people of Israel. The Lord spoke, from the opening words of the book to the closing words, 150 times and in more than 20 ways (NIV Study Bible pg189).

Tent of meeting – In Exodus 33 we read “As Moses went into the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and stay at the entrance, while the Lord spoke with Moses” The tent of meeting referred to the place where God would meet with His people. The presence of God would rest upon the tent when he would meet with Moses. Just picture it, Moses when he approached the tent would know he was going into a time when he would be surrounded by the presence of God and hear Him speak. While Moses was inside, he would not be distracted by anything else in his surroundings as the tent gave him a space to be only focused on God.  

For us: Like Moses in the tent of meeting, seek the presence of God and to hear Him. We can ramble on with our requests in our prayer time, but our time with Him should be more about sitting in His presence and hearing from Him.

Even though we have the privilege of being able to speak to the Lord anywhere and everywhere, this verse reminds us of the need to separate ourselves from any distractions. What space can help you have that focused time with God? I can never focus in my quiet time if I have a busy household and so depending on that, my space where I seek God may look different. For the longest time I struggled with being flexible in this regard, but I have learnt that the enemy loves to rob us of our time with God. God is willing to meet with us anywhere, so why can’t we be more flexible. And so, depending on what is going on, the space could be my favourite spot on the couch, a walk or some quiet time nestled in nature, sometimes when I am ironing or hanging laundry (usually no one hovers around me at that time as they are avoiding getting any work) or even in my car.

Oh! what a privilege we have, to speak to God anytime and anywhere, no tent of meeting needed, for He has made it possible to be within and around us. What a privilege indeed, may we not squander that blessing with a fickle approach with regards to time with Him but value it for what it is.

Every Tribe

Numbers 1:2-4 “God said:Take a census of the whole Israelite community by their clans and families, listing every man by name, one by one. You and Aaron are to count according to their divisions all the men in Israel who are twenty years old or more and able to serve in the army. One man from each tribe, each of them the head of his family, is to help you.”

Verses 5-15 mentions the names of the men who were to assist Moses and Aaron in the task.

Verse 16 says “These were the men appointed from the community, the leaders of their ancestral tribes. They were the heads of the clans of Israel.”

Moses was their God appointed leader. But God specifies that each of these twelve tribes designated one man who was the head of his house, who was to stand with Moses and stand for their whole tribe. This picture of God’s order shows each tribe having a seat at the table so to speak. And what better way for the people of God to ensure that no one was overlooked. God’s guidance to Israel gave importance to the community as a whole but also to each tribe that made up that community of people.

Immediate Obedience of Moses

Numbers 17-19 “Moses and Aaron took these men whose names had been specified, and they called the whole community together on the first day of the second month. The people registered their ancestry by their clans and families, and the men twenty years old or more were listed by name, one by one, as the Lord commanded Moses. And so, he counted them in the Desert of Sinai.”

If we look back at verse one, we see that the Lord spoke to Moses and gave these instructions on the first day of the second month and we see here in this verse that Moses took the men the Lord specified and called the whole community on the first day of the second month.

My fellow blogger, C.A. Post shared this nugget with me – the immediate obedience of Moses.

In verse 46, we read that the number of men over 20yrs of age who could serve in Israel’s army came to 603,550. This was no small task and yet we do not see Moses hesitate once he had direction from God. How often do we push back on getting started on something the Lord wants us to? Immediate obedience is not impulsive action. With Moses’s situation here, he had clarity for the task from God. We also glean that by not sitting on it, he was cautious in not giving himself time to dwell on the enormity of the task or time to grumble about it.

In addition, we see that God knows that it is a huge task, so He does not expect Moses to go on his own about the task. At times, we can presume the role of ‘one person army’ for God, but God has plans for others to play a part too.

Access and Awe

In verses 47-53, we read that the Levites were not included in the census as the Lord had set them aside to oversee the care of the tabernacle. Anyone besides them, if they went close to the tabernacle would be put to death.

That statement can feel a little harsh because it grates against the picture of a loving God. But might we remember that His access and presence among us should not in anyway make us forget the awe, majesty, worthiness, and Glory that belongs to Him. He makes a way for us to be called His friend (John 15:15) but let that never make us lose sight of who He is. And so, even though we can talk to Him with ease, may our hearts never forget that we are talking to the one who spoke everything into being.

Numbers 1:54 “The Israelites did all this just as the Lord commanded Moses.”

In view of the Israelites disobedience later, to see their obedience here has a special poignancy (NIV study bible, pg.191).

God began their organisation before they moved toward the promised land. God wanted a count of the people, it is no surprise as He is a God who counts the stars and calls them all by name (Psalm 147:4), and the very hairs on our head are numbered (Mathew 10:30).

Father, thank you for your word and all that you teach us through it. May we always seek you, listen and honour you with our obedience.

God Bless.

21 thoughts on “The Book of Numbers – Census in the Wilderness

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  1. This is an insightful post! I appreciate your points regarding our quiet time with the Lord. I especially felt a pull when you reminded us to be flexible in this area. Some mornings my time with God gets sabotaged and I feel discouraged when things don’t go according to plan. The enemy will do whatever he can to frustrate us and distract us. But we can be creative and find ways to overcome. (And I got a giggle out of what you said about no one being around when it’s time for chores. 😊)
    I also like your point about Moses being so quick to obey, without complaint. What a great example this is for us. I recently had a task that God put in my path. I admit I told Him I wanted to get out of it. But I also said that if that is where He wanted me to be, then I would do it. May we humbly accept any task the Lord puts before us.
    And I also loved your point about remembering who God is. Reverence and honor for our Most High God is so important, and something I don’t want to lose sight of. This was a really inspiring post, Manu. Thank you. Blessings, my friend. ♥️🤗🦋

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Bridget. I struggle when my quiet time does not happen as usual and although I try to be better at being flexible I still struggle.
      Immediate obedience, I am not the best at it. But am working on it.
      Thank you my friend and blessings to you too 🤗💙

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great point that we need to be flexible when it comes to spending time with God. I think we like structure but the greatest adventures happen when we let the Holy Spirit have His way. I love prayer walks and I call my car my little sanctuary because I have spent a lot of time talking to the Lord there, especially driving to and from work and during my lunch hour. I love that we can talk to the Lord anytime and any place. Thank you Manu! 🥰

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I like structure too Dawn and that is why I struggle when my usual routine is off. So true that if we just allow the Spirit to lead it sure does lead us where we otherwise might not have had the chance to experience it.
      Thank you and blessings to you 💙

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I especially liked your point about immediate obedience. This is something I really need to grow in. It’s great that you pointed out that since Moses started right away he had no time to start to worry about how huge this task is. It would solve a lot of my problems if I would just obey immediately instead of worrying about the task and how will I do it. It’s also a great reminder that we are not alone in anything we do. God is always with us and He gives us help too.

    I think we so often forget how amazing it is that thanks to Jesus we can turn to God anytime we want to. The Israelites in the old testament had the constant reminder of the sacrifices and rituals and they knew how amazing the glory of God is and that He is holy and sinful people can’t just go near Him. When we read these parts we understand Jesus’s sacrifice more and it helps us remember God’s holiness and be more thankful that we can pray and He hears us and answers us.

    Thanks for sharing.
    God bless you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I tend to overthink and so if I let something sit with me unless I am waiting for clarity from the Lord, the sitting on it only makes me think of all the probable difficulties. So yes, immediate obedience is something I am working on too.
      I am so thankful that we can then to God anytime and anywhere.
      Thank you and blessings to you too 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I loved your point on the Tent of meeting and how this can look different for each one of us depending on the season we are in. I can relate, I’m also a routine person, so it is easy for me to get befuddled when my routine is interrupted. I have been in a season where I hid in the toilet to have some uninterrupted quiet time with the Lord. God can meet us anywhere if we will just make space:) Blessings, Manu.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hiding in the toilet for some uninterrupted time – 😁 have done that at one point but with a dog it is hard, he keeps scratching the door as if I need rescuing.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. You’ve made such excellent points in this blogpost, Manu. I love what you say about being flexible with where we spend time with God. I’m not too good at that and deal with distraction quite a bit as a result. I need to think outside the box, like you! And I also like what you included from your fellow blogger about obeying immediately and how, in Moses’ case, it didn’t allow for him to think of the enormity of his task. We all would be better off following his example of quick obedience.and I especially love what you say about remembering who God is and giving Him the awe and reverence He deserves. This post is revealing to me a need to self-reflect in these areas and to see where I’m at. Thank you for that. ❤


    1. I understand that Colleen. I struggle with being flexible in that regard too. But am definitely trying to be better at it. And about the immediate obedience- I can overthink and allow my worries to start dictating what I do next.
      Thank you my friend 😊💙

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Manu, an inspiring post! I agree with you; Oh! what a privilege we have to speak to God anytime and anywhere, no tent of meeting needed. What an amazing God we have! When we reach out to Him, He hears us; when we pray, He listens. Blessings! 💖💐🌺


  7. Hello Manu! I loved the way you mentioned quiet time. This is super important to me and I love the way you wrote it. I appreciate this words of wisdom that I can ponder as I yearn to fully remain present in God’s presence during my quiet time. B blessed!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. The presence of the Lord is everything and his indwelling of the Holy Spirit is our sanctuary and tent of meeting. I’m glad we don’t need a mediator between God and man, but we can go before his throne boldly to ask for what we need. Bless you. 🙏🏾

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Solid post! I love the reminder to step away from distractions and simply sit in the presence of God. I start my mornings this way, but needed the reminder to also take a few moments during the busy (often chaotic) workday to do the same–even if only briefly.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Chandra. I agree with you that not only in the morning but during our busy day if we take a few moments to take with the Lord it helps so much.


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