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.
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.