Free files for fellow youth pastors:
One of my favorite movie series was Home Alone. You remember, where the family wakes up late in the morning to catch their flight out of town for their Christmas vacation. The family was so huge and so rushed that they forgot one of their kids: Kevin. Then Kevin had to stay Home Alone, provide for himself, and fend off burglars. My favorite scene was the bricks in Home Alone 2. I’ll try to attach that here. This movie reminds us: counting is important!
In a similar way, Israel is about to leave for a trip, and they are to be counted. But they aren’t going on vacation, rather they are leaving the mountain of God and heading towards the land He has promised to give them. They also aren’t counting just to make sure everyone is present, but God tells them to count to show the people that God is faithful to His promises.
The story surrounding this narrative in Numbers is the Israelites, God’s people, having been at the foot of His mountain, receiving His instruction, and being trained to be His people for over a year now. It is finally time for them to head out to the land that God has promised them to be their own, to dwell in, where they will be His people, where He will be their God, and where they will be a blessing to every other nation on the earth. They are moving to the Promise Land!
God spoke to Moses by His glory in the Tent of Meeting, and told him to take a census of the people by counting every male over the age of 19…those who are able to fight in war (Num 1:1-29). Not even including the Levite tribe, over 600,000 men were counted. Why is the counting so significant? God was showing them that He is faithful to His promises. Think back to the beginning where God told Adam to be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and rule over it (Gen 1:28). Did Adam rule over it obediently? No, Adam rebelled against God and caused all humanity to be cursed with sin. Think a little more ahead with Abraham. This time God didn’t command Him, but God covenanted (promised) Him that He’d have a great nation of descendants that would come from him…as a 75 year old man (Gen 12:1-3). After just a few hundred years, the descendants of Abraham are a sea of people, a humongous nation, a mighty army. If there were 600,000 men 20 years of age or older, then we can guess that there were probably at least 2 million people in all! Just to put it into perspective for us, there are about 500,000 people from Huntsville to Decatur. Multiply that by 4, and you have the promises of God being fulfilled in the nation of Israel from one man to a mighty army of over two million!
There is an even more significant time that the people of God were numbered in the Bible…at least attempted. In Revelation, God put John in a trance to see a vision of His future kingdom. John said that he looked and there was such a mass of people that no one could even count them (7:9-10). They were people from every tribe, tongue, and nation on earth. They were the people who had trusted in Christ. In the first garden, God went looking for Adam, but Adam hid out of his shame. In the new Eternal Garden City, Jesus says to His Father, “Here I am, and the children You have given Me (Heb 2:13). Jesus said that everyone whom God has given to Him will come to Him and they will never be cast out of His kingdom (John 6:37).
I believe God does care about numbers. He cares about the numbers who are in our churches, our student ministries, our baptismals, etc. Why? Because all numbers represent people. People count! Maybe you are someone whom God has blessed with a personality where you enjoy lots of people around you. Do you see the great impact you can have on numbers of people? Are you someone whom God has blessed with a personality to have just a few deep friendships? You can have an even deeper impact on those few people’s lives. Or maybe you’re a Kevin. You’re home alone in this world, you’re having all kinds of fun without any rules, but there will be a day that you feel so lonely and you miss out on having God as your Father because you aren’t numbered in His people. Come to Christ through the turning from your sin and believing in His gospel. Why are numbers so important? Who’s really counting? God is!