A small car crept its way up the gravel hill leading to our farm and then carefully turned into our driveway. A young lady climbed out carrying with her a clipboard and a phone. She introduced herself as working for the government to help us complete the census. After a series of questions about each person living in the house, she asked who lived in the other house, motioning to our chicken barn. I laughed and said, just some chicks and a bunch of old hens. She didn’t know what to think and just stared at me and asked me their names. I laughed and said “Ma’am, that’s a chicken barn.” Somehow it was labeled as a dwelling. I told her I would be glad to take her over there and show her that no one lives there. She said, “No, that’s not necessary, just don’t want to miss anyone.”
Why is a census so important? Why don’t they want to miss anyone? From the data they collect, the number of seats each state has in the House of Representatives is determined. It also is used to decide how federal funds are distributed to communities. Every person counts.
As we start a new book of the Bible, we see exactly how the book gets its name, Numbers. It opens with the Lord ordering a census.
“Take ye the sum of all the congregation of the children of Israel, after their families, by the house of their fathers, with the number of their names, every male by their polls; From twenty years old and upward, all that are able to go forth to war in Israel: thou and Aaron shall number them by their armies. And with you there shall be a man of every tribe; every one head of the house of his fathers.” (Numbers 1:2-4)
Long before this moment, God has made a covenant to give His children a land. It was known as the Promised Land. Rescued from slavery in Egypt, they were brought to Mt. Sinai where they dwelt for about a year. There, God gave them the Ten Commandments and instructed them on how to live a holy life for God. They learned about worship and the tabernacle. They learned what was right and wrong. Now God was preparing them for the journey to the Promised Land.
A census was necessary because God had to prepare them for battle. There would be opposition and the Israelites had to be ready. As we read throughout the first chapter, we see each family counted and learn there were more than 600,000 men. This was a good number for a strong army, ready for battle when necessary. Not one man was unaccounted for. Every person counted.
Doesn’t it feel like some days you are preparing for battle? I think of my friends who are still fighting this deadly virus as they don their gowns, gloves, masks, and shields to care for those that are sick. Many of them having to work extra call hours throughout the week. One nurse working five 12 hour shifts in a week. Each day, they must prepare for battle. I think of my teacher friends that are preparing lesson plans for both the classroom and virtual students. Working long hours to care and console children and try to provide some type of normalcy to their lives again. All while fear creeps in the back of their minds that today might be the day they are exposed to the virus. I think of my friends that are pastors and missionaries as the church is being persecuted for standing for God’s truth. Daily they prepare for battle as complaints, harsh words, demands, threats of harm and shut down come their way. I think of police officers as they put in that uniform and hear mocking, threats for defunding and harm, all from the very people they have sworn to protect. I think of the family that is struggling to pay the bills and isn’t sure where the funds will come from. I think of the friend who has cancer and is back in the hospital again… every person, preparing for battle.
To God, every person counts.
You are not forsaken nor forgotten. God loves you and knows the struggles we face. He does not promise to clear the way and make it an easy road. He doesn’t take away the challenges, but He promises to be right there with us throughout it all. As you prepare for battle today, know that the Lord of Lords is by your side.
“Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” (Joshua 1:9)